Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

After leaving its old location at Caldecott Hill for five years, Mediacorp eventually put out a tender for the enormous 7-hectare plot of property it had left behind. Mediacorp said on October 14, 2020, that it has hired CBRE and Showsuite Consultancy, real estate consultants, to market the District 11 property to developers who could be interested in constructing a series of leasehold bungalows.

In order to do this, Mediacorp said that it has hired an architect to create a subdivision plan for the property that can accommodate 67 bungalow plots. The plan will then be submitted for approval to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Additionally, it submitted an application for an in-principle permission to extend the lease to 99 years to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

 

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Building of low-rise condo being rejected by URA

Caldecott HIll

The old Caldecott Hill location of Mediacorp is situated in a Good Class Bungalow Area (GCBA). According to a 2015 URA document, Mediacorp’s initial plan for the property was a condo building rather than a renovation with only bungalows.

A few months prior to Mediacorp’s planned December 2015 relocation to Buona Vista, DP Architects submitted an outline application to URA on behalf of the broadcaster for the construction of a five-story, 550-unit residential condominium at the site of the current Caldecott Broadcast Centre.

The URA quickly rejected Mediacorp’s request for approval to construct condominiums at the Caldecott Hill property. This is why they declined:

“The planned five-story condominium construction is unsupportable and does not fit in with the low-density residential character of the nearby good-class bungalow projects. Only two-story good class bungalow buildings are supported since the Master Plan 2014 Designated Landed Housing Area reflects the planning purpose for the land, which is a two-story good class bungalow area.

To put it simply, the Caldecott Hill site is incompatible with condominiums. People who are acquainted with the community will also concur that the neighborhood’s single-lane roads cannot accommodate the additional traffic that a condo would bring.

Mediacorp must have taken a hit from the rejection. The rationale is that selling the property with the potential to produce a 550-unit condominium would have been significantly more profitable than selling it for the building of bungalows.

This is the calculation: A June 2020 story in The Business Times said that the expected price range for a bungalow-only site would be between $130 million and $250 million, excluding the difference premium and lease upgrading charges. The total is anticipated to be more than $400 million when premiums are included. Depending on layout and style, each 99-year leasehold bungalow would sell for between S$11 million and S$14 million.

Developers would have bid more than $550 million for the plot at current prices (roughly $950 million with premiums) if the URA had approved plans for the condo at Caldecott Hill, according to 99.co. Depending on their layout and design, the final condo units would sell for between $1,500 and $1,900 per square foot (psf).

Plot ratio, number of units, land size, location variations, and price index changes over time are among the criteria taken into account when calculating the estimate, which is based on the value of the adjacent Shunfu Ville and Chancery Court en bloc transactions.

 

Alternate Plan for Former Mediacorp Site

Thus, if the URA had allowed a condominium at Caldecott Hill, Mediacorp might have easily earned more than double, if not quadruple, the income. It was not to be, however.

Even while the URA turned down Mediacorp’s first, very profitable condo project, it did provide thorough guidance for a “alternative development option” in the same letter: construct bungalows.

In response, URA said that, “subject to successful rezoning of the site from Civic & Institution to Residential,” they may provide their support for a two-story Good Class Bungalow development.

However, Mediacorp would have to consent to certain requirements. For example, URA mandated that public open spaces be included in any GCB redevelopment, with 4.05 sq m of green open space required for every 56 sq m of projected gross floor area (GFA).

This basically implies that, as part of any residential renovation, the developers of the Caldecott Hill property must set aside a 5,050 square metre area for a park that is open to the public. This makes up around 70% of a football field’s area.

URA also stipulated that in order to provide access to the new development, developers have to construct a new internal road at the location. Working with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and taking the site’s topography into consideration, the road’s alignment must be decided.

URA “has approved the go-ahead for a proposal to redevelop the 7-hectare site, which could buil 67 two-storey bungalows with land area of at least 800 sqm each,” according to CBRE and Showsuite Consultancy, which launched the Caldecott Hill site for tender.

Less than 1% of Singapore’s landed housing stock consists of leasehold bungalows; the majority are freehold in tenure. As of right now, Sentosa Cove is Singapore’s sole substantial cluster of leasehold bungalows.

As for the Caldecott Hill location, Showsuite Consultancy Karamjit Singh described it as a “brilliant opportunity for property developers not only to own the market with non-existent competition, but also to supply a niche product—junior GCBs.”

“Wealth in Singapore has been on the constant rise, while the stock of bungalows has stagnated for decades,” he said.

 

Mediacorp Ownership of this prime site at Caldecott Hill

Caldecott Hill Location

The simple explanation is that when Mediacorp was privatised in 1994 and became fully controlled by Temasek Holdings, the media giant was granted a 99-year leasehold ownership of the 7-hectare land.

Mediacorp was once known as Singapore International Media (SIM); the amount SIM paid for the land, which is situated in desirable District 11, is unknown. On a 99-year leasehold basis, Mediacorp also owns the approximately 20,000 square metres of property at its present location on Stars Avenue (in District 5).

Mediacorp also established the real estate business Caldecott Property Pte. Ltd. to supervise the administration and potential sale of the Caldecott Hill property, a year before it moved its operations out of Caldecott Hill in 2015.

From its founding as Singapore’s first radio station in 1937 until the Television Broadcast Centre’s establishment in 1966 on freehold property purchased for $604,000 (equivalent to $2.25 million today), Caldecott Hill has seen significant transformations. That is just $1.15 psf, or around $4.30 psf in today’s currency!

At Caldecott Hill Estate, freehold bungalows typically sell for more than $1,000 per square foot these days. This is similar to the psf rates in District 21’s Anak Bukit landed estate neighbourhood. Instead of bungalows, the latter is mostly made up of freehold terraced developments with smaller lots (370 square metres or less).

Long-term property prices in and around the Caldecott Hill region may rise with the building of the North South Corridor motorway along Thomson Road and the eventual transformation of the old Bukit Brown Cemetery and Mount Pleasant districts into a housing estate.

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