Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Soho? No, Woho

'Work office home office' concept a twist on Soho, allowing offices to double as homes

THOSE workaholics who want to devote all their waking hours to getting a business up and running might find a new concept being tried by business park giant Ascendas right up their street.

The idea is a twist on the small office home office (Soho) concept, where a home can double as an office.

Ascendas has plans to turn the idea around to come up with the 'work office home office' (Woho) at its new project at Fusionopolis.

Essentially, the project is a business park with added flexibility in that it allows offices to double as homes. Each 'module' can accommodate two people.
The 'work office home office' is still in the design stage so it is not known if all modules will come equipped with bathrooms, for example. But there will be some flexibility for the tenants to customise their space.

For example, an entrepreneur who has set up a company would rent a module where he could also live. As the business expands and staff are taken on, neighbouring modules can be rented.

Ascendas group president and chief executive officer Chong Siak Ching told The Straits Times recently that the work and home office concept will target creative types who work around the clock.

The tender for this project for Phase Five of Fusionopolis closed in March. JTC announced yesterday that it has awarded the tender to Ascendas at the tendered price of $172.8 million. The facility will cater to multiple tenants operating in the media, electronics and engineering sectors.

The project is one sign of how the firm is trying to devise innovative products for customers in an increasingly competitive field.

Ascendas was formed in 2001 by a merger between Arcasia Land and JTC International's business parks and facilities group.

Double-digit growth since then has taken the value of its portfolio assets to $12.9 billion as of March 31 and seen it expand from its base here to more than 30 cities in 10 countries, including India, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Its Singapore properties range from the International Business Park in Jurong to the Singapore Science Park and Changi City Point mall.

Over the years, Ascendas' role has changed from its core function of developing business parks.

One strand of this new strategy has been to expand into other areas, even the hospitality business. This foray into the hotel business stems partly from its plans to build up its fund management platform, a service that has become a steady source of income.

Another strand of its new approach involves offering integrated solutions to customers.

Ms Chong said Ascendas does not see itself as just a developer but as 'partners to our customers. We see how we can lower their operating costs, by having suppliers sited close for example'.

Ms Chong said workers now want an environment that not only allows them to work but also to step outside to a cafe, to enjoy the greenery or to listen to a concert. In other words, a workplace that has some lifestyle elements.

That philosophy was behind the approach it took with Ascendas Park Square Mall located within International Tech Park Bangalore that officially opened last December. There are homes, a mall, a hotel and even a spa within the park. The mall, which sprawls across 450,000 sq ft, includes a bowling alley, foodcourts, a cineplex and fitness club.

While such facilities may seem like a cost to some developers, there are tangible benefits. Ms Chong said: 'There is higher customer retention, higher retention of staff and higher occupancy. All these reinforce the strength of the integrated concept.'

This concept is being tried out here at Changi City Point mall, its joint venture with Frasers Centrepoint which opened last November. The business tower and hotel, under Frasers Centrepoint's new boutique hotel brand Capri, will open later this year.

New concepts and a new approach are all part of a bigger picture of trying to stay ahead of the game amid a fragile global economy and increasingly aggressive competitors.

Ms Chong noted: 'When times are bad, there's a flight to quality; as long as we can offer good solutions and a competitive rate, we'll be able to stay competitive.'

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G) | | | |

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