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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Katong project preserves landmark facade

SINGAPORE: Home buyers in a new Katong project will find it easy to direct taxi drivers and friends to where they live.

The development includes a famous landmark a fire-engine-red two-storey shophouse that once housed the well-known Katong Red House Bakery.

The East Coast Road project, which will be launched soon, has 42 residential units, shops, a heritage gallery and a bakery.

Developer Warees Investments, property arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), will not say for now if the bakery will take up the same space occupied by Katong Bakery. The latter, set up in 1931, was known as the Red House Bakery due to the building's distinctive facade.

That stand-out exterior is preserved in the new 99-year leasehold project, which also incorporates five shophouses adjacent to the Red House.

A residential block will be built behind the shophouses, with indicative prices from property agency HSR International Realtors starting from S$600,000 for a 448 sq ft one-bedroom apartment.

Katong Bakery's days of selling Swiss rolls and curry puffs ended in 2003 when the building was deemed unsafe and in need of repair. The tenants said they could not afford the post-renovation rent of S$15,000 a month, up from the old rent of just S$2,000. Rentals had been kept low by controls that were lifted in 2001.

The six shophouses are wakaf properties or religious bequests by Muslims, and managed by Muis.

They were put in trust in 1957 by Sherrifa Zain Alsharoff Mohamed Alsagoff, whose great-grandmother Hajjah Fatimah built Hajjah Fatimah Mosque in Beach Road.

She wanted rental income to be used to provide free medicine to people of all races and religions but rent controls meant there was not enough money to do so.

In its new form, the Red House should bring in more income. But SLP International Property Consultants research head Nicholas Mak cautions that the property's value would depend on how well conservation was carried out.

“Does it help the aesthetics of the building or does it hinder redevelopment?” he asked.

Warees Investments stresses that the project would be in keeping with the historic character of Katong. Designed for “heritage investors”, it would have the bakery as its main feature, said the developer's general manager (corporate) Muhd Haifan Usalli.

Along with its facade, the Red House's traditional floor tiles and pillars will be preserved.

By The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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