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  www.propertyreport.com 23 Jul 07
Sentosa Cove: Creating a home
John Higginson

At times, when you look at what Sentosa Cove will offer residents and visitors, it seems to have everything a house owner could desire: designer properties, sea views, luxury yachts, a waterfront promenade, plus golf courses and beaches right next door. Everything, that is, apart from hornbills.

“When I first started working for Sentosa in 1995, there were hornbills flying around the island,” says Gurjit Singh, Group Director, Property, for Sentosa Leisure Group. “You won’t find them around here anymore. I used to sit in the old ferry terminal building, which has been pulled down, and every morning this hornbill would sit outside my window. That was a culture shock for me.”

At that time, the four-minute ferry ride to and from Sentosa was still operating, while the bridge had only been open for two years. More importantly for future residents on the island, though, plans were being finalised for the high-end waterfront residential enclave now starting to come to life, the likes of which had never been seen in the region.

“The Sentosa Cove masterplan was one of my first projects when I joined Sentosa Leisure Group,” Singh recalls. “We were completing reclamation, completing the infrastructure works, and were about to launch the project in 1997, before the economic crisis put things on hold.”

Singh reveals that the idea for Sentosa Cove, the first and only development in Singapore where foreigners can own landed property, came from the desire to recreate a waterfront residential area like Port Grimaud, just across from St Tropez in the south of France.

“As time went on, we brought in elements of more current concepts, like Sanctuary Cove and Hope Island in Australia. We then launched the project in 2003 and haven’t looked back.”

Today, the first residents are living in the North Cove, albeit surrounded by a mass of construction work.

Since its first residential units went on sale, Sentosa Cove has been a success story. Developers have snapped up the available plots, buyers have snapped up their units, as well as individual bungalow plots, and the high prices have been a regular source of discussion and media coverage.

Now, however, halfway between its initial launch and slated completion dates, and with only a sixth of the total land area left to sell, Sentosa Cove is at a turning point in its development: switching from the selling of property to the delivery of promises.

Living the dream

“After the progress of Sentosa Cove to date, we want to try to look not so much at how the land values have gone up but more how to fulfil the promise we’ve given our residents, the promise of a resort lifestyle in Singapore. It has now become more important for us to fulfil that aspect,” Singh says.

“I hold this view because people are moving in. We have about 90 units with residents, families living there. That’s going to grow pretty fast, as the development in North Cove is fast and furious. Sentosa Cove is a home now, not a house or a property. Rising land values is the common story in Singapore right now, the flavour of the year, but Sentosa Cove will be around long beyond this. We’re about living on an island very close to the city, a resort home but yet a first home.”

The Berth by the Cove (40% occupied) and the The Berthside (90 units occupied), both by the Ho Bee Group, are the first two completed condominiums on Sentosa, while a few residents have also started moving into bungalows on Coral Island, also by Ho Bee.

According to Nicholas Chua, Ho Bee’s Manager of Business Development and Marketing, residents are coping admirably with the situation.

“We’ve had a range of feedback from owners,” Chua explains. “Some say they’re willing to live with the trade-offs, while others say that because construction work is done during office hours and they’re out at work, they don’t really feel it. Others are very positive, and say they enjoy going back to a resort home.”

For Singh, easing the plight of the first residents is a major priority.

“The early residents have had a challenge because they’ve come into a site with a fair amount of construction going on. For us, the challenge is to minimise their discomfort,” he says.

“We’re constantly talking to them and they’ve come to the understanding that this is a bullet they have to bite, at the beginning at least. It’s going to take a while, but overall, our residents understand what’s going on and have accounted for it.”

Marine heart

As well as focusing on the livelihoods of residents and overseeing the ongoing construction, Sentosa Leisure Group is also placing an emphasis on creating the sense of community that such a large and new development requires. The soft opening of the stunning ONEº15 Marina Club, which sits at the heart of the development between North Cove and South Cove, has created a steady flow of visitors and activities, while the neighbouring Arrival Plaza currently houses Sentosa Cove’s Sales and Information Centre.

Sentosa Cove’s major appeal has always been its seafront location and the marina with its beautiful yachts. All combine to provide the essence of the increasingly popular waterfront lifestyle, a lifestyle publicized and popularised by the annual Boat Asia show that has been held at Sentosa Cove for the past four years.

“Sentosa Cove must have a soul, it must have places for people to come and soak up the boating, the seafront lifestyle, with people having a cup of coffee in a well appointed outlet or dinner overlooking the marina. We’re working towards that,” Singh says.

“The marina is the closest in Singapore to the city, so it holds a lot of appeal for boaters to come and bring their yacht and stay. The ability to stay in a hotel on the island, play golf on Sentosa and yet be close to town for business make it such an attraction to be at Sentosa Cove. As more residents move in, you’ll see an exponential growth in the boating lifestyle.”

City Developments Limited (CDL) holds the key to the rest of Sentosa Cove’s public central area, as developer of the site’s only commercial area, The Quayside Collection. CDL, which is also developing The Oceanfront condo on the east side of the marina entrance, will develop two six-storey condos (223 units) in this new phase, while the public area will feature a 320-room Westin Hotel and a three-storey waterfront commercial site.

It’s the latter, with its mix of F&B outlets, high-class shopping and entertainment areas fronting the waterfront promenade, that will act as the hub of the Sentosa Cove community.

“Many of our well travelled buyers envision that Sentosa Cove could become the ‘Monaco of Asia’,” says Chia Ngiang Hong, Group General Manager of CDL. “Because there’s limited housing available, just 2,000-plus units, the oceanfront lifestyle appeals to a different group of clients: high net worth individuals who desire the privacy of the island yet to be in proximity to the city.

“With the upcoming Integrated (Resort Resorts World) on Sentosa, and as Sentosa Cove develops into a niche, exclusive enclave, we foresee that it will soon become a highly valued piece of property that will place Singapore on the world real estate map.”

The Quayside Collection’s commercial area will complement the many other entertainment and leisure options springing up on and around Sentosa, which also include HarbourFront, VivoCity shopping mall, Singapore Cruise Centre, St James Power Station entertainment complex and Mount Faber.

“With the restructuring of the economy by the government, the strategies to transform the city into a strategic investment hub in Asia and the upcoming developments, Singapore is truly becoming an attractive place to live, work and play,” Chia adds.

Foreign appeal

Aside from Ho Bee and CDL, other developers active in Sentosa include Frasers Centrepoint Homes (The Azure), Lippo Group (The Lakefront Collection) and a joint venture between YTL Corporation and LP Worlds of Malaysia, which has established a new company, Genesis-Alliance, to oversee the Sentosa Cove projects.

The Malaysian group bought the Lakefront Collection of bungalows last September and in March won the tender for Sandy Island, the first of the two islands launched in the South Cove.

Derek Wong, Managing Director of LP Worlds and also Genesis-Alliance, explained why Sentosa Cove was the first Singapore venture for the Malaysian developers. “We chose Sentosa Cove due to several favourable factors, including the strong growth of Singapore as the most exciting gateway city for Asia-Pacific, the strengths of the Singapore property market, the growing interest from high net-worth foreigners to invest in Singapore, and the prestige of Sentosa Cove as one of the most prestigious residential addresses in Singapore,” Wong said.

“The favourable land ownership policies, the upcoming Resorts World and the marina lifestyle positioning offer us an ideal platform to create premium bespoke products for both local and foreign home-owners.”

Singapore’s appeal for foreign and local home buyers and developers have been well documented, while Sentosa Cove’s particular oceanfront assets put it very much in a class of its own.

Arguably its biggest achievement has been to attract so many wealthy foreigners, many with the genuine intention of setting up home in the Lion City.

“About 60% of the investors on Sentosa are foreigners and the encouraging thing is that they’re mostly based in the Asian region,” Singh says. “In a theoretically rising property market you’ll see some element of speculation, but we’re not seeing that happening, especially for our bungalow properties where people are building to live.

“If the owners aren’t living here, they’re absentee landlords renting properties to people who are living and working in Singapore. We attract the right type of people, which is what makes Sentosa Cove a liveable residential destination.”

Currently, the only remaining land available in the South Cove is individual bungalow plots and three sites up for tender: the Beachfront Collection, Pearl Island and the condo plot on the west side of the marina entrance, facing The Oceanfront. The tenders for both of these should launch in the coming months,

“Selling is not our major priority now,” Singh says. “Now, we want to create the heart and soul of Sentosa Cove. We don’t just want to be known as a place that’s expensive.”

Or as the island with no more hornbills.

Implications for Development plans for our Southern Islands
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