Despite Singapore having raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) alert to orange in view of the growing novel coronavirus threat, “life should go on as usual”, says Edmund Cheng, deputy chairman and deputy managing director of Wing Tai Asia.
Other property developers seem to agree with him. This coming weekend (Feb 15 and 16) will see the preview of three projects: Wing Tai’s The M, its much-anticipated 522-unit private condominium on Middle Road; Bukit Sembawang Estates’ latest phase of 39 houses at Luxus Hills; and OLÁ, a 548-unit executive condo at Anchorvale Crescent in Sengkang by joint-venture partners, Evia Real Estate and Malaysian group Gamuda.
For sure, precautionary measures have been taken at the sales gallery of The M with thermal scanners at the entrance, visitors having to provide contact details, a tent that serves as a holding area for property agents and discussion area, as well as a separate isolation room if needed. “We will monitor the crowd flow over the weekend to make sure that there are not too many people within the sales gallery at any one time,” says Stacey Ow Yeong, head of marketing at Wing Tai Asia.
Hourly cleaning of the sales gallery will be carried out and intensified if the situation warrants. “We want to assure visitors to the sales gallery that all the necessary precautionary measures have been taken,” says Cheng.
Wing Tai’s confidence in the location of The M was evident when it emerged the top of 10 bidders for the site at the close of the government land tender at the end of March 2019. The developer won the 80,330 sq ft, 99-year leasehold site with a bid of $492 million or $1,458 psf per plot ratio (psf ppr).
Living up to its name, Middle Road is located right smack in between Bugis district and Beach Road, where major transformation is taking place. The M is also in the vicinity of the Rochor Planning Area, where Singapore’s budding arts, culture and education district is located, with LaSalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts campuses, School of the Arts Singapore and Singapore Management University in the vicinity.
The appeal isn’t just the centrality of The M, which is in the Downtown Core in the Core Central Region (CCR), but the diversity of the area, with the mix of old shophouses, national monuments such as the Raffles Hotel, and new integrated developments such as South Beach, DUO and the upcoming Guoco Midtown. Shaw Towers on Beach Road, located directly opposite The M, will also be redeveloped into a new, Grade-A office tower in the future.
Besides Grade-A office towers, there are also malls close by, such as Bugis Junction, Marina Square, Raffles City Shopping Centre and Suntec City Mall.
“The M is located right in the middle of the city,” says Wing Tai’s Cheng. “There’s a lot of F&B and retail [offerings]. People in the creative industries tend to work late at night because that’s when their creative juices start flowing. And we want to cater to that 24x7 lifestyle.”
Terence Tam, owner of Hong Kong-based design firm UTS, was engaged by Wing Tai as the interior designer for the project – from the sales gallery, the clubhouse and the common areas, to the individual units at The M. “The area is very vibrant, with the art schools, a lot of youngsters hanging out, and so there’s a lot of night activity and hipster cafes and bars,” observes Tam.
The idea was to design a project that will appeal to the young. The units therefore had to be right-sized so that absolute prices would be affordable, adds Tam. “We wanted to incorporate elements of co-working, co-living and co-playing into the project.”
He likens the project to the Mini Cooper. “Why does the Mini Cooper continue to attract attention and why are people willing to pay a premium for it compared to other small cars?” he says. “It’s because the Mini Cooper is more playful and sexier.”
Wing Tai has introduced a new concept of “home/work”, which it intends to trademark. The versatility of space use in the home/work concept was created by UTS’ Tam. The units were designed to be “both efficient and flexible”, with “transformer furniture” incorporated for added versatility, he adds.
For instance, the studios come with sliding wardrobes in the living area. If the space is used as a workplace, the wardrobes can be used as storage space instead. “This allows the space to be changeable,” he explains. Lighting inside the wardrobe provides illumination for the room, even if the rest of the lights are turned off.
The long countertop at the kitchen can be used as a dining table or a meeting table. It can also be moved all the way across the room to the window and turned into a bar counter. The kitchen cabinets come with translucent glass and are also illuminated within. This way, they can be used as display cabinets too.
Additional storage space is provided above the kitchen cabinets. Given the depth of the storage space, it can even fit big suitcases. Alternatively, it can be used as a display cabinet, adds Tam.
The bathrooms come with an LED light box above the mirror that looks like a skylight. It has three different lighting modes that can be controlled by a switch. “It’s ideal for people who want to look at themselves under natural light or for putting on makeup,” says Tam.
The one-bedroom-plus-study unit comes with an additional concealed storage near the door. It is a double-storage space: within and also on the inside of the door. Another added feature of the one-bedroom units is the wardrobe in the bathroom, which is also illuminated. Concealed storage space includes a pullout table that can double as a dining table and workspace.
The two-bedroom-plus-study units are designed to be flexible such that people can rent out the unit to four tenants if they want, says Tam. Besides the two bedrooms, the study can also be turned into a bedroom as there is a wardrobe and space for a bed and a small desk. The living room, which comes with a balcony, can also be turned into the fourth bedroom by adding a partition wall. The shared space will be the kitchen and dining area. “This is ideal for an investor who wants to maximise the rental of the space,” says Tam.
According to Wing Tai’s Cheng, “the home/work concept caters to people from all walks of life – whether mature or millennials. It truly embodies work-live-play”.
Lee Sze Tek, head of research for Huttons Asia, agrees. “Besides investors, The M’s home/work concept and Downtown Core address appeal to owner-occupiers,” he says. “It appeals not just to millennials, but a mobile workforce and freelancers.”
The convenience of The M’s location is another major attribute: It is within a four- to five-minute walk of three MRT stations – Bugis MRT Interchange Station for the East-West and Downtown Lines, the City Hall MRT Interchange Station for the North-South and East-West Lines, and the Esplanade MRT Station on the Circle Line, says Wing Tai’s Ow Yeong.
The name “The M” was coined to embrace all the attributes: the Middle Road location, the “mark of quality” and a name that will strike a chord with millennials, says Ow Yeong.
Besides the location and the home/work design concept, Ismail Gafoor, the CEO of PropNex Realty, believes another major attribute of The M is that it is an “investible product”. Of the 522 units in the project, 233 or 45% are a mix of studios, one-bedroom and one-bedroom-plus study apartments sized from 409 to 527 sq ft. Another 52% of the units are a mix of two-bedroom and two-bedroom-plus study units, with sizes from 592 to 764 sq ft.
The balance 17 units are three-bedroom, dal-key units at 904 sq ft each. These dual-key units can be split into a standalone studio and a two-bedroom apartment, which appeals to both investors and owner-occupiers alike.
Indicative prices are as follows: from just below $1 million for a studio, $1 million upwards for one-bedroom while one-bedroom-plus-study starts from $1.1 million. In the meantime, two-bedroom units are from $1.3 million, with two-bedroom-plus-study apartments from $1.6 million. The three-bedroom dual-key units are priced upwards of $2 million. “These absolute prices excite a lot of investors,” says Gafoor.
On the first level of The M is commercial space, which can be divided into nine retail shops and F&B outlets. The commercial space is not for sale at the moment. “I like the idea of having just one owner-occupier for the space, who will in turn lease it out for different F&B concepts,” says Cheng.
Sitting on top of the commercial space is the carpark, with the facilities deck on the third level. Facilities include a 50m swimming pool, jacuzzi pool and the clubhouse named Club M, which is more than 3,000 sq ft in size. “The co-living, co-working and co-playing concept extends to the clubhouse,” says Tam. “Besides a relaxation area, there’s a bar, a gaming room, a baking studio, a board room that can be used as a meeting room and a multipurpose room.”
The apartments are elevated 9m above the facilities deck, which is equivalent to three floors for a typical development. Hence, the apartments at The M are elevated seven floors above street level. There is a low-rise, six-storey block and three 20-storey blocks of apartments. The design architect for The M is one of the oldest and most established international architectural and engineering firms, P+T Group, founded in 1868.
The residential blocks at The M are designed such that units overlook the Civic and Cultural District on one side, and the Bugis area on the other. “When you look out at the Civic and Cultural District, it’s like being in New York, where you are looking towards Central Park,” says Wing Tai’s Cheng.
Inspired by the location of The M, Wing Tai announced a three-year partnership initiative with LaSalle College of the Arts, to create and integrate art into the project itself. “We are one of the first, if not the first, to collaborate with a design school and to integrate art within the design of a project,” says Cheng.
By engaging LaSalle right from the start of the project, “it helps the artists capture the spirit of the place better”, says Cheng. The artists, design architect and developer will also be able to work together to identify indoor and outdoor spaces at The M where art could be incorporated. “It’s about a holistic approach to art and design to create a rich environment,” he adds.
Typically, art installations are incorporated when a project is close to completion, notes Cheng. “But at The M, the artists are going to be part of the design team. It’s really the marrying of architecture and design to create something new.”
The M’s innovative home/work concept and the integration of art and architecture will complement its eclectic neighbourhood, says Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at ERA Realty. “This part of Singapore has always been colourful and has a bohemian vibe. That’s what attracts those in the creative industries, the tech companies and start-ups to the area – those who want something with more character than the typical office space.”
The preview of The M this coming weekend could provide a much-needed “boost to sentiment”, adds Mak. “The developer has come up with an interesting project that makes it stand out from the rest.”
For price trends, recent transactions, other project info, check out The M project research page