The Quayside brings fizz back to Robertson Quay

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/ The Edge Property
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July 7, 2017 3:30 PM SGT
What had once been a relatively forlorn stretch of Robertson Quay is now set to become a vibrant F&B cluster. It is the culmination of a four-year, $75 million transformation by property developer and investor RB Capital headed by Kishin R K. It started with his purchase of the ground-floor retail podium of The Quayside for $69 million in December 2012. This was followed by the purchase of the adjacent Gallery Hotel for $232.5 million in August 2013.
Kishin says, “I saw an opportunity to revitalise that part of the Singapore River — the third quay after Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. It used to be very quiet here.”
RB Capital then engaged Chan Soo Khian of SCDA Architects as the master plan architect and designer of the new Quayside, which will have 100,000 sq ft of F&B space and a new luxury hotel. SCDA’s minimalist aesthetic is manifested in the sleek, streamlined monochromatic façade and the F&B spaces.
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Source: Aaron Pocock, courtesy of SCDA
RB Capital’s new The Quayside on a recent evening
The first phase of The Quayside with more than 30,000 sq ft of F&B space has been opened progressively since late last year. It features restaurants such as Super Loco Mexican bar and restaurant by brothers Julian and Christian Tan of the Loco Group of Mexican restaurants; Summerlong Mediterranean restaurant by celebrity restaurateur Rohit Roopchand and his team, who are also behind Neon Pigeon and Fat Prince; as well as Decker Barbecue, a collaboration between Elliot Decker and restaurateur Min Chan.
The second phase is scheduled to open in either September or October, and it will feature 60,000 sq ft of F&B space, along with the 225-room InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay. It will see the opening of Singapore’s first Wolfgang Steakhouse by restaurateur Peter Zwiener, who will introduce his brand of New York dining experience here. Also a first in Singapore is Publico, a 14,000 sq ft Italian dining concept in InterContinental Hotel and a collaboration between RB Capital and New York-based hospitality designers avroKO.
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Demand for new F&B experiences
For Kishin, it is all about reimagining space use. Super Loco restaurant’s location was once a storeroom in the old Quayside. Decker Barbecue occupies the former site of a back-ofhouse and meat storage cold room. “We saw a demand for new F&B experiences,” he says. “The offerings at the old spot were not relevant and did not cater to that demand.”
Source: Kar Wai Wesley Loh
Kishin: We saw a demand for new F&B experiences. The offerings at the old spot were not relevant and did not cater to that demand.
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The opening of the InterContinental in September/October will usher in the fourth hotel in the Robertson Quay area since 2016. The 37-room Warehouse Hotel was opened late last year, and the 293-room M Social Singapore was opened a year ago. M Social, whose rooms were designed by Philippe Starck, is owned by listed property giant City Developments. The former Riverview Hotel was also rebranded the 476-room Four Points by Sheraton Singapore and opened on July 1, 2016 after a $25 million makeover.
Besides new hotels, the neighbourhood has also seen an influx of new residents with the completion of condominium projects in recent years. These include the 545-unit Rivergate in 2009, and both the 302-unit Martin Place Residences and the 88-unit Martin No 38 in 2011.
Other condos completed in the last three years include the 105-unit Starlight Suites, 108-unit RV Edge, 248-unit RV Residences and 70-unit UP@Robertson Quay. Based on the unit configuration of these new developments, many of which feature one- and two-bedroom units, the new residents at Robertson Quay are younger expatriate singles or couples, as well as young local families. “There was naturally a demand for new F&B experiences,” says Kishin.
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All the 100,000 sq ft of F&B space at The Quayside has been fully leased, with the tenants handpicked by Kishin. “I flew to Wolfgang Steakhouse in New York with the RB Capital team to understand the concept and to ensure that it was the right fit for the neighbourhood,” he says. “It was more than just a leasing exercise, it was a curation process.”
The 225-room InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is part of the second phase of The Quayside and scheduled to open in September/October
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Upmarket offerings
Desmond Sim, CBRE head of research for Singapore and Southeast Asia, sees The Quayside as a game changer for the area. “Robertson Quay has undergone a lot of changes over the past decade,” he observes. “The Quayside has elevated the area, made it more upmarket. It’s also catering to a younger, slicker clientele.”
Kishin emphasises, however, that The Quayside is not just about hip new cafés and restaurants. For those who like spicy food, there is Redhouse Seafood, famous for its Singapore Chilli Crab, and Dabbawalla, which serves modern interpretations of Mumbai’s great dishes. Another tenant that has been at The Quayside for many years is Boomarang Bistro & Bar, considered to be Singapore’s official sports bar. “We have a wide range of F&B experiences — from traditional to contemporary — and a good mix of local, regional and global brands,” he adds. “This is to ensure that the offerings are sustainable, and not just a fad.”
Source: Aaron Pocock, courtesy of SCDA
Restaurants in the first phase of The Quayside have already opened. The second phase is set to open in September/October.
Prior to The Quayside, Kishin developed the 442-room Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay, on Magazine Road, off Havelock Road. It opened in 2014, and was built on a 99-year leasehold hotel site purchased in a government land tender in 2010. The Quayside is also accessible on foot from Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay via the Alkaff Bridge across the Singapore River.
The Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay is valued at $450 million today. Coupled with The Quayside and InterContinental, RB Capital’s holdings in the Robertson Quay area is worth around $1.4 billion.
Cuppage Terrace makeover
For Kishin, the transformation of The Quayside may be his most ambitious project so far, but it is not the first time that he has turned around a development. In 2005, he purchased Cuppage Terrace, made up of 17 conservation shophouses located adjacent to The Centrepoint shopping centre. The ground level was then occupied by S-11 Food Court and the second level was just used as a storage space, recalls Kishin.
RB Capital repositioned the area into an F&B cluster with 17 restaurants on the first level, and co-working operator Impact Hub now occupies the second level of the shophouses.
CBRE’s Sim notes: “In a retail and F&B precinct, it’s very important to keep refreshing your product, especially when you’re catering to millennials, who have short attention spans.”
Being a millennial himself, RB Capital’s Kishin agrees. The retail sector has been disrupted by online shopping, and this has had an impact on shopping malls in Singapore and across the world. “Online shopping is only going to keep growing,” he says. “And that’s why we’re focus ing on a lifestyle approach for our retail and F&B destinations. You can’t translate that lifestyle experience online.”
Given his success with the makeover of Cuppage Terrace a decade ago and The Quayside recently, Kishin sees more opportunity to embark on similar transformational projects in areas such as Orchard Road, which is poised for a revitalisation exercise.
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Farrer Square — medical cluster
In Little India, RB Capital has a $500 million mixed-use development called Farrer Square. The project designed by RSP Architects contains retail units on the ground floor, and 42 strata-titled medical suites on the fifth to 12th floors of one of the two towers in the complex. The second tower is 20 storeys, and comprises the 300-room Park Hotel Farrer Park, which is managed by the Park Hotel Group and opened its doors in May.
The strata-titled medical suites at Farrer Square have been substantially sold. Last year, Malaysian medical group HSC Healthcare purchased three whole floors of medical suites for $4 million, or around $3,800 psf, based on a total strata area of 11,674 sq ft. Meanwhile, the medical suites on the eighth to 10th floors (with a total strata area of 11,685 sq ft) have been leased on a long-term arrangement to a specialists’ group.
RB Capital purchased the 99-year leasehold Farrer Square site in a government land tender in 2012. The project is linked to the Farrer Park MRT station and the Connexion integrated medical and healthcare hub located across the road. Kishin sees Farrer Square playing an instrumental role in the positioning of Little India as Singapore’s second medical tourism destination after Novena.
Source: Park Hotel Group
The exterior of the mixed-use development at Farrer Square, with the 300-room Park Hotel Farrer Park in a 20-storey tower, and 42 medical suites in a second tower
Source: Park Hotel Group
The Park Hotel Farrer Park rooms will also feature first-of-its-kind duplex lofts
Raffles Place set for gentrification
Kishin’s next project is the redevelopment of RB Capital Building (the former Royal Brothers Building) on Malacca Street in Raffles Place financial district. He believes the timing is right for redeveloping the site into a new office building. Across the road, CapitaLand Commercial Trust received the go-ahead to redevelop the Golden Shoe Complex into a 280m-tall premium-grade office building with about a million sq ft of gross floor area.
The redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park is expected to take place in 2H2017 and scheduled for completion by 2021. The famous Golden Shoe food court has also been relocated to a temporary site on Telok Ayer Street next to the Telok Ayer MRT station.
“Raffles Place is undergoing a gentrification,” says Kishin. “It’s probably the most important square in Singapore, and I foresee that the whole area will be transformed in the coming years.”
When he is not out hunting for the next real estate opportunity, Kishin unwinds by jogging three times a week, usually at the end of the work day. Starting from his office at EFG Bank Building, his route takes him along the riverfront promenade to The Quayside and around the Singapore River, past the Holiday Inn Express, and back to The Quayside. “My real estate focus is really concentrated in that area,” he says.
This article appeared in The Edge Property Pullout, Issue 787 (July 10, 2017) of The Edge Singapore