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Ophir-Rochor area slated for trendy makeover

Redevelopment will see new hotels, offices and shops; area to become an ‘extension of Bugis’

IT IS all a bit sleepy and humdrum now, but the walkways of the Ophir-Rochor zone are set for a jazzy makeover that will add trendy hotels and shops, offices and more.

Plans to rev up the hotchpotch zone – it has old colonial lanes at one end and a hot air balloon at the other – were unveiled by the Government yesterday.

The makeover already has its centrepoint and crown jewel – the eco-friendly South Beach project designed by world- renowned British architect Norman Foster and his partners.

The development includes two towers of up to 45 storeys linked to the conserved military buildings of the old Beach Road camp by an eye-catching ‘environmental filter’ canopy.

There will also be premium office space, two luxury hotels of up to 700 rooms, service apartments and shops on the 3.5ha site, which is being developed by a City Developments consortium.

Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said yesterday that the landmark project ‘will be a first glimpse into exciting plans ahead for the Ophir Road/ Rochor Road corridor’.

She added that the Government intends to ‘build on the momentum’ by developing land parcels.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority will release more details early next year, but some sites may be included in the Government Land Sales Programme due later this month.

Potential plots up for grabs include the Ophir Road/Beach Road tract in front of Parkview Square – this hosted Cirque Du Soleil in 2005 – and the site at Tan Quee Lan Street, now home to the DHL balloon.

Ms Fu added that the new district will be an ‘extension of Bugis’, connecting Marina Centre to Bugis and Singapore’s civic district.

The landscape, rich in colonial charm, has been constantly changing in the last decade.

When Bugis Junction opened in 1995, property pundits predicted that the project would fail to draw the crowds as it was not a prime location.

But Bugis has blossomed into a trendy youth hangout, complemented by fancy dining and drinking hot spots along Seah and Purvis Streets.

The bohemian charm of independent shops that line nearby Haji Lane also keeps the area buzzing.

Property analysts welcomed the plans.

‘The market needs something on the fringe of the Central Business District (CBD). Office buildings with a mix of retail and hotels will be popular,’ said Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of business development and marketing at Savills Singapore.

Mr Colin Tan, head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, agreed there was great potential in the area, but said offices would not likely command Grade A rents like in the CBD.

‘Offices here will be ideally suited for small and medium-sized enterprises,’ he said. But more road infrastructure such as broader lanes or expressways are needed to relieve congestion, he added.

Knight Frank’s director for research and consultancy Nicholas Mak welcomed the plans to liven the area, as it ‘has always been a bit sleepy’, but hoped that the area’s heritage and shophouses would be conserved.

Mr Mak said developers will be interested, although a ‘balance of the old and new’ was important in retaining the character of the district.


Source: The Straits Times 5 Dec 07


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