UOL’s next-gen condos designed with post-Covid lifestyle in mind
By Cecilia Chow/ EdgeProp Singapore |July 24, 2020 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – Covid-19 has upended the lives of everyone — from the group CEO to the office cleaning lady. “All of us are working remotely and embracing technology,” says Liam Wee Sin, group chief executive of Singapore-listed property developer UOL Group. “We realise that working from home [WFH] can be just as effective and productive as working in the office.”
Liam: People are realising that it’s not just their own home, but their environment has become equally important — they want to be surrounded by greenery, and have good connectivity, places to cycle, walk or jog, and space to spend time with their family. That’s why all our condos emphasise the abundance of greenery and outdoor amenities (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Liam has “reinvested” the commute time he saved from WFH in exercise and other leisure pursuits: He cycles three times a week for up to 30km at a stretch and goes for walks — something that he was not able to do when he was putting in long hours at the office.
He has been observing how others are adapting to this new way of life too. “People are realising that it’s not just their own home, but their environment has become equally important — they want to be surrounded by greenery, and have good connectivity, places to cycle, walk or jog, and space to spend time with their family,” notes Liam. “That’s why all our condos emphasise the abundance of greenery and outdoor amenities.”
Relaunch of Peak Collection at Avenue South Residence
To that extent, the Avenue South Residence condo at Silat Avenue, just off Kampong Bahru Road, “resonates” with this change in lifestyle, due to its central location near the CBD and proximity to the 24km Rail Corridor, which is connected to a wider network of park connectors, says Liam.
The 1,076-unit Avenue South Residence has two high-rise, 56-storey towers that house the Horizon Collection and Peak Collection; as well as five low-rise, conserved blocks that make up the Heritage Collection (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The 1,076-unit Avenue South Residence is jointly developed by UOL Group and related companies of billionaire businessman Wee Cho Yaw, Kheng Leong Co, and United Industrial Corp (UIC). Since its launch last September, 519 units at Avenue South Residence have been sold at an average price of $1,961 psf. This works out to a take-up rate of 48% less than a year after its launch.
Liam feels that it is timely to relaunch the Peak Collection at Avenue South Residence following the reopening of sales galleries on June 19. The Peak Collection has 378 units spanning the topmost levels from the 37th to 56th storeys of the twin high-rise towers.
The relaunch of the Peak Collection saw 60 units released, with another 80 units to be released in August. The average price for units from the 37th to 40th floors of the Peak Collection is $2,250 psf, which is about 5% higher than the average price of $2,140 psf for units from the 30th to 35th floors of the Horizon Collection, says UOL.
Units at the Peak Collection of Avenue South Residence feature Gaggenau kitchen appliances, marble flooring and other top-end fittings and materials typically found in luxury projects in the prime districts (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Units in the Peak Collection come with premium specifications, such as Gaggenau kitchen appliances, from oven to wine chiller. Even the materials used, from kitchen cabinets and marble flooring to wardrobes, are top-end. Buyers will also be given a Platinum membership at Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which entitles them to special membership rates at over 550 hotels in 85 countries and dining benefits.
“Even with these perks, the selling prices of the Peak Collection are just about 5% more than the high-floor units in the Horizon Collection,” Liam points out. The Horizon Collection comprises units on the lower half of the towers, from the third to 35th floors, which are separated from the Peak Collection by a sky court on the 36th level.
To date, about 404 of 610 units (66%) at the Horizon Collection have been taken up. Meanwhile, all 86 units at the Heritage Collection — housed in five conserved blocks of flats — were the first to be snapped up within a fortnight of its launch.
Showflat of a two-bedroom apartment at the Horizon Collection, which spans the third to 35th floors of the 56-storey twin towers (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
At 56 storeys, Avenue South Residence will easily have the tallest towers in the area. The project is located right at the doorstep of the Greater Southern Waterfront, announced as part of the Master Plan 2019. It is a 2,000ha, prime, waterfront land that will be freed up for future development following the relocation of the port terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Pasir Panjang and Pulau Brani.
Given the orientation of the two towers at Avenue South Residence, those in the Peak Collection “will enjoy uninterrupted views from both the north and south directions” of either the city skyline or the sea, says Liam.
Over the past weekend (July 18–19), agents at PropNex Realty sold three units at the Peak Collection. “Buyers were willing to pay a premium for these units, not just because of the unblocked views but also the privileged lifestyle offered in terms of the luxury fittings and appliances, which are typically seen only in high-end condos in the prime districts,” says Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex Realty.
The kitchen and living area of a three-bedroom show suite at the Heritage Collection, where all 86 units were snapped up within a fortnight of the launch (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
In response to the change in lifestyle following Covid-19, UOL has created a “next-generation” product at Clavon at Clementi Avenue 1. It will feature “a lot of nooks and corners” in its landscaped gardens, which are suitable not just for small group gatherings, but also for those seeking a quiet place to work outside of their own apartment. The residential towers are also orientated to ensure that units have unobstructed views, which is similar to Avenue South Residence, notes Liam.
Given the sloping terrain of Clavon’s site, UOL is building a basement carpark in order to free up the grounds for the creation of a “resort-like” ambience. “The concept is of abundant greenery and water, sustainability and community,” says Liam, “but with a focus on social distancing and smaller group gatherings.”
The 640-unit Clavon marks UOL’s second project along Clementi Avenue 1. The developer’s maiden project in the neighbourhood is the 505-unit The Clement Canopy just next door. Completed in July last year — six months ahead of schedule — the fully-sold Clement Canopy, which has twin 40-storey towers, set a new Guinness World Record as the tallest residential towers constructed using prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC). “For the Clement Canopy site, we managed to buy at the right cycle, and to achieve a sell-out relatively quickly,” notes Liam.
Artist’s impression of the Clavon at Clementi Avenue 1, where the focus is on landscaping and water features with many nooks and corners for small group gatherings and those who want a quiet place to relax or work (Picture: UOL Group)
UOL and its subsidiary, UIC, won the adjacent, 99-year leasehold plot for the upcoming Clavon, in a government land sales (GLS) tender last July with a bid of $491.3 million or $788 psf per plot ratio (ppr). “Clavon rode on the success of The Clement Canopy when we tendered for the site,” Liam adds.
During the prolonged circuit breaker for property developers and agents, from April 7 to June 18, the construction and fitout of the sales gallery and showflats at Clavon were disrupted. “We used that time to enhance the product and prepare for social distancing and safe management measures that will be put in place when we open,” says Liam.
For its projects that were already launched, such as Avenue South Residence, UOL embarked on virtual site tours and online marketing during the circuit breaker. Since the second phase of reopening which includes developers’ project sales galleries on June 19, Avenue South Residence has sold 29 units, which are a mix of those in the Horizon and Peak Collections.
The lush landscaping, swimming pools and other amenities at Clement Canopy, which is fully sold and completed last July (Photo: Dragages Singapore)
Focus on greenery
At the 729-unit The Tre Ver at Potong Pasir Avenue 1, 689 units (95%) have been sold — just two years after its launch in August 2018. The project is a redevelopment of the former Raintree Gardens and privatised HUDC estate that UOL purchased en bloc in 2017. The site has a 200m frontage along Kallang River.
The design architect for The Tre Ver is the well-known firm, WOHA, which focused on creating a sustainable and green development. “We created a lot of nooks and corners as well as sky gardens here,” says Liam. “In this era of safe distancing and appreciation of greenery, the project has proven to be timely.”
Liam is not your typical property developer: armed with a degree in architecture from National University of Singapore, he is a fervent advocate of good design and architecture. He is also a member of the URA Architecture and Design Excellence committee.
The main pool of The Tre Ver, which has a 200m frontage of Kallang River (Picture: UOL)
In March this year, UOL, together with UIC and Kheng Leong, also won a residential development site at Canberra Drive in Sembawang, in a GLS tender. The 99-year leasehold site was purchased for $270.2 million ($650 psf ppr). It can yield 455 residential units.
Liam likes the site at Canberra Drive as it is near the newly opened Canberra MRT Station, and other amenities nearby, such as Sembawang Shopping Centre, Sun Plaza and Sembawang Primary School. “I like this northern precinct as it has its own catchment and offers a different lifestyle,” he adds.
Resilience in residential market
Liam believes the Singapore residential market is relatively resilient, and attributes that to the government’s series of macroprudential and cooling measures over the past decade. “Our property prices weren’t overinflated, and that puts us in good stead,” he adds. “Instead, housing prices have risen in tandem with affordability and income levels.”
In June, new private home sales more than doubled to 998 units, from 487 units in May. “More than 50% of June’s sales were transacted after June 18, during Phase Two of the circuit breaker easing,” says Ong Teck Hui, JLL senior director of research & consultancy. The 998 units of private homes sold in June was 21.6% higher y-o-y, and the highest sales for the month of June since 2013.
In June, new private home sales more than doubled to 998 units, from 487 units in May, which showed surprising resilience despite Singapore’s economy going through its worst recession in history (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The m-on-m increase in new home sales was “surprising” as the economy is going through its worst recession in history, says Tricia Song, Singapore head of research for Colliers International. Singapore’s 2Q2020 GDP shrank 12.4% y-o-y and an unprecedented 41.2% q-o-q. “Nonetheless, we recognise that not all buyers are affected equally and some jobs are relatively resilient,” she adds.
PropNex’s Gafoor is confident that the strong sales momentum will continue in the month of July. “We will still see sales of more than 900 units this month,” he says. “And that is despite the fact that there have been no new launches yet.”
Gafoor attributes the sales of the past two months to “pent-up demand due to the circuit breaker” and the low interest rate environment. “With the election now over too, there is no further uncertainty, and Singaporeans have more peace of mind to go ahead with their home purchases,” he adds.
Property developers and urban planners will now have to look at how buildings and cities have to change to withstand future pandemics. “This pandemic has totally disrupted our lives,” he says. “There is a need to rethink how Singapore’s city centre will be reshaped. And if the CBD is going to be less dense, there will be a greater shift towards decentralisation.” Liam’s bet is that it will be towards the Greater Southern Waterfront.
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