Rise of The Commodore

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Niche property developer Patrick Lam, director and founder of JBE Holdings, first ventured into the northern region of Singapore in 2010. This was when URA offered 14 land parcels for sale under the government land sales (GLS) programme for private landed housing. These 99-year leasehold sites are located within the established housing estate of Straits Garden and Sembawang Straits Estate developed by Singapore-listed Bukit Sembawang Estates in the 1960s. They are close to Sembawang Park and Sembawang Beach.
JBE’s Lam bid for, and won five land parcels at Inggu Road, Wak Hassan Drive and Penaga Place, emerging as one of the three biggest buyers at the land tender in Sept 2010, along with homegrown developers Fragrance Group and Goodland Group. JBE’s land purchases amounted to $43.35 million that day. The sites were developed into 53 terraced houses, fully sold and completed in 2012. He named them “The Oasis of the North’’.
Having gained a foothold in the north over a decade ago, he looked for more development opportunities in the region. “At that time, the northern part of Singapore wasn’t that well developed,” says Lam. “That’s why I believed in its growth potential.”
Patrick Lam, director and founder of JBE Holdings and his daughter Jane, JBE’s marketing director (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
In Oct 2012, JBE together with two other private investors, bid for and won an executive condo (EC) site at Sembawang Crescent for $211.92 million ($324 psf per plot ratio). The site was developed into the 506-unit SkyPark Residences, which was completed in 2016. This year marked the end of the minimum occupation period of five years, after which owners can sell their EC units to Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs). When the project was launched in Nov 2013, the median price of units sold was $796 psf. This year, units changed hands at a median price of $1,036 psf or 30% higher, based on caveats lodged with URA Realis from August to October. (Discover insightful data of any Singapore condominium with our condo directory)
The launch of SkyPark Residences was followed by another EC project, Signature at Yishun on a site it won with a bid of $184.13 million ($335 psf ppr) in May 2014. JBE developed the 525-unit Signature at Yishun jointly with Singapore-listed property development, investment and construction firm, Keong Hong Holdings. The project was completed in 2017. Launched in Sept 2015, units were sold at a median price of $767 psf. Resale units have changed hands at a median price of $938 psf or 22% higher, according to caveats lodged with URA Realis from May to October.

Taking bets

Unsurprisingly, when the two land parcels — Parcel A and B — at Canberra Drive were launched for sale in Nov 2019, JBE was interested. The developer won the 143,326 sq ft, 99-year leasehold site in March 2020 with a bid of about $129.2 million ($644 psf ppr). “We prefer developments of between 200 to 300 units,” says Lam.
JBE Holdings won the 143,326 sq ft, 99-year leasehold site in March 2020, and is developing six 5-storey blocks (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
A joint venture made up of UOL Group, Kheng Leong Co and Singapore Land Group won the 296,722 sq ft site next door, which is double the size of JBE’s site, with a bid of $270.2 million ($650 psf ppr).
The UOL joint venture launched its project at Canberra Drive, the 448-unit The Watergardens at Canberra at the end of August and sold 58% of the units at a median price of $1,469 psf, according to URA realis. To date, 301 units (67% of the total) have been sold at a median price of $1,492 psf, based on caveats lodged from Sept to Oct.
JBE is planning to preview its Canberra Drive private condo, the 219-unit The Commodore on Nov 12, with sales to begin a fortnight later on Nov 27.
The new developments coming up on government land sales sites in the Canberra area (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The Watergardens may have set the precedent in terms of pricing in the neighbourhood of Canberra Drive. But JBE’s Lam is unfazed. “Price-wise, we will go according to the market,” he says. “But we will offer attractive prices for those who commit early.”

Counting on heritage

Lam had always intended for The Commodore to be an upscale development. “We wanted to draw inspiration from the name and the premium it carries,” he says. The name “Commodore” refers to a senior naval rank and was in part, inspired by Sembawang’s history as a British naval base, he adds.
Many roads in Sembawang are named after various Royal Navy dockyards, warships, admirals as well as cities and countries — Canberra, Canada, Falkland, Gibraltar, Kenya and Wellington. The former Admiralty House, built in 1939, was located at the former British Naval Base in Sembawang. It served as the residence of the Commodore Superintendent of the Royal Navy Dockyard.
The former Admiralty House is being restored and refurbished for use as the future Sembawang Sports and Community Club. It is now part of Bukit Canberra, a 12ha integrated development in a park-like setting (Artist's impression: URA)
Today, the former Admiralty House is being restored and refurbished for use as the future Sembawang Sports and Community Club. It is now part of Bukit Canberra, a 12ha integrated development in a park-like setting, with facilities such as a polyclinic, a senior care centre, hawker centre, swimming pool and indoor sports hall. It’s expected to be completed in phases and to be fully opened in 2021.
Just as commodore is a high naval rank between a captain and an admiral, The Commodore’s design is about “the balance between suburban and luxury, two seemingly opposing elements,” says Chong Nan Hing, managing partner of M.A.N. Architects, the design architect for the project. “We wanted to create an upscale residential project that is very linear, with an abundance of greenery.”
The site is regular-shaped, and contains six five-storey blocks with all 219 units arranged in a north-south orientation, says Chong. The drop-off for each block will be at the basement level which has been designed to resemble a luxury hotel with concierge service.
Chong: The Commodore’s design is about balance between suburban and luxury, two seemingly opposing elements (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Luxury finishes, sizes

Five of the six blocks have eight units per floor, and a mix of one- to three-bedroom-plus-study units. Sizes range from 463 to 1,023 sq ft. The premium block has exclusively four- and five-bedroom apartments, which come with a private lift. Sizes range from 1,184 sq ft to 1,679 sq ft. There are also 24 penthouses that range from premium two-bedroom-plus-study of 915 sq ft to five-bedroom-plus-study of 1,916 sq ft. The four-bedroom-plus-study and five-bedroom-plus-study penthouses come with 5.2m ceiling height and a private lift.
Quality materials and finishing provided by JBE include large format Italian tiles for the flooring in the living and dining area, Italian tiles in the bathrooms and engineered timber flooring for the bedrooms. Kitchens will be fitted with Silestone (90% natural quartz) countertops by Spanish manufacturer Cosentino, kitchen cabinetry by Austrlan brand Blum, kitchen sinks and mixer taps by German brand Blanco and kitchen appliances from Bosch, another German brand. Bathrooms will feature top-end German brands, Villeroy & Boch sanitaryware and Hansgrohe fittings.
“We try to differentiate our product from others,” says Lam. “So we don’t mind spending more on finishes, but the pricing of our project will be in line with the market.”
Showflat of a two-bedroom-plus-study where sizes are from 743 to 786 sq ft (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Many of the apartments, including the two-bedroom, come with a study to cater to those who want to work from home. About half the units are one- and two-bedroom units, says Jane Lam, JBE director and Lam’s daughter. The other half of the units are a mix of three- to five-bedroom units. Lam’s daughter, Jane joined the firm in July 2019. Incidentally, JBE, founded by Lam in 2004, bears the initials of his three children.
“The one- and two-bedroom units cater to the investors,” says Lam. He points to future growth stemming from the URA Master Plan for the northern region.

Future price growth?

Besides Bukit Canberra, there is Canberra Plaza, an integrated development with public housing and a myriad of amenities ranging from supermarkets, restaurants to food courts and enrichment centres.
The Canberra MRT station on the North-South Line opened in Nov 2019 (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
There is also the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus, with both acute and community hospitals, a nursing home and specialist clinics. It is scheduled to be completed progressively from 2022. This could spur further development of Woodlands Regional Centre and Punggol Digital District.
Canberra MRT station on the North South Line, which opened in November 2019, is located within a five-minute walk from The Commodore. For residents’ convenience, there is a sidegate leading to the MRT station. “Projects that are near an MRT station command a premium given the convenience and accessibility,” says Doris Ong, COO of ERA Realty Network, the appointed exclusive marketing agency for The Commodore.
The 21.5km North-South Corridor, which will connect the northern region and the city centre, is scheduled to complete in 2027. The North-South Corridor will be Singapore’s longest Transit Priority Corridor, with dedicated bus lanes, cycling routes and pedestrian paths. “The MRT station, North South Corridor together with the other growth plans will increase employment opportunities in the area and housing demand,” notes Ong. “This in turn will incrrease its appeal to investors.”
Show suite of a four-bedroom-plus-study penthouse with 5.2m ceiling and private lift lobby (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
JBE is indicating prices starting from $1,400 psf: one-bedroom units of 463 sq ft will start from $700,000 ($1,512 psf). Two-bedroom units have sizes from 624 sq ft and are priced upwards of $920,000 ($1,474 psf). Typical three-bedroom units with sizes from 969 sqft, will start from just below $1.4 million ($1,445 psf). Four-bedroom units will start from 1,184 sq ft and are tagged at just below $1.7 million ($1.436 psf). Five-bedroom units with study have sizes from 1,668 sq ft, with prices starting from just below $2.4 million ($1,439 psf).
“It’s one of the most attractively priced suburban private condominium projects in 2021,” declares ERA’s Ong.
She sees interest coming predominantly from HDB upgraders as well as those who are living in the private landed estate nearby who are now empty nesters after their children have grown up and moved out. “They may want a lifestyle change and the four- and five-bedroom premium units at The Commodore, which come with private lift, are likely to appeal to them,” she adds. (Find HDB flats for rent or sale with our Singapore HDB directory)
Ong: The Commodore is one of the most attractively priced suburban private condominium projects in 2021 (Photo: ERA Realty)
Construction is already underway at The Commodore and is scheduled for completion by end-2024. “Homebuyers only need to wait three years to move into their new home,” says JBE’s Lam. “We will finish [our project] ahead of the neighbouring projects. That makes us different from others. Nowadays, even HDB projects face delays, with some having to wait up to seven years for their Built-to-Order public flats.”

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