Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alkaff Mansion eyes new lease of life

Tender to lease out historic property which has been vacant for 6 years

After being left vacant for about six years, the former Alkaff Mansion on Telok Blangah Hill may spring to life again.

Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has launched a tender to lease out the property, which has conservation status, for the following uses – food & beverage/ restaurant, art gallery, wellness/spa facilities and museum. The guide rent is $28,100 per month and SLA will issue an initial tenancy term of three years, renewable for a further two terms of three years each.

The two-storey property is said to have been left vacant since former tenant Hotel Properties Ltd returned it to Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 2004, when its 15-year lease expired.

The property has a land area of 96,699 sq ft and a gross floor area of 13,142 sq ft. An outdoor refreshment area (up to 969 sq ft) may be allowed subject to evaluation.

In its heyday, Alkaff Mansion was the venue for grand weddings and even a Ricky Martin concert in 1999. An Indonesian buffet used to be served on the first level, ala carte on the second level and a bar on the verandah. However, the eatery’s fortunes are said to have dwindled since 2001 when the economy tanked. Just months after the 2003 Sars outbreak, restaurant operations at Alkaff Mansion quietly ceased operations.

This time round, market watchers are more optimistic.

For one thing, the location has become more attractive. DTZ executive director (consulting) Ong Choon Fah says: ‘Previously, the location was isolated, out of the way. But now with the development of the HarbourFront area including Vivocity, as well as the integrated resort at Sentosa, Alkaff Mansion’s location is part of a bigger precinct with more buzz.’

A concept-driven F&B outlet and an events/ corporate meetings venue would be ideal for the property, suggests Mrs Ong.

Ronald Tan, a veteran leisure industry consultant, suggests a high-end food and thematic entertainment venue, particularly offering Middle Eastern or North Indian cuisine. ‘There’s a dearth of upmarket halal restaurants right now in Singapore,’ he notes. He feels that a revamped Alkaff Mansion could cater to high-end visitors. In the past, he says, the property was not air-conditioned and there was no covered walkway leading to the car park.

STB returned the property to the state in March last year. Since Alkaff Mansion was listed on SLA’s State Property and Information Online (SPIO) portal six months ago, it has received more than 50 enquiries, according to SLA.

The tender closes at 11 am on April 6. Bids will be evaluated on tender price, concept and proposed uses, among other factors.

Real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak suggests that SLA could share the risks with the successful bidder. ‘Instead of selecting the bidder that offers the highest rent, SLA should choose the operator with the best concept or product. In the first one to three years, SLA can offer a discounted rent. After the business has established a brand name in the market and has loyal customers, SLA could share the rewards by pegging the rent as a percentage of the operator’s income.’

The property was built in the 1920s by Yemeni businessman Syed Abdul Rahman Alkaff as a family retreat named Mount Washington. It was the venue of opulent parties, which the family hosted for top local and international businessmen, celebrities and dignitaries, according to earlier media reports. The house was abandoned by the family by the 1960s.

Source: Business Times, 17 Mar 2010

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