Pearl Bank Apartments looks to conservation status to save building

The wheels have been set in motion for the first multi-strata private development in the Republic to be gazetted as a conserved building.

On Sunday (May 31), 116 owners of Pearl Bank Apartments turned up for a general meeting to discuss the matter after its management committee said authorities would only agree to the conservation status request if a 100 per cent consent among owners was received.

Owners have until the end of October to come to a decision.

Pearl Bank Apartments was built in 1976 and is one of the oldest private residential buildings in Singapore. The building, located in Outram area, will turn 40 next year, and is already showing its age.

The project was put up for en-bloc three times in 2007, 2008 and 2011, but there had been no takers.

“We have failed on each occasion, so what is it that we can do because this is an ageing building,” said Chairman of the Liaison Committee Dr Lee Seng Teik. “How do we make sure it doesn’t degenerate further, because we have to pay a lot of costs with an old building.”

Its management council hopes to get a conservation status for this horseshoe-shaped building, but apart from just conserving the building’s heritage, the move will also give Pearl Bank’s owners extra floor area to sell to developers. The money can then be used to fund refurbishment works for the apartment.

In a letter to owners earlier this month, the management council says the Urban and Redevelopment Authority is prepared to consider a maximum of 15 per cent increase in Gross Floor Area. This is subjected to a maximum cap of 430 dwelling units, inclusive of the existing 288-unit building, and a new proposed block.

The renovation, which includes a new rooftop garden and swimming pool, is estimated to cost about S$28 million, according to the council. Plans are also underway to ask for the building’s 99-year-lease to be extended.

The council is hoping that can be paid for by the money from the sale of the extra floor area.

Property analyst Nicholas Mak, executive director for research and consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, says if Pearl Bank’s conservation status request is approved, it is unlikely that other older condominiums will follow suit.

“Once you have a conservation status slapped on a building, it will be very difficult to go through an en-bloc sale, he said. “If the authorities were to allow them (Pearl Bank Apartment) to extend their 99-year-lease without going through an en-bloc sale re-development, I think there are a number of older 99-year leasehold condominiums where the owners are also hoping for an extension or renewal of their 99-year lease. So I think they will be watching the outcome of what’s going to happen at Pearl Bank Apartments.”

As for the extra floor area – which is expected to be used for another residential building next to the existing tower – analysts say they expect interest from developers to be reasonable, as the new building will be located at the fringe of the Central Business District.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 31 May 2015

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