Beach Road is one of the early roads developed in Singapore during the colonial days of the 1800s. The road was actually a coastal road fronting the sea coast but was pushed inland by land reclamation for the construction of houses, a police station, an army headquarters, bars and clubs. Over the years, the construction of Nicoll Highway, Suntec City and Marina Square pushed Beach Road further inland.
Today, Beach Road is marked by Kampong Glam conservation area, two national monuments – Raffles Hotel and Hajjah Fatimah Mosque – the “Golden Mile” and newer office buildings which stretch from Ophir Road to Bras Basah Road where it merges with the Downtown at Marina Bay and Raffles Place.
The rejuvenation of the Beach Road area picked up speed from the 2000s through the redevelopment of some older buildings as well as the sale of sites by the government. In 2007, the site of South Beach was awarded to a consortium led by City Developments Limited. The integrated project comprises hotel, office, retail and residential components was completed in stages between 2015 and 2017. In 2009, Hong Fok Group commenced the construction of Concourse Skyline, a 360-unit project at the site of a former wing of The Concourse commercial building. Completed in 2014, Concourse Skyline is connected to Nicoll Highway MRT station via a link bridge.
In 2012, another commercial building KeyPoint, was sold to Fragrance Group who developed it into a 30-storey mixed development comprising a commercial podium with 188 units and a residential tower of 311 units. Named City Gate, the project was completed in early 2018. The construction of Duo – an integrated development jointly developed by Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings – began in 2013 and was also competed in 2018.
In October 2017, GuocoLand successfully bidded for a site at Beach Road which included the former Beach Road Police Station which had been gazetted for conservation. The new project will comprise Midtown Bay, a 33-storey residential tower of 219 units, Guoco Midtown, a 30-storey office tower and community spaces which includes a City Room and Market Place. Subsequently, in September 2019, GuocoLand and the Hong Leong Group jointly won the neighbouring site fronting Tan Quee Lan Street, thus allowing it to create an underground connection to Bugis MRT station as well as enhancing the residential, retail and place making concepts in both projects. The residential component in the newer site is called Midtown Modern and comprises 556 apartments in two 30-storey towers. Earlier on in April 2019, Wing Tai Holdings won the residential site at Middle Road where commercial use is allowed on the first storey. This new 522-unit residential project is called The M.
Of the seven residential projects, the four that are already completed account for a stock of 1,521 homes. By the time The M, Midtown Bay and the upcoming Midtown Modern are completed, they will add another 1,300 units to the location. These 2,800 homes together with the existing homes in the precinct will form a critical mass large enough to change the perception of Beach Road-Bugis from a commercial zone to a residential district.
The above chart shows the impact of new projects at Beach Road-Bugis district had on residential prices over the past eight years. Between 2012 and 2014, due to the cooling measures at work, average prices of the three new projects ranged from $1,800 psf to $1,990 psf. The following three years saw prices moderating and finally bottomed out at $1,601 psf. The launch of the luxury units at South Beach Residences at $3,350 psf in H2 2018 gave a booster shot to the Beach Road-Bugis price levels. As the sales of South Beach Residences dominated the market over the next 12 months, prices hovered around $3,300 psf level until Midtown Bay debuted at $2,900 psf in October 2019. The average price levels declined to around $2,400 psf with the launch of The M condominium at $2,340 psf in February 2020. As at August 2020, the average price of these residential projects was at $2,547 psf.
Both The M condominium and Midtown Bay have a very strong emphasis on live-work-play lifestyle concept and are targeted at professionals who have an affinity for city-living and enjoy the convenience of living close to their workplace in the downtown financial district, with shopping and entertainment facilities close at hand. Some 96% of each project comprise studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, the remaining being 3-bedroom apartments. Concourse Skyline provide a wider variety of unit types, with bigger units to cater to families and senior management. 90% of the units are of 1- and 2-bedroom types, the rest being 3- and 4-bedroom apartments and penthouses.
In 2019, the luxury apartment market greatly boosted by the sale of penthouses. In the downtown financial district, the 21,108 sq ft super penthouse at Wallich Residence was reportedly bought by James Dyson at the price of $73.8 mil. This was followed by the sale of a four-bedroom junior penthouse in the same building at $16.5 mil. A 2,497 sq ft penthouse at Duo Residences was also sold or $5.5 mil in May 2019, the fifth of its six penthouses to be sold since its launch. At South Beach Residences, a 4,244 sq ft penthouse was sold for $17.2 mil in December 2019.
The sale of penthouses could be attributed to ultra-high-net-worth investors who desire large units for the enjoyment of space. Most of these buyers were foreigners who are not eligible to buy landed properties, GCBs in particular. The next best alternative is for them is to buy luxury apartments that are as big as bungalows.
The sales momentum in 2019 could have kept up if it were not for the virus outbreak in 2020, which led to the closure of borders and travel restrictions. Only one penthouse in the downtown financial district was known to be sold in January 2020: a junior penthouse at Wallich Residence that was sold for $17.5 mil or $4,987 psf, setting a new benchmark for this project. That leaves one final penthouse in Wallich Residence to be sold.
There are more penthouses available for sale in the Beach Road area: two super penthouses in Concourse Skyline of sizes 10,194 sq ft and 11,130 sq ft and a 4,359 sq ft penthouse in South Beach Residences. The larger of the two super penthouses in Concourse Skyline occupies the top two storeys (levels 39 to 40) with a private roof garden and offers an almost 360-degree panoramic view of the Singapore skyline from Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Golf Course to the Singapore Sports Hub. There are no penthouses in The M and Midtown Bay.
A Desirable Residential Neighbourhood
With the pipeline of new projects over the past decade, we can see how Beach Road – once a laid-back CBD-fringe location – is being transformed into an active downtown destination where the modern concept of live-work-play will be fully integrated. Once Guoco Midtown and Midtown Modern are completed, the residents and labour force in this location need only a few minutes to walk from Beach Road to Bugis via the underground linkway. From Bugis interchange MRT station, they have access to the East-West Line and Downtown Line which in turn, are connected to the North-South Line and Circle Line respectively.
The transformation of Beach Road is still going on. The 47-year old Golden Mile Complex, which lies on the far eastern end of Beach Road, is deemed by URA to have heritage value and will be conserved. If it is successfully sold en bloc for redevelopment, URA is open to facilitate conservation. Once this happens, it would be a matter of time before other older developments in the vicinity – Golden Mile Tower (1974), The Plaza (1979), The Gateway (1990) – also consider refurbishment or redevelopment to give a new lease of life to these buildings.
Another wave of rejuvenation might also happen through the investment sales of commercial buildings and hotel in the Bugis enclave, which is adjacent to Beach Road:
Except for KH KEA Building which will be redeveloped, the new owners of the other buildings are likely to carry out enhancement works and additions and alterations (A&As) to the buildings. This will enable the entire Beach Road-Bugis to be given a facelift, adorning a fresh look to capture the next up cycle of both the residential and commercial markets. Although no one knows how long the current recession will last, a rebound in the property market could still take place when the global economy is able to manage the Covid-19 pandemic so that most business activities can resume and travel restrictions are relaxed.