April 22, 2007

Mitre Hotel owners sitting on another property goldmine

Also in their portfolio is Sloane Court Hotel in Balmoral Road valued at $55 million

By Vincent Leow

Both the site and the hotel are at the centre of a legal tussle between the patriarch's cousin, Mr Chiam Heng Hsien (above) - who owns 10 per cent of the land - and some relatives.

THE Chiam family battling over a prime Killiney Road plot are actually sitting on another goldmine several kilometres away.

The Sloane Court Hotel in Balmoral Road is also in the family property portfolio and is valued, according to consultants, at $55 million.

But while that plot sits in an oasis of calm, storms rage around the 40,000 sq ft Killiney site and the Mitre Hotel on it.

The plot, worth an estimated $100 million, has sparked a poisonous legal tussle between Mr Chiam Heng Hsien - who owns 10 per cent of the land - and his relatives.

Mr Chiam, 61, who runs the family-owned Mitre Hotel lodging house on the site, has managed to block their efforts to sell the plot for the past 10 years.

His relatives allege that he is merely holding out for more money.

The stakes are high. The plot's building ratio of 2.8 means a development of up to 36 storeys could be erected. Most likely would be a 112-unit condominium development with each unit at about 1,200 sq ft.

They could sell for between $2,000 and $2,400 psf in today's hot market, say property consultants.

The Chiam fortune - they are 'rich enough to pay upfront for a Lamborghini' said a family friend - can be traced back to one man, 93-year-old patriarch Chiam Heng Luan.

The Hainan-born go-getter started working in Singapore hotels during his youth. But eager to see the world and make his fortune, he signed on as a waiter on a British merchant ship.

He eventually returned to Singapore in the 1950s and opened a restaurant called Captain's Cabin in Serangoon Gardens.

He also bought a 32,000 sq ft piece of land - about the size of two Olympic swimming pools - where he built Sloane Court Hotel.

The enterprising former seaman, who is Mr Chiam Heng Hsien's cousin, also opened other establishments, including Balmoral Steak House in Holland Village, which has since closed.

The Sloane Court Hotel, which opened in 1960, is managed by several of the senior Mr Chiam's 10 children.

And like him, they prefer to stay out of the news and declined to be interviewed.

The nonagenarian lives in Cairnhill Mansions, behind Goodwood Park Hotel. The condominium is reported to be trying for a collective sale.

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