Saturday, October 13, 2012

Old houses, new uses


Oct 13, 2012

Matilda House, a 110-year-old seaside bungalow opposite Punggol MRT station, has seen better days.

It was built by the wealthy Irish Cashin family and until the 1970s, it was their weekend resort. It then fell into disuse and was left to weather the elements.

Until five years ago, the uninhabited single-storey building stood on its own in a field of unkempt grass.

But come 2015, Matilda House, which has been marked for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), will have new life breathed into it again, and with more than just one family enjoying its cosy spots and sea breeze.

In a joint venture, property developer Sim Lian Group has drawn up plans for the bungalow to be integrated into a new condominium, A Treasure Trove, as a clubhouse with facilities such as a function room, a lounge and a gym. Around it will be 14 blocks of 16-storey-high residences.
A Sim Lian spokesman says aside from the site's prime location because of its accessibility to trains and buses, buyers welcomed the mix of old and new.

"Many buyers felt that a clubhouse in a conserved bungalow is something unique that not many condominium projects in Singapore can boast of," he says. "We took special care to conserve a historic bungalow by incorporating it into the development design and converting it into a clubhouse."

About 94 per cent of the 882 units have been sold at an average of $866 per square foot within a month. The project is now under construction.

Bringing back old-world glamour with conserved buildings is catching on with property developers here. At least six new residential developments combine old with the new. Some are still in the planning stages, while others are being built.

An early example is the Spring Grove condominium in Grange Road, at the former American ambassador's residence. Built in 1996, it turned a Victorian- style bungalow on the grounds into a clubhouse.

Another is Gambier Court in Kim Yan Road, constructed in 1999. It was one of the first projects then to marry Art Deco terrace houses with apartments.

Once the URA has gazetted a building for conservation, property developers must restore its facade. But they have free rein over interiors.

Besides A Treasure Trove, projects which have retained conserved bungalows and shophouses include The Wharf Residence at Robertson Quay, Rezi26 in Lorong 26 Geylang, Two8one Studio and 283 Studio, both in River Valley Road.

Other hotly anticipated projects that have well-known conserved public buildings are the billion-dollar South Beach mixed development in Beach Road, which includes three 1930s army blocks and the former Non-Commissioned Officers Club built in 1952, and The Red House project in East Coast Road. The latter project includes the fire engine-red two-storey shophouse that once housed the famed Katong Red House Bakery. It will have 42 residential units.

Special adviser to HSR Property Group Donald Han says having such features is a good selling point, since older buildings have a nostalgic charm.

He says: “With so many new buildings around, having old conserved ones differentiates the product and that goes a long way when selling it. It is also a chance to rejuvenate old buildings, which otherwise may not have happened.”

Citing The Red House project, he adds: “There’s only one of it and everyone knows about its history or at least its location. That’s already a premium in the branding process.”

And going by sell-out sales, buyers are biting. Rezi26, which has 106 residential units, was fully sold within six months of its launch at an average of $1,100 per sq ft. Its 102-year-old conservation house will have a gym with a function room, a management office and a barbecue pit patio on the first floor, with two residential units above.

The Wharf Residence in Tong Watt Road has 12 heritage shophouses – probably built in the early 1900s – one replica shophouse and 173 units in the tower block. The shophouses are in the River Valley conservation area and were given conservation status in 1991.

Building new apartments around old buildings, however, can be challenging, says Rezi26’s architect Roberto Felix Limbaga, an associate director at architecture firm Park + Associates.
“If the new structure gets too close to the existing ones, you have to protect the old ones from damage and disturbance.

“There may also be surprises when one starts to peel open the layers of paintwork and plastering,” he adds. “You often find hidden columns of unusual material not suited for its purpose. The architect and engineers will then have to solve the technical problems as the project is being built.”

At the same time, architects have to ensure that old and new meld seamlessly rather than look like separate projects.

A CapitaLand Residential Singapore spokesman says of The Wharf Residence, where the shophouses are connected to communal facilities such as the swimming pool and roof garden: “The design of the four towers is kept simple to exemplify a sense of contemporary living, yet forming a neutral backdrop to accentuate the richness of the features of the shophouses.”

Another draw for smaller projects such as Two8one Studio is the niche factor.

Developer Optimus Developments built a six-unit extension at the back of a conserved pre-war shophouse. The facade of the original shophouse was restored and the building also got a new coat of paint and bricks.

The 527 sq ft units and a penthouse were sold out within two weeks of the launch in 2009, with prices averaging $800,000 to $900,000.

Optimus Developments’ managing director Melvin Ho, who has an office in the shophouse, says: “Not everyone gets to live in a shophouse and many buyers were drawn to the charm of the building and the heritage. The price is not a deterrent when they can get such a unique feature.”

For one buyer of an apartment there, it was a chance to return to her childhood.

The businesswoman in her mid-30s, who declined to be named, used to live in a Katong shophouse with her parents. She had been scouting new condominium projects, looking to buy her first home.

On buying an apartment at Two8one Studio, she says: “You don’t see a lot of such projects now, especially with smaller developments. I get a sense of nostalgia having a home in such a historic area. This has the perfect combination of old heritage and new development.”



Second life for conserved buildings

CITYLIGHTS

Where: 80 Jellicoe Road

What: True to its name, the 42-storey condominium gives the 600 homes here a breathtaking view of the city. It was completed in 2007 by CapitaLand Residential. As well as the view, buyers were impressed by 10 heritage townhouses, ranging from 3,000 to 3,500 sq ft, that are part of the project.

THE SEAVIEW

Where: 29-41 Amber Road

What: Sitting amid six tower blocks, each 23 storeys tall, is a historic beachhouse which has been restored into the condominium’s clubhouse. The project, which was the former Sea View Hotel, has 546 units and was developed and completed by Wheelock Properties in 2008.

GAMBIER COURT

Where: 60-66 Kim Yan Road

What: Three 1940s Art Deco terrace houses, which had been earmarked for conservation in 1991, were restored. Behind them is a 10-storey apartment block.
Developer ACT Holdings bought the 21/2-storey terraces, which used to be residential homes, in a tender in 1996. While their facade was maintained, their interiors were altered, including the removal of the houses’ back portions to make way for the 18-unit apartment block.

A cross motif on the houses’ balconies is repeated on the apartment balconies for continuity. The project, launched in 1998, won an Urban Redevelopment Authority Architectural Heritage Award in 2000.

SPRING GROVE

Where: 53-53B Grange Road

What: This 263,511 sq ft site of the former residence of the United States ambassador was bought by developer City Developments Limited from the American government more than 20 years ago.

Its condominium project has a pre- 1868 two-storey Victorian bungalow, which was given conservation status in 1991 under the voluntary conservation scheme. It won a URA Architectural Heritage Award in 1998 for the bungalow-turned-clubhouse, believed to have been built in 1888.

The bungalow’s past occupants include a Jewish millionaire and a Japanese general. Its $1.8-million restoration included removing the bullet-proof windows and reinstating wooden louvres.

LIGHT@CAIRNHILL

Where: 19 Cairnhill Circle

What: Completed in 2004 by Wing Tai Holdings, this boasts a 20-storey glass building with three restored 21/2-storey terrace houses. The houses used to be a clubhouse for guests of the old Cairnhill Hotel and were sold together with the hotel. About $2.5 million was spent on restoring and updating them. Each is more than 3,000 sq ft.

SANDALWOOD

Where: 152A-152J, 152-164 Tembeling Road

What: It took property developerBreezeway Development 13 years to convince the previous owners to sell them these 1930s terrace houses.

It put a five-storey, 23-unit apartment block on a 20,000 sq ft grassland area behind the 16 houses.

As for the houses, their interiors were stripped back for a modern look.

Beyond the restored facade – from front doors to wood-carved crescents above windows – each house has its own private access to the condominium pool and basement carpark – a rare feature for conservation terrace house projects.

This $12-million project, designed by SCDA Architects, was one of six recipients of the URA Architectural Heritage Awards in 2005.

THE VENTANA, PASIR PANJANG

Where: 95 Pasir Panjang Hill

What: The neighbouring Haw Par Villa is the more recognisable landmark but perched atop Pasir Panjang Hill, The Ventana drew buyers for its views of Kent Ridge Park and Singapore’s southern islands.

The 39-unit project, which has a two-storey restored bungalow as its clubhouse, was completed by ACT Holdings in 2003. It was the childhood home of ACT’s managing director James Toh.

GRAND DUCHESS AT ST PATRICK’S

Where: 126-136 Saint Patrick’s Road

What: Two Victorian-style bungalows are surrounded by eight-storey, glass-clad apartments in this project.

The intricate facade at No.124, including elaborate motifs and intricate cast-iron railings, has been restored and turned into a clubhouse. A double- storey bungalow at No. 126/126A was also repaired and its ornate mouldings on cornices retained. Developed by UIC Investment, it won a URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2010.


Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
Email: marshe_inc@yahoo.com.sg
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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