Why City Developments is still the bellwether for Singapore residential property

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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November 26, 2021 7:00 AM SGT
Chia Ngiang Hong, group general manager of City Developments Ltd receiving the Top Developer Award from Bernard Tong, CEO of EdgeProp Singapore at the EdgeProp Excellence Awards 2021 (Photo: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Sweeping awards for projects ranging from the upscale Irwell Hill Residences in prime District 9 to the suburban condo The Tapestry in Tampines, City Developments (CDL) once again emerged the Top Developer at this year’s EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards. It has now achieved that feat for the fifth straight year. (Discover insightful data of any Singapore condominium with our condo directory)
CDL launched two projects this year, both of which are located in the Central region. The first was the 540-unit Irwell Hill Residences located just off River Valley Road, near Great World MRT station. Launched in April, over 50% of the project was sold within the launch weekend, including a four-bedroom Sky Penthouse that fetched over $9 million ($4,123 psf). To date, around 74% of the project has been sold, at a median price of $2,762 psf, based on transactions from September onwards.
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The second launch this year was CanningHill Piers, a joint development between CapitaLand Development and CDL. A redevelopment of the former Liang Court at Clarke Quay fronting the Singapore River, the 696-unit CanningHill Piers saw 538 units (77%) sold on the weekend of Nov 20–21, with sales value of $1.18 billion. The average selling price achieved was $3,000 psf.
“The robust sales make CanningHill Piers the best-selling project launch in the Central area this year,” notes Chia Ngiang Hong, CDL group general manager.
Even the 8,956 sq ft super penthouse at level 48 of CanningHill Piers, with uninterrupted views of the city and riverfront found a buyer at $48 million ($5,360 psf).
CanningHill Piers - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The 696-unit CanningHill Piers saw 538 units (77%) sold on the weekend of Nov 20–21, with sales value of $1.18 billion. The average selling price achieved was $3,000 psf (Photo: City Developments/CapitaLand Development)

‘New demand’

Before the launch of CanningHill Piers, CDL had already sold 1,382 residential units in the first nine months of 2021 alone, with a total sales value of $2.5 billion. This was a 30% y-o-y increase in terms of units sold and a 76% jump in terms of sales value from a year ago.
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In the overall market, a total of 10,100 new homes were sold in the primary market in the first nine months of 2021, surpassing the previous year’s sales. Prices are up 7.5% y-o-y as at 3Q2021, according to OrangeTee private residential market report in 3Q2021.
In Chia’s view, the residential market will remain sought-after by both local and foreign buyers. “The pandemic has brought about new demand among buyers, especially with work from home (WFH) arrangements becoming the new normal,” he says. “Singles will be looking for one-bedroom units and families will be looking to upgrade to larger unit types.” With mortgage rates still attractive, Chia reckons even a slight rise in interest rates will not affect affordability.
CDL has three upcoming projects slated for launch next year, with a total of 1,300 residential units in the pipeline: Of the three upcoming launches next year, two are developments on government land sales (GLS) sites purchased earlier this year. The Northumberland Road GLS site was purchased in April in a 50:50 joint venture with MCL Land for $445.9 million or $1,129 psf per plot ratio (psf ppr). The Tengah Garden Walk executive condo (EC) site was acquired in May for $400.3 million or $603 psf ppr, also jointly with MCL Land.
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The Northumberland Road GLS site was purchased in April in a 50:50 joint venture with MCL Land for $445.9 million or $1,129 psf per plot ratio (Credit: URA)
The joint venture partners successfully secured green loan facilities amounting to $429 million for the Northumberland Road GLS site from DBS Bank, and $418 million for the Tengah Garden Walk EC project from UOB. Both facilities total $847 million and are considered some of the largest green loans in real estate, based on the Singapore Overnight Rate Average (SORA).
While these two GLS sites are the first wins for the joint venture partners, they are not their first collaboration. CDL and MCL Land have jointly participated in eight GLS sites since March 2019, since the tender for the Middle Road GLS site. Other GLS site tenders that saw CDL and MCL join forces earlier this year include Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Lentor Central.
“Partnerships allow us to harness synergies and leverage each party’s strengths and resources — while managing development risk,” notes CDL’s Chia. Other partners include CapitaLand Development, which is developing CanningHill Piers and Sengkang Grand integrated developments with CDL. The other is Malaysian giant IOI Properties Group, which is CDL’s joint venture partner at South Beach integrated development.

Unlocking value

As part of the group’s enhancement initiatives to unlock the value of its existing assets in its $7 billion investment portfolio, CDL is progressing with plans to redevelop 80 Anson Road (former Fuji Xerox Towers) under the CBD Incentive Scheme, as well as Central Mall under the Strategic Development Incentive Scheme.
In May 2021, CDL had obtained provisional permission for a 25% uplift in gross floor area (GFA) to 655,000 sq ft at 80 Anson Road. The proposed redevelopment will be a 46-storey integrated project where 40% will be dedicated for office and retail purposes, 25% for serviced apartments and the remaining 35% for residential use, with about 256 condominium units for sale. “80 Anson Road would be the first integrated development in Singapore with four different components in a single tower,” says Tang Kok Thye, associate partner of ADDP Architects, which is the appointed architect working in collaboration with Japanese architectural firm Nikken Sikkei.
This prime freehold site at 80 Anson Road is within walking distance to Tanjong Pagar MRT station and the upcoming Prince Edward MRT station. It’s also situated within the Greater Southern Waterfront comprehensive masterplan. CDL intends to launch the residential component sometime in 2H2022.
CanningHill Piers - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The upcoming CanningHill Piers and the new integrated development that will replace the former Liang Court along the Singapore River (Photo: City Developments/CapitaLand Development)

Capitalising on riverfront location

Another asset in CDL’s investment portfolio is Central Mall, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with office, retail, serviced apartments and hotel components to realise a potential increase in GFA. In order to qualify for the Strategic Development Incentive Scheme, 70% of the GFA has to be designated for commercial use, with 30% for hotel and serviced apartments. (Find Singapore commercial properties with our commercial directory)
Central Mall is located on the opposite side of the Singapore River from CanningHill Piers. To Mark Yip, CEO of Huttons Asia, the success of CanningHill Piers based on its launch performance is largely due to the combination of the strengths of CDL as a residential property developer and CapitaLand as a manager of commercial and retail assets, he says.
By redeveloping Central Mall, CDL will be able to maximize the GFA of the site, and more importantly, to rejuvenate another part of the Central region near the Singapore River, adds Yip. “People often talk about prime Districts 9 and 10, but if you were to look at the location of CanningHill Piers, it’s even closer to the CBD and Orchard Road, and the view of the city skyline, the river frontage is incomparable.”
Central Mall - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Another asset in CDL’s investment portfolio is Central Mall, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with office, retail, serviced apartments and hotel components to realise a potential increase in gross floor area (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Expanding footprint

A new addition to CDL’s investment portfolio is its recent acquisition of two buildings from Tan Chong International located at 798 and 800 Upper Bukit Timah Road for $126 million. These two properties are located next to the 696-unit Hazel Park Condo, which was developed in 2000 by CDL’s parent company Hong Leong Holdings. Under the URA Master Plan, the site is zoned for residential use, says Huttons. “Bukit Timah is a prime residential area, and there aren’t many GLS sites in that neighbourhood,” notes Yip.
The recent site acquisitions, including the GLS sites, will ensure that CDL maintains a healthy inventory level in Singapore, according to CDL’s Chia. “In replenishing our land bank, CDL will continue to adopt a strategic and disciplined approach, through participating in land tenders including potential collective sale sites,” he adds.
The GLS site at Northumberland Road presents an opportunity for CDL to expand its presence in the area. The developer has developed two iconic mixed-use developments in the vicinity, namely City Square Mall, City Square Residences and The Venue Residences and Shoppes. Besides the 408 residential units, the GLS site at Northumberland Road will have commercial retail space including an infant care and childcare centre on the ground floor, says Chia.
IRWELL HILL RESIDENCES SCALE MODEL - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
CDL's new residential developments devote more than 40% of the site area to landscaping and communal facilities that incorporate innovative designs and features (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

Emphasis on sustainability

Even before Covid, CDL had always believed in environmentally sustainable designs, notes Chia. The property developer has therefore placed a strong emphasis on the health performance of its buildings. For instance, its building designs are conceptualised with acoustic comfort, natural ventilation, thermal comfort and biophilic design.
The regulatory requirement is that 40% of the site area in a residential development has to be devoted to landscaping and communal facilities. CDL’s past projects have frequently surpassed that threshold, for instance at Whistler Grand, it’s 80% of the site area; 77% at Tree House; and 65% at Amber Park.
“As a green developer, urban greenery and landscaping are key differentiators for CDL’s developments,” adds Chia. “Our new residential developments devote more than 40% of the site area to landscaping and communal facilities that incorporate innovative designs and features.”

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