Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pearls Centre owners seek higher payout


Straits Times: Sun, Sep 02

Pearls Centre's property owners, displeased by the sudden news of relocation, have asked the authorities for more compensation, in particular taking into account its potential en bloc value.

The 23-storey, 99-year leasehold residential and commercial building in Chinatown had set up a collective sale committee about three months ago.

A valuer was to start work when the announcement came last Wednesday that the 43-year-old building would be acquired for the building of underground tunnels for the Thomson MRT Line.

The occupants of the 44 residential units and 199 shops there have two years to move out.

Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah has asked the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to look into the matter.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Pearls Centre residents and its management committee yesterday, she said: "The fact that an en bloc process has started, it means that there was an increase in expectations of the price.

"But if it's just figures tossed in the air, obviously you can't say it represents market value."

She added that if the acquisition of the property by the SLA had taken place three months earlier, the collective sale issue would not have come up, "but, that said, this is the scenario and one must deal with it as it is".

The Land Acquisition Act provides for compensation to be pegged to the property's market value at the time of acquisition.

Pearls Centre property owners are hoping that the collective sale potential would be considered when the amount of compensation due to them is worked out.

The management committee has also asked Ms Indranee to look into their sharing future profits of the developments coming up on the site.

When the Thomson Line is up and running there after 2022, the plot is expected to be home to shops, offices and homes.

Committee chairman Lo Hock Ling told reporters that there were plans to redevelop the centre. "The amount the Government will earn is the amount that we will lose. The Government wants to earn and so do we. It's logical."

To that, Ms Indranee said: "It would be difficult to take that into account because it's speculative."

Meanwhile, she has advised property owners to provide SLA with information such as the cost of renovation works; she also suggested that they conduct their own valuation before meeting the authorities to negotiate compensation.

The MP also indicated that she would help the residents appeal to the Housing Board for permission to be exempted from the requirement for private property owners to wait 30 months before downgrading to an HDB flat.

Shop owners, on the other hand, are being urged to look for a suitable locality for their business before seeking help from the authorities to identify potential places.

An ad hoc grassroots committee has been set up to help residents with their queries.

  
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