Balestier hot target for buyers and developers - 11 Jun 2006

They are attracted to area's central location and reasonable prices
By Kelvin Wong, Property Correspondent

IT IS not quite in the heart of town, but for many, it comes close enough. The Balestier area, famous for its home lighting shops, is seeing a renewal of interest from buyers and developers alike.

The reason? Its district 12 location and the very reasonable price of units there now make for a potent combination, property experts say.

Just a 10-minute drive from Orchard Road, apartments go for a very reasonable $600 per sq ft (psf) in general-- half, or even less, the sum that buyers have to stump up for units along the prime shopping belt.

Small wonder that there has been a steady stream of developments on either side of Balestier Road from the Thomson Road end to the Whampoa Drive end with some snapped up even before the first brick is laid.

Most of these are small to medium-sized projects and are not always built by brand-name developers. But for the astute buyer, they are regarded as hot property nonetheless. The Medge at Martaban Road, for example, sold all its 44 units within a month of its launch last September, said Mr Herman Chang, the managing director of developer Macly.

The freehold project, which is expected to obtain its temporary occupation permit (TOP) in the fourth quarter of next year, went for between $670 psf and $800 psf.

Along Martaban Road, two other developments are on the market Teambuild Properties' Ecoville and Myriad Forte Construction's Chelsea Grove.

Chelsea Grove, which goes for an attractive $350 psf to $505 psf, has sold all but six of its 23 units. It launched about half the units a year ago, resuming sales last month. Ecoville, launched in April, sells for $650 psf.

A stone's throw from Novena MRT Station is Leng Hoe Development's City Edge, with units selling for $750 psf or more. The Moulmein Rise freehold development in district 10 is expected to obtain its TOP in December 2008.

On the other side of the Balestier area, nearer Toa Payoh, developers have also been moving in. Allgreen Properties has its 83-unit D'Lotus at Lorong Ampas, which sells for $530 psf to $580 psf. And at Jalan Datoh, near Thomson Road, Tiong Aik Investments' The Citrine is going for about $600 psf. The 54-unit freehold development, launched in February, has about 35 units left for sale.

More are on the way. City Developments, for instance, recently paid $156.3 million for three adjoining collective sale developments at Jalan Datoh and Jalan Raja Udang. Credo Real Estate, which handled the deal, said it expects around 400 condominium units to be built on the site.

Says Savills Residential executive director David Neubronner: ""The major attraction of Balestier is its central location and accessibility to a host of amenities.' Besides Orchard Road, Balestier is also close to the Central Business District, he notes. And it is host to a string of well-known eateries and malls.

The only drawback to the area is the problem with its image, say property consultants. They note it is not known for being a pure or exclusive residential area, such as Katong.

'It is a mix of industrial and commercial firms and homes. There're even some printing firms there so the overall image is neither here nor there,' says Mr Colin Tan of Chesterton International. ' But if you don't mind that, it is very attractive because it is quite central and prices are cheap.'

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