Friday, 23 December 2011

NParks had to defer Marine Cove redevelopment

IN JANUARY this year, we extended the licences of the Marine Cove tenants out of goodwill after they petitioned strongly and repeatedly ('Marine Cove tenants want to bail out'; Dec 1).

As a result of this extension, NParks had to defer redevelopment plans till after March next year. In seeking an extension, tenants were aware that the place would be redeveloped, and would have taken into consideration any impact this may have on their businesses.

Notwithstanding this, some of the tenants have reported that business has not been adversely affected.

During this period of the extension, there has not been any change in the maintenance regime.

In fact, we recently repaired the toilets in the area and mowed the grass in the carpark. We are also monitoring the cleanliness in the area and will continue to upkeep the place.

The maintenance of the spaces within the tenants' premises is the responsibility of the tenants, under the terms of licences.

Although Marine Bowl, one of the tenants at Marine Cove, is responsible for the maintenance of the carpark as stipulated in the terms of the licence, NParks has initiated the sealing of the potholes in the carpark as a goodwill gesture.

We are weighing the merits of the request by some tenants for early termination and will reply to them soon.

Visitors to East Coast Park can still patronise the food and beverage outlets at Marine Cove as they will continue to operate until March 16 next year.

Scruffy Murphy's has been granted a one-day extension until March 17.

Kong Yit San
Assistant Chief Executive Officer
Parks Management and Lifestyle
National Parks Board
ST Forum, 17 Dec 2011

Marine Cove tenants want to cut losses and bail out
Leases end in March but they want to cut losses as buildings deteriorate and business falls
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 1 Dec 2011

The leases on the businesses surrounding the McDonald's outlet at East Coast Park will lapse in March, but some tenants of the recreation and food and beverage outlets want out earlier.

At least five tenants of Marine Cove, as the area is called, say they have written to their landlord, the National Parks Board (NParks), to ask for an early termination of their leases. Three others say they will do so soon. Some have already called it quits.

This is an about-turn from a year ago, when many of the area's 32 tenants were fighting to stay and had by then wrangled three lease extensions, the last of which was to take them up to March next year.

Tenants who spoke to The Straits Times said they changed their minds about staying because maintenance of the place has lapsed and the buildings are falling into disrepair.

Many customers, thinking the place is already shuttered, are staying away, so the tenants are trying to cut their losses by asking to be let off their leases before March.

NParks, which took over Marine Cove from its previous landlord, the Singapore Land Authority, in March this year, has said it wants to free up space for parks, enhance beach access and cater to visitors' dining and recreational needs, and that existing buildings may have to go.

It did not elaborate.

When The Straits Times visited the area on Wednesday, there was litter lying around and the carpark was overgrown with weeds.

Mr Amas Tan, 54, who owns the 25,000 sq ft Marine Bowl, said business has dipped by half in the last six months. The tenant, who has been there for the last decade and pays $32,000 a month in rent, hopes to be released from the lease.

The bowling alley is not making enough to cover the rent and he is $20,000 out-of-pocket every month, he said, adding: 'I'm losing a lot of money. I want to close down as early as I can. The communal areas here are filthy. Who wants to come here?'

He added that, with the short-term extensions Marine Cove has been getting, it has not made sense for him to upgrade the bowling alley's air-conditioning system or lanes - another reason why customers have kept away.

Zen Cafe owner Allan Sim, 38, said business has shrunk 30 per cent in the last six months and he gets at least five phone calls a week from people asking whether the restaurant is still open.

'They're always surprised to find out that we are. Many think the area has shut down,' he said, disclosing that he hopes to shut down by Chinese New Year.

Mr Raymond Oh, 35, owner of the 12,000 sq ft Marina South Enterprise, an entertainment hub with a billiard hall and club, has been losing money in the past eight months. He said that when he asked NParks to let him move out early, it said rent was still due right up to March. He said he asked for a reprieve but has not received an answer.

Other businesses, including J.K. Don Cuisine, Mango Tree, Hook On Steamboat and Taroda Racing Engineering, have also seen business plummet by up to half in the last six months.

Mr Chia Seng Jiang, a general manager at NParks, said about half a dozen tenants have approached the agency about early termination of their leases and their requests were being reviewed.

He said NParks, in granting the extensions sought for up to now, had held back on its redevelopment plans as a result.

As for the cleanliness of the place, he disclosed that NParks had appointed cleaning contractors.

But at least a couple of tenants still hope NParks will reverse its decision to redevelop the place.

Mr Foo Chit Seng, owner of restaurant/bar The Beach Hut, said: 'The situation is bad. But if they let us stay, we'll have an incentive to upkeep the place. This place is like home. I have regulars.'

Adding that he has had talks with NParks, he said: 'I just wish they could work with us to see how we can fit into their new plans for the place.'

The nearby Irish bar Scruffy Murphy's and McDonald's, however, report brisk business.

McDonald's communications director Linda Ming said the outlet's popularity was the reason. She added, however, that the fast-food chain will close in Marine Cove in March, but has opened an outlet a 10-minute walk away.

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