Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bidadari works begin by end 2012

First launch of build-to-order flats at new town may take place by 2015
By Esther Teo, The Straits Times, 29 May 2012

WORK on the latest new town, Bidadari, will start by the end of the year, paving the way for 12,000 new homes to be built in central Singapore.

The site is slated for both private as well as Housing Board (HDB) homes.

Depending on demand, the first HDB build-to-order launch may take place as early as 2015, a National Development Ministry (MND) spokesman said.

This could mean HDB flats completed by 2018 or so, consultants said.

The move to develop Bidadari is part of a twin-pronged strategy to meet ongoing strong housing demand. The other is to use land in existing estates more intensively, the MND spokesman said yesterday in response to queries.

Bidadari, near Potong Pasir, is a former cemetery whose graves were exhumed in 2001 to make way for housing.

It is currently a park, slightly smaller than Punggol estate.

Consultants say interest in homes at Bidadari is likely to be strong as it is relatively close to the city centre. They say Bidadari could be the next Bishan, also a former cemetery, yet one of the choicest HDB estates now.

Bidadari is served by two MRT stations: Woodleigh on the North-east line and Bartley on the Circle line.

In response to queries, the MND spokesman told The Straits Times that infrastructure work there will start by the year end. Site preparation and earthworks for Bidadari will be followed by the building of major roads, drains and sewers.

Mr Tan Kok Keong, OrangeTee's research and consultancy head, brushed aside worries over superstition, given the site's history. The Government's development plans are typically driven by housing demand alone, he said.

'There is no real stigma for fully exhumed sites anyway... But since Bidadari is quite a large site, it will take some time to be fully built,' he added.

Another new town further along the pipeline is Tengah, near Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Batok, which will yield about 56,000 homes over the next decade or so.

There are more than 900,000 HDB flats in Singapore currently.

'We will build infrastructure ahead of demand and start to prepare for new towns at Bidadari and Tengah,' the MND spokesman said in response to queries.

'How fast they are built up depends on the overall demand for housing in Singapore, but we are planning ahead for flexibility.'

Tengah is a large forested area about the size of Choa Chu Kang. Basic infrastructure and land preparation works will take longer.

Another new town down the track is Simpang, though details are not available yet as it will be developed much later, MND said.

Simpang town will be on the coast, bounded by the Strait of Johor to the north, Sembawang town to the west, Yishun town to the south and the mouth of the former Sungei Seletar to the east.

MND said that it is working out the detailed planning for Tengah and Simpang and will make specific announcements when ready.

The ministry also pointed to the need to use existing land in mature estates more intensively.

'Specifically for residential needs, while we can expect to open up relatively undeveloped areas such as Tengah and Bidadari, we will also need to intensify the use of existing land within more mature housing estates.'




Cemeteries before, homes to die for now
Booming estates Tiong Bahru, Bishan and Orchard once housed graveyards
By Esther Teo, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2012

SOME home buyers may be feeling a little squeamish about living at former cemetery Bidadari once it is redeveloped.

But property industry experts had this reminder for Singaporeans: Various high-profile residential areas share a similar history.

For instance, some apartments in mid- to high-end districts such as Bishan, Orchard and Tiong Bahru were formerly occupied by cemeteries, they say.

They add that some Chinese buyers might even see such sites as auspicious as burying ancestors in grounds with good fengshui is thought by some to bring blessings to future generations.

These experts noted that with the passage of time, the former use of a site is often forgotten, with the home's value unaffected.

The issue came to the fore recently when the Government announced that work on the new town, Bidadari, will start by the year end, paving the way for 12,000 new homes to be built there.

The graves in Bidadari, near Potong Pasir, were exhumed in 2001 to make way for housing.

Singapore is dotted with former cemeteries. In 1952, available records indicated that there were 229 registered burial grounds, including many small ones that have since been exhumed.

In land-scarce Singapore, it has been essential to use such sites for housing development.

In 1981, for instance, the Housing Board (HDB) exhumed graves in Peck San Theng, in what is now Bishan, to make way for flats and light industry.

But despite their past solemn uses, these areas remain some of the choicest HDB estates due to their city fringe location.

Even bustling Ngee Ann City mall on Singapore's best known shopping strip used to be the site of an old cemetery. The former Tai Shan Ting cemetery was bounded by Orchard, Paterson and Grange Roads.

The site of the former Teochew cemetery includes the Ion Orchard mall, upscale apartments at The Orchard Residences and the Orchard MRT station, noted Associate Professor Sing Tien Foo of the National University of Singapore's department of real estate.

But buyers seem to have taken scant notice of its history.

The latest sale for The Orchard Residences, in January, was transacted at $4,057 per sq ft (psf) while the record price achieved was $5,000 psf in July 2007.

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said that while the first few blocks of homes to be built on such sites might face some buyer resistance, there is little stigma for subsequent projects once a population catchment is established.

'Of course, your market size is reduced by those who are pantang, but if the location is good, it is likely to outweigh the superstition factor,' he said, referring to the Malay word for taboo or superstitious.

While most of his clients do not inquire much about the history of a land plot, they do occasionally take along a fengshui master and interior designer during subsequent viewings, Mr Ku said.

But Prof Sing acknowledged that with rapid urbanisation, the history of land use quite often becomes lost in the mists of time.

'It is difficult to verify the original land use of the site and many younger generations have probably no memory of the past,' he said.

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng noted that many sites here were once filled with a distinctive or sad past.

But home buyers should be forward-looking, looking at a site's upcoming potential and taking into account the location, rejuvenation plans and new infrastructure planned for the estate, he said.

Other housing estates in Singapore also have interesting histories a world away from housing.

For instance, Potong Pasir used to house prawn and pig farms while Punggol was a largely agricultural area, SLP International research head Nicholas Mak noted.







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