By Valerie Kor and Cecilia Chow / EdgeProp Singapore | November 13, 2020 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – Amid the old HDB blocks on Chin Swee Road which were built in the early 1970s, one lone tower stood apart, perched on the hillslope overlooking Pearl’s Hill City Park. It was the former 38-storey Landmark Tower, built 35 years ago.
“The views here were simply the best-kept secret in Singapore,” says Kain Sim, co-founder and group chairman of ZACD Group, an investment holding and asset management company, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. In May 2018, ZACD, together with consortium partners SSLE Development and MCC Singapore, won the tender for the collective sale site, with a bid of $286 million.
The breakdown in ownership stakes among the partners in the consortium is as follows: ZACD Group with a 38% stake, followed by SSLE Development with 32% and MCC Singapore with 30%.
The view of the CBB from the old Landmark Tower (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
This is one of the first condominium developments in Singapore where ZACD is a major stakeholder. Established in 2005, ZACD has historically taken minority stakes of between 5% and 20% in suburban residential projects of contractors-turned-property developers like Qingjian Realty, Capital Development and Wee Hur Holdings. Projects included Flo Residence at Punggol (with Capital Development), Parc Centros at Punggol Central (with Wee Hur) and Le Quest, a mixed-use development at Bukit Batok West, with Hong Kong-listed Chinese developer Qingjian Realty.
SSLE Development, the property development division of Sin Soon Lee Group, and ZACD has had a relationship spanning 20 years. “So it was a natural partnership when we saw the opportunity to tender for Landmark Tower,” says Sim.
Sin Soon Lee Group, the parent company of SSLE Development, had constructed the HDB blocks located off Chin Swee Road, next to the Central Expressway back in the 1970s. Hence, SSLE Development knows the area very well, says Ken Chew, the firm’s general manager. Sin Soon Lee Group was founded in the 1970s by Chew’s grandfather, Lim Kim Chong.
After SSLE Development came on board, “We sought another partner to complement our respective strengths,” says ZACD’s Sim.
Sim’s husband, Stanley Yeo, co-founder and group CEO of ZACD, invited Tan Zhiyong, CEO of MCC Singapore, to view the site. “When Stanley Yeo brought me to the vantage point of Landmark Tower, I was moved by the 360-degree panoramic views,” relates MCC Singapore’s Tan in Chinese. “And I thought at that time, ‘MCC needs to do this project’.”
Kain Sim of ZACD Group, flanked by Ken Chew of SSLE Development (left) and Tan Zhiyong of MCC Singapore (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Tan reckons it was a twist of fate that brought all three partners together in the deal. After all, MCC Singapore’s office at WCEGA Tower, a 30-storey light-industrial complex with a nine-storey plaza at Bukit Batok Crescent, was developed by Sin Soon Lee Group. Back in 2007, a group of Chinese investors had paid $300 million for the properties to house their businesses. Hence, the building was named “WCEGA”, the acronym for World Chinese Entrepreneurs General Association.
SSLE Development’s Chew says each of the joint-venture partners brought their own strengths to the table. “ZACD has managed numerous funds and is strong in financing and marketing,” he says. “On the other hand, MCC Singapore has opened our eyes to advanced construction techniques from mainland China.”
MCC Singapore is a subsidiary of Metallurgical Corporation of China, a Fortune 500 company listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai. MCC Singapore’s businesses include property development, management and construction. Notable construction projects undertaken by MCC include Universal Studios Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa, Keppel Distripark and Singapore Expo. MCC Singapore’s property development arm, MCC Land’s recent property developments include mixed-use development, The Poiz Centre and Poiz Residences fronting Potong Pasir MRT station as well as Queens Peak Condominium located beside Queenstown MRT station, which is developed in collaboration with Hao Yuan Investment.
Upcoming developments by MCC Land are Provence Residences, a 413-unit executive condo at Canberra Link in Sembawang; and mixed-use development One Bernam, a 350-unit apartment tower with a commercial unit on the first level, in Tanjong Pagar in collaboration with Hao Yuan Investment. Incidentally, MCC Land emerged at the top of 15 bids for the government land sales (GLS) site at Tanah Merah Kechil Link, which closed on Oct 29.
Former penthouse on the 37th floor of the old Landmark Tower was turned into a viewing gallery for business associates, investors and property agents before it closed recently for demolition (Photo: The Landmark consortium)
Providing closure for former owners
Following the completion of the sale of the former Landmark Tower last year, the consortium organised a Christmas party followed by a Lunar New Year party at the start of 2020 for the former owners of the 139-unit development. “We wanted to provide a good closure for all the owners, many of whom have lived there for so many years,” says ZACD’s Sim.
The consortium even converted the penthouse of the former Landmark Tower on the 37th floor into a viewing gallery for business associates, investors and property agents. “The views from the penthouse just blew us away,” recounts Sim.
Now covered by debris netting in preparation for its demolition, the former Landmark Tower will soon make way for a new 39-storey tower with 396 units.
The new-generation Landmark
Aptly named “The Landmark”, the new tower is designed by Singapore’s oldest architectural firm, Swan & Maclaren Architects, and scheduled for completion by March 2025.
“The Landmark was conceived as a timeless residence, a prized heritage that can be passsed down from one generation to the next,” says Rebecca Chia, director of Swan & Maclaren and the lead architect for the project.
Scale model of The Landmark, a 39-storey tower with 396 units, comprising a mix of one- to three-bedroom apartments (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The tower was designed to integrate seamlessly with the adjacent Pearl’s Hill City Park with landscaped grounds on the first level, and greenery extending to the podium, the sky terraces and rooftop terrace, says Chia.
The new project will have a mix of one- to three-bedroom apartments. One-bedders, sized from 495 to 517 sq ft, make up 144 units (36%) of the development. Two-bedders account for 180 units (45%), with sizes from 678 to 784 sq ft. Three-bedders of 1,076 to 1,141 sq ft, make up the balance 72 units (18%). They come with private lift access.
All the units are designed with the flexibility to be reconfigured, says Swan & Maclaren’s Chia. “With homes becoming the default office brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, homebuyers are increasingly seeking bigger units with a study, which they can use as a home office,” she comments. Hence, 36 units (half of the three-bedroom units) are designed with a study.
The layout of the units are very regular to optimise the flow of spaces, and maximise light and ventilation in the interiors, explains Chia.
Units are provided with full-height windows where possible to maximise enjoyment of the views, she adds. “All units enjoy either unobstructed city skyline views and Pearls Hill Park or views towards the Singapore River and surrounding estates.”
Balconies for the units act as an extension of the interiors and provide a functional “semi outdoor space”, she adds.
Showflat of a one-bedroom unit, where sizes range from 495 to 517 sq ft (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
‘Almost Central Park’
Facilities in the project include a 50m infinity lap pool, a children’s waterpark and an aqua lounge on the second level. The 14th level is dedicated to facilities too and will house an outdoor fitness area, an air-conditioned gym and a jacuzzi aqua spa. On Level 34 is another facilities deck, which includes a sky lounge and bistro.
When completed, The Landmark will have a side gate that gives direct access to Pearl’s Hill City Park. “It’s like being in the city, yet also in a park,” says Sim.
The landscaping at The Landmark will incorporate similar species of plants as Pearl’s Hill City Park, which is built around a reservoir. “We want to emulate the feeling of living next to a nature reserve at the edge of the city,” says SSLE Development’s Chew. “It’s almost like living next to Central Park in New York City, Hyde Park in London, or Lumphini Park in Bangkok.”
As it is the lone tower perched on an elevation on Pearl’s Hill, “every unit will have a view”, says ZACD’s Sim. She likens The Landmark to Mid-Levels in Hong Kong and hopes this similarity will be a draw for Hong Kong buyers.
Furthermore, The Landmark is right at the border of the CBD and Robertson Quay, as well as near both Chinatown and Outram MRT interchange stations. The Landmark is near two major growth areas: the upcoming Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Campus, which will be Singapore’s largest medical campus when completed, and the Greater Southern Waterfront, a future urban area offering waterfront living, lifestyle amenities and proximity to parks, about six times the size of Marina Bay.
View of Pearl’s Hill City Park from the former Landmark Tower (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
As such, Sim expects The Landmark to appeal to both owner-occupiers and investors. “It’s both an aspirational and a prudent buy,” she says.
The public preview of the project, which had been scheduled for earlier this year, will now take place on Nov 14. While the Covid-19 “circuit breaker” certainly played a part, another source of delay was the complexity of amalgamating three neighbouring remnant state land sites with the former Landmark Tower plot, says SSLE’s Chew. This having been achieved, brings the total site area of The Landmark to 72,118 sq ft, the equivalent of 1.3 football fields. “After amalgamation, the total land area was increased by about 1,000 sq m, and there will be a longer frontage,” Chew adds.
According to property agents, prices at The Landmark are likely to start from just below $1 million for a one-bedder, upward of $1.2 million for a two-bedder and from $2.3 million for a three-bedder. The appointed marketing agencies are PropNex, ERA Realty Network, Huttons Asia and SLP International.
Border of the CBD, amenities
“The Landmark has many positive attributes,” says Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty. “First and foremost is the huge park surrounding it – nature within a city environment is a rarity and a plus point.” Beyond the park, there are many other amenities nearby, such as the Sheng Siong supermarket which is within walking distance, and River Valley Primary School, a popular school, is within 1km.
Even though The Landmark is on the city fringe, it is right at the border of the Core Central Region. “This gives it a positive rental advantage,” notes Gafoor.
According to research by PropNex, one-bedroom apartments and condominiums in the vicinity are already commanding rental rates of at least $3,000 a month. Based on the indicative price of just below $1 million for a one-bedroom unit at The landmark, Gafoor reckons that rental yields for future investors will be “very attractive”, especially if the low-interest-rate environment persists.
Showflat of a three-bedroom unit which comes with private lift access, and where half the units come with a study (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Gafoor reckons the units will be attractively priced, with two-bedroom units from 678 sq ft priced above $1.2 million, prices could start from below $2,000 psf. Hence, he estimates the average price for The Landmark could be in the “$2,000 to $2,200 psf range”.
Given the unit types — from one- to three-bedroom apartments — Gafoor sees The Landmark appealing not just to investors but to upgraders, young couples or families who want the convenience of the amenities as well as two MRT interchange stations nearby, Outram and Chinatown.
The Landmark is also within walking distance of People’s Park Complex, Chinatown Point and Robertson Quay, points out Lee Sze Teck, director of research at Huttons Asia. “City fringe projects that are close to the CBD sit in a sweet spot,” he adds. “They are near places of work, yet the amenities in the vicinity are available seven days a week compared to the CBD. At the same time, its central location makes travelling to the rest of the island very convenient.”
The location also means that units at The Landmark will command views of the Singapore River, the city and the sea towards the south, notes Huttons’ Lee.
With the hilltop behind it, the reservoir at the Pearl’s Hill City Park in front of it, and the Singapore River nearby, “these attributes translate to good fengshui for The Landmark”, says Nicholas Mak, head of research for ERA Realty. “This is likely to appeal to those from Hong Kong and China,” he adds.
Master bedroom of a three-bedroom unit at The Landmark (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Not the usual year-end lull
Last month, Singapore and Hong Kong agreed to establish a two-way “Air Travel Bubble”, which allows travel within both cities without quarantine. Hence, it is an opportunity for those from Hong Kong who want to explore investment opportunities in Singapore, adds Mak.
“Homebuyers are going to be spoilt for choice,” Mak says. “And with travel restrictions in place, there may not be the usual lull in the November-December school holiday period. Developers are likely to continue launching projects until at least the second week of December. Even if people choose to spend their $100 tourism vouchers during that time, they are still vacationing in Singapore.”
MCC’s Tan sees Singapore’s residential market becoming increasingly attractive to global investors given the ongoing US-China trade war and the way Singapore’s government has been handling the Covid-19 crisis. “Chinese tech companies are now entering Singapore’s market,” he says. “I believe more [tech companies] from the US and Europe will follow. In terms of geographical location, Singapore is neutral, it’s clean and relatively affordable.”
ZACD’s Sim adds: “In the last 12 months, ZACD Group has seen a huge increase in family offices who are making Singapore their headquarters.”
Whether markets are up or down, Sim says the product is very important. “We believe The Landmark is able to harness interest from various groups of property buyers, given its location and nearby amenities.”
MCC’s Tan concurs. “Landmark Tower was an iconic project that old-timers will remember,” he says. The redeveloped project, The Landmark, will also have unbeatable views, and as a contractor-developer, we have the ability to control construction costs to provide quality with competitive pricing.”