April 22, 2007

Other prime undeveloped sites

Owners waiting for the right time to sell

Bungalow at 727 Bukit Timah Road

THE land is worth $15 million, but the bungalow lies vacant as its owners reckon they can reap even more when the property market heats up further.

One of the owners, Mr Quek Kim Heng, said: 'We have received many calls from real estate agents and brokers, but we're still waiting for the right time.'

The Quek family, which is in the wholesale business, has owned the site since the 1950s, and for a period, the 10,000-sq-ft bungalow housed a family of seven.

But as the children grew and set up homes elsewhere, the parents also decided to move out seven years ago as they felt the place was too big.

The place was quite old and rundown but they did not want to spend money renovating it for the rental market, so it was left vacant, said Mr Quek's mother.

Property consultants estimate that a similar-size bungalow in that location could fetch about $600 to $700 psf but the land could accommodate a far larger home.

Hidden treasure on ultra-prime land

Chee Guan Chiang House
25, Grange Road

THE bungalow is dilapidated, the site is shrouded by trees and looks nondescript. Oh, and it is worth a whopping $425 million.

This is because the site is ultra-prime - at the corner of Grange and Devonshire Roads, opposite the Youth Park.

That location and a plot ratio of 2.8 means about 10 to 13 blocks of up to 36 storeys can be built on the 100,000-sq-ft site. The new apartments could be sold for $1,600 to $1,800 psf, say property consultants.

While it occupies a land area equivalent to about 71/2 Olympic-size pools, thick foliage obscures the site from view so few passers-by take much notice of it.

The house was so called because it was built by Mr Chee Guan Chiang, eldest son of late Malacca-born tycoon, Chee Swee Cheng, the first chairman of the OCBC group.

It was designed in the 1930s by well-known Singapore architect Ho Kwong Yew, who also designed the original Haw Par Villa, which was destroyed during World War II.

Singapore's most expensive warehouse?

Grand Hotel
25, Still Road South

ITS glory days have long gone but the old Grand Hotel still has one claim to fame - the site's $300 million value probably makes it Singapore's most expensive warehouse.

'It is used primarily as storage for unwanted furniture,' said Mr Andrew Lim, an accountant for the Lee Rubber Company, which owns the land.

Lee Rubber - part of the Lee Foundation, which owns about 30 per cent of OCBC Bank - did not say why the prime site remained undeveloped.

Its 60,000 sq ft plot could accommodate about 10 small-size blocks of up to five storeys each, with a selling price of $850 to $900 psf, say property consultants.

The building was built by an Indian cattle merchant in the 1900s as a house for himself and his many wives. He named it Karikal Mahal.

Around 1948, it was sold to Lee Rubber, which renovated and renamed it the Grand Hotel, though it was only a 20-room budget operation.

A caretaker, who gave her name only as Madam Poon, said: 'I have been working at the hotel since my 20s.

'The land used to extend all the way over there. The sea used to be right in front of the hotel.'

The land Madam Poon was referring to is also owned by Lee Rubber and is larger than the hotel site. It is 78,000 sq ft - almost the size of a football field.

A bungalow located at one end, in front of the Marine Parade Community Centre, has been conferred conservation status.

Architectural writer Dinesh Naidu believes the Grand Hotel should also be so listed.

Its bay windows, roof parapet balustrades and decorative arches, contain a mix of elements that may be partly modelled on the Italianate style, said Mr Naidu.

'It's a marker of a bygone era, before the East Coast area was reclaimed in the late 1960s. It gives a sense of history and romance. It could be converted into a museum, clubhouse, or even a boutique hotel.'

And according to Lee Rubber's Mr Lim, some people are not aware the glory days have passed.

He said: 'A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from someone asking to book a room. I have no idea where he got the number from.'