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Published November 8, 2006

Tanglin Village gets a 'lease' to stay trendy till 2015
The area, shaping up to be a haven for F&B outlets and play schools, could be worth some $5-8b


(SINGAPORE) Tanglin Village around Dempsey Road sits on some of Singapore's most prime land, but for the next 10 years at least it will enjoy the respite from bulldozers and remain a haven for hipsters and kids alike.

The owners of Oosh, touted as S'pore's largest alfresco F&B outlet, pay monthly rent of $23,000 but aim to break even in three years.

Announcing the launch of the public tender of two more pre-War buildings for adaptive re-use such as F&B outlets and play schools, Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee said yesterday the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has plans for Tanglin Village up to 2015.

'Depending on how this works out and what plans the Urban Redevelopment Authority has, who knows . . . I think this may be continued after that,' said Assoc Prof Ho.

Based on recent asking prices for residential sites in the Holland Road/Napier Road area, which range from $700 to $1,200 psf per plot ratio, assuming a plot ratio of 1.6, the 40 ha Tanglin Village could be worth anywhere from about $5 billion to $8 billion.

There are about 50 buildings at Tanglin Village - formerly the Central Manpower Base - and about 25 have been tenanted out on short leases. Only one, St George's Church in Minden Road has been gazetted as a national monument.

Typically, leases on a three-year basis with an option to extend for an additional 3+3 years.

The short leases have not been a deterrent. Clarence Ti, director of land resource services at SLA, says more than 40 bids have been received for seven parcels made available over the past three years.

Most recently, 11 bids were received for a building with a gross floor area of about 13,000 sq ft, which was awarded to businessmen Richard Goh, Tommie Goh and Daniel Ong for monthly rent of $23,000.

Mr Richard Goh says the rent works out to be between $2 and $3 psf - much cheaper than $10-20 psf at nearby Holland Village. Still, he and his partners pumped a further $6 million into restoring the old building, now touted as Singapore's largest alfresco F&B outlet, called Oosh.

Mr Goh expects up to 350 customers a day and aims to break even in three years.

Oosh is a lot more upmarket than other F&B offerings at Tanglin Village like the successful PS Cafe down the road. But Mr Goh is bullish. 'We have created something very unique with Oosh,' he says.

Other entrepreneurs seem to be bullish about Tanglin Village too.

The former Civil Service Club, which has a gross floor area of 27,717 sq ft, is one of the buildings that has just been put up for tender. And already, T Nagarajan, manager of Samy's Curry Restaurant, which is still a tenant there, says he sees prospective bidders viewing the site 'every day'.

Samy's has been at the location for 25 years. Mr Nagarajan has been working there for 12 years but realises the restaurant's days are numbered. 'This is why we opened a new outlet in Katong,' he said. At present, Samy's lease at Tanglin Village is renewed on a month-to-month basis.

He says the restaurant's owners are considering bidding for the site themselves. But like Oosh, it is likely to be hotly contested.

Explaining the concept for the tender process at Tanglin Village, which is being carried out in stages, SLA's Mr Ti says: 'There is an interesting trade-off for businessmen in this approach. Winners of earlier tenders get some first-mover advantage but their financial projections could prove to be optimistic once competition sets in.

'We do not protect our earlier winners from the competition from late winners. Each will have to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.'

The irony, of course, is that nobody can accurately predict what the market wants - be it condominiums or fish head curry.

Architect Aamer Taher, who designed both PS Cafe and Oosh - helping to make Tanglin Village trendy in the process - reflects: 'Maybe it would have been better if the whole place was more of a secret.'