CapitaLand gains big canvas for Singapore redevelopments from ASB purchase

CapitaLand gains big canvas for Singapore redevelopments from ASB purchase

Some folks may think that CapitaLand does not have many Singapore residential developments coming up – with only two projects currently.

However, the property group has a much larger canvas for creating development opportunities at home in various asset classes, beyond residential, after its S$11 billion acquisition of Ascendas-Singbridge (ASB) this year.

In fact, one of the group’s priorities in Singapore is to rejuvenate its vintage properties at Science Park 1 – and it has begun to engage the authorities on this.

In a recent interview with BT, Jason Leow, president of Singapore and international at CapitaLand Group, said: “We are talking to the (government) agencies to look at the possibilities. We want to redevelop; there are a lot of considerations. One is, of course, the density. How much can you build and the impact to the traffic in this area … We also look at whether there is a real demand (for the space).”

Science Parks 1 and 2, sitting on respective land areas of about 30 hectares and 25 ha, began operations in 1982 and 1993, respectively. Based on the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan 2014, Science Parks 1 and 2 are on land zoned for business park use. Most of this land has 1.2 plot ratio; this refers to the ratio of maximum gross floor area (GFA) to site area.

Said Mr Leow: “But if you look at, say, Mapletree Business City, the plot ratio is 2.8, and if you look at one-north, plot ratios are even higher.”

Market watchers reckon that the lower plot ratio for the Science Park precinct is due to historical reasons; it is home to the earlier generation of business park developments here.

Mr Leow argues that while the original buildings developed in the 1980s in Science Park 1 served well their purpose of allowing occupiers to carry out R&D and knowledge-intensive activities, they are still pretty much standalone buildings with very limited placemaking and amenities. Placemaking refers to the multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.

New economy companies and R&D centres want premises with not only high specifications, but which also offer connectivity, amenities and opportunities for placemaking, he added.

“Within the 30 ha for Science Park I, we can relook at how we can redesign the whole place to make it more connected and improve the ecosystem.”

Market watchers note that higher plot ratios and hence additional GFA would help achieve all these and incentivise redevelopment of the ageing stock of buildings in Science Park. To date, ASB has redeveloped eight of the old Science Park 1 buildings into three projects.

ASB tore down the former Mendel, Maxwell, Pascal and Pasteur buildings and redeveloped them into 12, 14 and 16 Science Park Drive. The new buildings were completed between 2013 and 2015 and later sold to Ascendas Reit.

ASB also redeveloped the former Amkor and DNV buildings into Ascent at 2 Science Park Drive, which was completed in 2016. Tenants in the new building include Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Dyson. It also tore down the old Fleming and Faraday blocks and redeveloped the site into 5 Science Park Drive, completed earlier this year and fully leased to Shopee.

Market watchers note nascent redevelopment activity in Science Park 2 . The former Aquarius block at 21 Science Park Road has been pulled down and the plot is vacant pending redevelopment. Commented a seasoned property consultant: “This land is ready for occupiers who require a custom-built or distinctive property to approach CapitaLand.”

Mr Leow noted that within the portfolio of the enlarged group, there are also pockets of opportunities for redevelopment in other locations including one-north and Jurong.

As at end-June 2019, CapitaLand’s Singapore portfolio comprised 156 properties totalling about four million square metres GFA – across all asset classes: industrial/logistic/business parks, malls, offices, serviced residences and residential projects. This portfolio comprises existing assets as well as upcoming developments for which planning has already been done.

The 53-year-old Mr Leow, who is a chartered accountant, has been with the group for 25 years, and has rotated through various parts of the organisation.

Mr Leow highlights that with the acquisition of ASB, which was completed on June 28, CapitaLand has gained an experienced team with “very deep knowledge of industrial space”. “We would never have been able to grow on our own in this space.

“We are very happy with the combined team now. We are able to open up a lot of new possibilities and optionalities.”