Unesco World Heritage Site at your doorstep

/ The Edge Property |
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On July 4, Botanic Gardens scored a first for Singapore when it was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site at the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee. It is the first botanic gardens in Asia and the third in the world to be inscribed, following Orto botanico di Padova in Padua, Italy, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK.
The 156-year-old garden sits on a sprawling 74ha site bordered by Cluny Park Road, Holland Road, Bukit Timah Road and Tyersall Avenue. In the vicinity are the Good Class Bungalow (GCB) estates of Nassim Road, Cluny Road, Dalvey Estate and Swettenham Road. Private condominiums that dot the area include those built in the 1970s, such as Botanic Gardens View and Nassim Mansion, as well as new upscale developments, such as 8 Napier and Cluny Park Residence.
The question now is whether property values of homes in the vicinity of the newly acclaimed Unesco World Heritage Site will enjoy an uplift in the future. “There will definitely be bragging rights,” says Chesterton Singapore managing director Donald Han. “The view of Botanic Gardens from your window is not going to change. But homeowners, developers and real estate agents can now mention ‘Unesco World Heritage Site’ in their marketing materials. In terms of prices, there will be no impact.”
Mary Sai, Knight Frank’s executive director of investments and capital markets, agrees. “Botanic Gardens has always been taken for granted as a good selling point for properties in the area,” she says. “The Unesco World Heritage Site inscription just serves as a confirmation that it’s a beautiful garden.”
The opening of the Botanic Gardens MRT station on the Circle Line in 2011 and the upcoming Napier MRT station on the Thomson- East Coast Line in 2021 are likely to have a greater impact on property values of condos and houses there, remarks Sai. Even then, the premium will be “10% to 15% at most”, she estimates. “If I have to put a figure on the premium that the Botanic Gardens being a World Heritage Site will have, it is likely to be 5% at best.”
Newsman Realty managing director KH Tan, who specialises in marketing luxury bungalows, has been going for a walk at Botanic Gardens every morning for many years.
His clients, who own GCB land parcels in the Nassim Road and Cluny Road areas, have already been calling him over the last few days and asking if their properties are now worth 10% more.
“My personal view is that if there’s any upside in prices, it will not be as high as the impact that a new shopping mall or an MRT station will have,” says Tan.
However, developers such as Tuan Sing Holdings and Napier Properties, who have projects located in close proximity to the Botanic Gardens, are very optimistic. Tuan Sing’ 52-unit luxury condo, Cluny Park Residence, is located just across the road from Botanic Gardens and the Botanic Gardens MRT station. As at end-May, 23 units were sold, with the latest transaction being an 840 sq ft unit that was sold for $2.2 million ($2,620 psf). The project has a mix of two bedroom units starting from 754 sq ft to four-bedroom units starting from 1,594 sq ft and penthouses.
“The Unesco World Heritage award has already boosted visitorship to Botanic Gardens last weekend,” says Tuan Sing marketing manager Neo Heng Lai. “We expect visitorship to our showflat and sales of our units to increase given our proximity to Botanic Gardens, the quality of our project and the freehold tenure.”
Kemmy Sim, director of marketing at Napier Properties, has also noticed an increase in enquiries for 8 Napier, the 46-unit luxury condo located adjacent to the Gleneagles Specialist Centre and the main gate to Botanic Gardens. “Because Botanic Gardens has always been the biggest draw card for us, I didn’t see the correlation with the award at first,” she concedes.
Sim foresees the premium of a home near Botanic Gardens to be similar to that of apartment and condo blocks near Central Park in New York City and Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens in prime central London. “With rapid urbanisation, especially in Singapore, being close to nature is harder to come by,” she says. “Homeowners at 8 Napier will definitely enjoy an upside in the future.”
Completed in 2010, 8 Napier comprises three and four-bedroom units with sizes ranging from 2,013 to 2,777 sq ft, as well as penthouses. The most recent transaction for the project was in March, when a 2,777 sq ft four-bedroom unit was sold for $8.58 million ($3,088 psf). To date, only five units remain unsold.
“A greater impact on prices would be if the government were to remove the property cooling measures,” remarks Chesterton’s Han. “I think if you want to attract foreign buyers back to the Singapore market, rolling back the additional buyer’s stamp duty will have a greater impact on prices compared with the Unesco award.”
This article appeared in the City & Country of Issue 685 (July 13) of The Edge Singapore.

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