A revolutionary idea – a hotel in a park

Balestier Road site will face Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

IMAGINE a hotel development in the midst of a public park. Better still, one that blends in with the area’s heritage.

That could soon be a reality following the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) launch of a land parcel for sale by tender off Balestier Road.

The site, located across the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, will be nestled in the 0.46-hectare Zhongshan Park. This means the developer will be able to create a unique garden setting for the hotel, and enhance the experience for hotel guests and visitors to the memorial hall – a national monument in tribute to Dr Sun Yat Sen who led the 1911 Chinese Revolution.

Some 50,000 people visit the memorial hall annually.

The developer is also required to provide space for public events within the park. This, together with outdoor refreshment areas as well as tea pavilions, will help to inject greater vibrancy into the park and the surrounding area.

With excellent frontage along Balestier Road, the plot has a maximum permissible gross floor area of about 40,000sq m, at least 60 per cent of which is meant for a 650-room hotel and hotel-related uses, while the rest is for commercial and residential use.

The tender is an improved version of the previous one that was released in October 2006, but withdrawn a year later. According to a URA spokesman, it was withdrawn to review the land use of the site together with other vacant land in the vicinity.

Mr Nicholas Mak, director of consultancy and research at Knight Frank, said that while it would be unique to tie in the hotel with the area’s heritage, it poses several challenges for the developer and may draw less than five bids.

The future developer will need a strong concept to maximise the historical theme of the memorial hall, he said. The developer will also need a strategy to promote and increase the usage of the park, which is intended to be the selling point for the proposed hotel, or it may be overshadowed by the nearby Toa Payoh Town Park.

However, Mr Mak added that the unique requirements would attract niche developers who are experienced in developing hotels with strong themes.

“As most of the nearby hotels in the area are small, the proposed hotel, if it is targeted at a different market segment, would not face stiff competition when completed,” he said.

In light of the temporary hotel room crunch facing Singapore, property analysts Today spoke to say that while the area’s heritage would be an added bonus, what is really driving the market is the increase in visitors to the island.

“To really make a difference, it would be necessary to preserve the whole Balestier area, and not just selected parts such as the Sun Yat Sen memorial hall,” said at Chesterton International head of research Colin Tan.

Balestier Road has an interesting mix of conservation shophouses built in the 1840s, and modern commercial and residential buildings. The area was selected as one of Singapore’s Identity Nodes in the URA’s Identity Plan in 2002. Since then, about 150 shophouses have been gazetted for conservation.

The area is also known for its local delicacies, such as bak kut teh, sold in shophouses lining the main road.

To enable visitors to enjoy the area better and enhance their walking experience, the URA spokesman said plans are in place to improve the walkways and landscaping along the road.

“From time to time, the Government will, after studying the uniqueness of each area as well as opportunity for developments, consider suitable proposals for distinctive development concepts and these could include preserving the heritage around us,” said the URA spokesman.

The tender will close at 12pm on July 16.

Source : Today – 1 Apr 2008

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