Singapore-listed United Engineers Ltd (UEL) has designed a novel gallery for the Dairy Farm Residences showflat: the reception zone is part gourmet grocers, part café and nail spa, which gives a hint of the retail offerings that potential residents of Dairy Farm Residences can expect. Prospective purchasers can take delight in a taste of this on the preview weekend, where Udders ice-cream and gourmet coffee will be served.
The preview of Dairy Farm Residences, the 99-year leasehold condominium, scheduled in the following weeks will mark the first in the Dairy Farm enclave since 6 years ago – from the time The Skywoods was launched in 2013. This 99-year leasehold private condominium, co-developed by a consortium of 3 listed property and construction development companies – King Wan Corp, Hock Lian Seng Holdings and TA Corp – was finished in 2016 and is currently sold out.
UEL’s Dairy Farm Residences condo sits on a 211,488 square feet of land, and located at the junction of Petir Road and Dairy Farm Road. “Even though there are numerous new launches further down in the Hillview area, there have not been any new ones in the Dairy Farm region for some years,” mentions group managing director of UEL, Roy Tan. “We made a decision to observe a number of GLS [government land sales] sites and collective sale sites that appeared in the area. And then this mixed-use development site was up for sale, and we thought we should bid for this site.”
Besides pent-up demand for new residential offerings in the Dairy Farm region, Tan believes the site is in line with UEL’s strategy: “There’s no reason thrusting head-on with other developers who are more aggressive in acquiring more sites. The timing was excellent; it was among the first GLS sites where the tender ended after the cooling measures.”
The ninth round of real estate cooling measures was effective in July 2018, and the tender for this mixed-use property site along Dairy Farm Road ended in early September. UEL came up top of the five bids received and gotten the site with a price of $368.8 million or $830 psf per plot ratio.
UEL engaged EcoPlan Asia as the landscape design architect and DP Architects as the building design architect. The Dairy Farm Residences site plan will reflect two 15-storey blocks, and another 2 five-storey residential towers in the midst of landscaped gardens overlooking a 50 meter lap pool. All the buildings have a north-south orientation, which reduces heat penetration and optimises cross ventilation. On top of that, units will enjoy views of either the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or the Chestnut Avenue private housing estate.
The lobby area and main entrance to the residential segment is via Petir Road, while access to the retail podium will be via Dairy Farm Road. The commercial podium will boast of 40,000 square feet of retail space across 2 levels: the basement and first levels. Amenities will comprise of a 10,000 square feet supermarket, a childcare centre and a food hall, comments Stephanie Chua, UEL’s head of development sales.
Commercial area managed by developer
“I think developers that manage the retail side in a mixed-use development will always give greater value for the property because they can oversee the tenant mix, the brands that they allow in and the general flavour of the place,” says CEO of PropNex Realty, Mr Ismail Gafoor. “If the space is separated and sold to individual buyers, then you will have a nail spa or bubble tea kiosk at every corner; and that affects the value of the property.” PropNex Realty is 1 of the 3 sales agencies for Dairy Farm Residences. The other two are OrangeTee & Tie and Savills Residential.
At around 40,000 square feet, the retail component at Dairy Farm Residences is “sizeable”, says Gafoor. “It’s a self-sufficient commercial development that can support many of the residents’ needs.”
There are bigger retail and F&B offerings nearby such as The Rail Mall in Upper Bukit Timah and Lot One Shoppers’ Mall in Choa Chu Kang. However, Dairy Farm Residences has an advantage over the other standalone residential developments in the vicinity: “With Dairy Farm Residences being mixed-use, it will enjoy a higher value and rental yield,” he points out.
Managing director of Savills Residential George Tan concurs. He believes Dairy Farm Residences’ incoming retail offerings and its close proximity to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Dairy Farm Nature Park and the German European School Singapore “will improve the appeal of the development”.
Facilities and accessibility
At Dairy Farm Residences condo, facilities comprise of an 84m Valley Pool located on the topmost level of the podium block, yoga deck, barbeque pits and a clubhouse facing a 50 meter lap pool. The gated residences and retail podium each have their own basement parking facilities, says UEL’s Chua.
At one time considered rather remote, the Dairy Farm region has become more accessible by public transport after the opening of Hillview and Bukit Panjang MRT Stations of the Downtown Line at the end of 2017. In accordance to UEL’s Chua, the developer will give free shuttle service to the 2 stations in the first year after the T.O.P of Dairy Farm Residences, which is expected to be in 2024.
The stroll to Hillview MRT Station from Dairy Farm Residences is less than 10 minutes and is mainly sheltered except for 1 road junction, says PropNex’s Gafoor.
Just next to the Dairy Farm Residences location is the new campus of the German European School Singapore which started operations in August last year. “It is an added value proposal for expatriate families with kids who are pupils or for those who are teachers and other campus staff,” says Gafoor.
Dairy Farm Residences was conceptualised to resemble a chalet resort, comments UEL’s Chua. With respect to the unit mix, there are 240 two-bedroom units of 624 to 775 square feet; 200 three-bedroom units of 915 to 1,313 square feet; and 20 four-bedroom units of 1,324 to 1,475 square feet. Two-bedroom units will be priced starting under $1 million. The indicative rates range will be from $1,500 to $1,700 psf, says UEL’s Tan.
“This is in alignment with recent new launches in the Hillview region,” he says. “While every residential development in the region can brag of being near to nature too, the key difference is that Dairy Farm Residences condo has a retail component. The added convenience that it gives does not compromise the tranquility of the development.”
PropNex Realty’s Gafoor regards the price range “attractive”, as integrated developments that launched this year, namely The Woodleigh Residences and Sengkang Grand Residences, saw units move at average rates of about $1,700 psf and $1,900 psf respectively.
Dairy Farm Residences should attract a good mix of investors and owner-occupiers given the unit sizes, comments Savills’ Tan. “There are those who are buying or right-sizing a unit for their children so they can stay close to them,” he says. “This is especially relevant to residents in the landed housing estate of Chestnut Avenue.”
There are HDB upgraders too, especially those who have fully paid for their housing flats in HDB estates like Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang, and are considering an upgrade to a private property, says Savills’ Tan. Some have gone on to buy Clavon.
Dairy Farm heritage
The gathering spot located between the residential and retail components of Dairy Farm Residences will have 2 landscaped sculptures of Friesian cows, a nod to the region’s history as 1 of the world’s first tropical dairy farms, comments Savills’ Tan.
This began in the 1930s when Fred Heron, the managing director of Cold Storage, brought into Singapore 24 Friesian cows with the objective of giving expatriate children with pasteurised milk and set up the dairy establishment at the foothills of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The milk was packed in triangular cartons using the Magnolia brand. At its peak, the dairy farm had some 800 cows, and its success ended up giving the area the name Dairy Farm. Even though that enterprise has ended in the early 1970s, the name has endured.
The only physical reminders of this historical dairy establishment are 2 stone sculptures of placid Friesian cows next to an airy cowshed which has been changed into Wallace Education Centre, and the Wallace Trail, both termed after Alfred Russel Wallace, a British anthropologist, naturalist and biogeographer who co-discovered the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin. Wallace took an 8-year quest across the Malay Archipelago from 1854 to 1862, and Singapore was his first stop.
From then on, the Dairy Farm region has transformed into a tranquil residential enclave, encircled by greenery. The pilot residential development in the region is The Dairy Farm, a 477-unit residential condominium with 10 retail shops, finished in 1989. The development sits on a freehold, sprawling 750,019 square feet land. This residence had started a collective sale attempt last year at a price point of $1.68 billion, which did not materialize in the wake of the cooling measures.
Within the Petir Road region, there is a cluster of towering condos, namely Tree House by City Developments, launched back in 2010; then by Wing Tai Holdings’ Foresque Residences in 2011; and followed by Malaysian developer SP Setia’s Eco Sanctuary, which debuted in 2012. All these residences have since been completed and sold out.
“The name of the project ‘Dairy Farm Residences’ will resonate with some purchasers and they may recognise this area to be more desirable than others in the vicinity,” says Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie.
‘Unlikely to wait further’
Christine reckons home purchasers who are earnest about buying are “unlikely to wait further”. Being more and more prudent, home purchasers have noticed that “the more they wait, the more the selling prices of these new launches are going to be”, she says. This has been confirmed by recent new launches where prices increased after the initial phase.
Home purchasers looking for a real estate in the Upper Bukit Timah region will usually consider residences in Districts 21 and 23. These include the Kismis and Toh Tuck areas, Jalan Jurong Kechil, to Chestnut area, Dairy Farm, Petir Road and further down at Hillview. “The upcoming and existing launches in District 21 and 23 are positioned in precincts that has their own distinct characteristics that cater to purchasers with different preferences,” says Christine.
With awareness that purchasers have alternatives in terms of new projects – often within the same neighbourhood – developers have been more sensitive in pricing their developments recently, notes Christine. “There is going to be price differentiation for different projects with considerations to the branding, design, layout and product offering,” she says.
A developer’s reputation is also becoming more important to home purchasers. Dairy Farm Residences Developer UEL has a rich history going back more than 100 years. It was associated with the building of local landmarks like the former Singapore Supreme Court, OCBC Centre, Cavenagh Bridge and the British High Commission.
More recent projects by UEL include the 862-unit private condominium Eight Riversuites, which was started in 2012 and finished in 2016; the orchardgateway mall, which opened in 2014; and the UE BizHub East, a 9-storey commercial development in Changi Business Park that was finished in 2012.
Changes in shareholders ‘unlikely to affect operations’
According to UEL’s Tan, the group will resume looking out for more investment properties and residential development sites for continual income, “depending on market conditions”.
The 47-year-old Tan took over the helm as the group managing director at UEL in August 2017. However, he had been overlooking UEL’s property division since end of 2014, prior to taking on the additional position of group CFO in early 2015. Before that, he was working with WBL Corp from 2006, where Tan was group chief strategy officer prior to its acquisition by UEL in 2013.
Singapore-listed UEL, whose main businesses are in property investment, real estate development, hospitality, and property management, acquired a mandatory general offer from China-based property developer, and Singapore-listed, Yanlord Land Group on Oct 25 this year. This was after Yanlord had bought out the shares of both Heng Yue Holdings and Perennial Real Estate Holdings. The outcome is that Yanlord is currently the biggest shareholder of UEL.
“Whatever happens at the shareholder level will not affect the operations and the management of the company,” assures UE’s Tan.
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