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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New condo? No, it’s an office block

SINGAPORE: With their swimming pools, gyms and immaculate rooftop gardens, they could almost be mistaken for executive condominiums.

In fact, they are office buildings in industrial estates – part of a new breed of developments designed to provide a stylish workplace for young entrepreneurs keen to get the creative juices flowing.

Gone are the days when their firms had to settle for space in staid grey blocks alongside small factories. Instead, developers say they are concentrating on aesthetics and recreational facilities, which help them to attract tenants such as start-ups run by bosses who want somewhere “cool” to do business.

Take Bizhub 28 @ Chai Chee. Due to be completed in 2013, it will have a pool, barbecue pits and a gym. Seah Yam Seng, the property agent in charge of selling the office space, said it was attracting mainly foreign firms and new tech businesses.

“It’s the lifestyle,” he said. “Some local companies may be happy with just an office space to work in but, nowadays, tenants do demand a little more.”

Oxley BizHub is another trendy development, this time aimed at light industry companies or those that produce small consumer goods. The developer of the Ubi Road 1 project, which is due to be completed in 2013, said it was not interested in slapping together a simple design.

Oxley Rising chief executive Ching Chiat Kwong said: “We believe that injecting a bit of ‘lifestyle’ into our projects encourages people to be more productive at work. It helps to have a lot of greenery and a nice area to work in.”

He added that the concept was likely to catch on fast with developers who realised their customers expected modern features.

Oxley paid S$158.1mil, or S$169 per sq ft (psf), for the Oxley BizHub 60-year leasehold plot in August last year. Since its launch, the property has sold its 728 units at an average S$677 psf. Prices there are said to be higher than those at other 60-year leasehold properties in the area, which go up to slightly over S$400 psf.

While the building’s design sets it apart from others in the neighbourhood, property agent Benson Koh said prices at the project depended just as much on the economy.

“Whether or not the price can be justified will depend on market demand,” he said. “The recent cooling measures on residential property have driven a lot of investors to buy units in industrial projects, so demand is very high right now.”

The move to add more frills to office buildings is also catching on in downtown developments. Asia Square, in the Central Business District, will have a 32,300-sq-ft gym and a fully sheltered landscaped plaza where tenants can relax, socialise or hold corporate events.

Existing office buildings equipped with facilities like these include Capital Tower and One George Street, both of which have pools managed by Fitness First. Capital Tower even has an indoor golf club on its ground floor. CapitaLand, which developed both buildings, said it wanted to provide its tenants with a balanced environment for work and play.

When IT consultancy Acian Technologies decided to set up its new office at the futuristic Fusionopolis in Buona Vista in 2007, the building’s design, gym and roof garden were a major draw. “It’s great for the employees to visit the garden, and it helps us when we are recruiting staff,” said chief executive Julien Arnaud, 33. “I’m a member of the gym, and I usually drop by in the morning or after work.”

Wesley Oxenham, director of design at technological firm Peekspy, said he planned to move his office somewhere “cooler”. Right now, his company is based in an older industrial building.

“I visited the Google offices in Singapore a few years ago, and I was quite inspired by the way they did the place up,” said the 28-year-old. “It’d be nice if the office building and the interior were well designed. It could help us think in a more innovative way.”

By Straits Times Singapore

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