Saturday, June 19, 2010

New tenant turning Alkaff Mansion into Italian restaurant

LES - comprising LHN, US citizen Tanaka and Italian chef Piegaia - lands property with highest bid of $79,251 rent per month

ALKAFF Mansion at Telok Blangah will get a new lease on life - as an Italian restaurant that could open by year-end.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said yesterday that it has awarded the tenancy of the landmark property to LES Pte Ltd, which plans to operate an Italian eatery there.

LES is controlled by three parties, including Singapore's LHN Group, which leases old buildings, upgrades them and finds new uses for them.

The other two shareholders of LES are American citizen Salz Kenji Tanaka, who now works at Four Seasons Hotel Doha but is expected to move to Singapore to help run the restaurant at Alkaff Mansion, and Italian chef Gabriele Piegaia, who comes from Tuscany and is now a Singapore permanent resident working at Palio at Hotel Michael at Resorts World Sentosa.

LES submitted the highest of nine bids in an SLA tender to lease Alkaff Mansion. The company will pay the state monthly rent of $79,251. The lowest bidder offered monthly rent of just $3,009. For the tender, which closed in early April, SLA stated guide rent of $28,100 a month.

LES's tenancy is for an initial three years, and is renewable for a further two terms of three years each. Besides food and beverage/restaurant, other approved uses for Alkaff Mansion are art gallery, wellness/spa facilities and museum.

The two-storey property, which has conservation status, has been empty since former tenant Hotel Properties Ltd returned it to the Singapore Tourism Board in 2004 when its 15-year lease expired.

Alkaff Mansion is on a site of about 96,700 sq ft and has a gross floor area of 13,142 sq ft. An outdoor refreshment area - of up to 969 sq ft - may be allowed subject to evaluation.

In its heyday, Alkaff Mansion was a venue for grand weddings - and even a Ricky Martin concert in 1999. An Indonesian buffet used to be served on the first level, and ala carte on the second level, with a bar on the verandah. However, the eatery's fortunes dwindled from 2001 and it shut in 2003.

The property was built in the 1920s by Yemeni businessman Syed Abdul Rahman Alkaff as a family retreat named Mount Washington. It was the scene for opulent parties that the family hosted. But by the 1960s, the house had been abandoned by the family.

LHN Group is no stranger to leasing properties from the state. In 2008, it clinched the lease on the former Ministry of Home Affairs complex at Phoenix Park off Tanglin Road. LHN spent about $4 million sprucing up the cluster of 11 buildings, with a total net lettable area of slightly over 100,000 sq ft, which it has leased out as offices. It pays SLA rent of about $370,000 a month for the property.

LHN also operates a hostel for maids at Keramat Road in the Woodlands area.

Source: Business Times, 19 Jun 2010

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