Shophouses in heritage-rich areas in Singapore such as Balestier are among the few remaining icons of Singapore’s colonial past and local architectural legacy. Conservation efforts over the past 30 years have ensured that these heritage properties are protected and integrated into new developments.
Conservation shophouses are highly desirable property assets among investors in Singapore. The limited number of these properties, especially in prime central areas, and their freehold tenure enable these assets to command a high price premium of about 20% over other commercial property assets. Many buyers view conservation shophouses as collectors’ assets and trophy assets in their portfolios.
In 2017, local property developer Oxley Holdings had the opportunity to acquire a row of conservation shophouses along Balestier Road and an adjacent plot of vacant freehold land on Tessensohn Road.
Art Deco-style shophouses
The redevelopment of the amalgamated site is 1953, a mixed-use commercial and residential development fronted by a row of conservation shophouses
and integrated with a modern, six-storey residential building. The boutique development comprises 58 apartments and 14 strata commercial units.
Oxley’s design concept for 1953 emphasises heritage elements inspired by the shophouse architecture, such as the distinctive five-foot walkway that is a requirement under the conservation guidelines. It also blends the old-world charm with modern design sensibilities.
The name of the new development, 1953, is an homage to the year the shophouses that front the development was completed. “This row of seven conservation houses belongs to the Art Deco architectural style, and one of the key distinct features is that they have a plaque on top of the building that shows the year these buildings were completed,” says Eugene Lim, director of marketing & sales at Oxley Holdings.
The architect behind 1953 is Park+Associates, and the modern design of the project takes its cue from Queen’s 1975 song, Bohemian Rhapsody. According to the design team, the overall design of 1953 can be seen in three parts. The Art Deco frontage serves as the “overture” and is set against the “ballad” of the conserved historic shophouse, while the modern new extension is the “hard rock finale”.
“We worked with Park+Associates to take into consideration the original facade of the conservation shophouses, but design the interior with a modern and contemporary touch. This can be seen in our showflat where the selection of finishes is modern but retains a tinge of nostalgia,” says Lim.
Design elements include emerald green laminates and fluted glass that lends a modern take to Art Deco designs from the 1960s and 1970s.
Visitors to the showflat, designed by SuMisura, will see two different show units, one with conservation features and the other with more modern features. 1953 offers a range of units from 441 sq ft studios to 1,399 sq ft, four-bedroom apartments. Residential units are priced from $1,900 to $2,000 psf.
“It is rare to find a freehold new-launch property in Singapore that is priced slightly below $2,000 psf. We are fortunate that we can offer units in 1953 at these prices, because the land was purchased before the peak of the last en bloc boom,” says Lim.
According to Lim, sales at 1953 have been consistently strong and as of end-May, the developer has sold 37 apartments.
As 1953 is a mixed-use development, homeowners there can expect easy access to retail shops. “For homeowners who are buying a unit at 1953 for their own stay, convenience is a key consideration in their decision,” says Lim. He adds that mixed-use developments also appeal to investors because the convenience makes it easier to rent out the units.
The project’s central location also makes it easily accessible. It is a five-minute walk to Farrer Park MRT Station, and is close to the upcoming Farrer Medical Hub.
On top of the convenience at their doorstep, many homeowners appreciate the charm of the Balestier area, says Lim. “What is distinctive about heritage areas like Balestier that appeal to generations of homeowners is the vibrancy and array of heritage buildings in the neighbourhood,” he says.
In the Balestier-Jalan Besar area, for example, different shophouses built in different styles can be found, ranging from the Early Shophouse style from the 1840s, to the Art Deco style shophouses popular during the 1930s to 1960s, and Modern styles that date from the 1950s to 1960s.
F&B restaurants and local trade shops add to the colour and vibrancy of the Balestier area, says Lim. These include popular eateries such as Boon Tong Kee, Combat Durian, Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh, and Balestier Road Hoover Rojak.
Limited release star buy units under $1 million
Sales gallery located opposite 28 Pegu Road
Viewing by appointment only from 10am to 7pm
9756 9636 / 9451 4048 / 9627 8750 / 9438 5701
This article appeared in The EdgeProp Pullout Issue 989 (Jun 21, 2021) of The Edge Singapore.