SINGAPORE: Efforts to refresh lifestyle enclave Dempsey Hill have hit a speed bump, after authorities rejected all five offers from companies bidding for one vacant block, while postponing plans to fill two other blocks.
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) told CNA on Friday (Aug 14) that the five proposals received for Block 26 Dempsey Road - which has been empty for about six months - “did not meet either the price or quality aspects of the tender”, without revealing further details.
It had launched the tender in January and jointly evaluated the bids with the Singapore Tourism Board.
Block 26, which used to house Thai restaurant Tawandang Microbrewery and furniture store Shang Antique, had been intended for F&B, retail or art tenants “with a strong local focus”, according to SLA earlier this year.
The move to refresh the tenant mix had come amid larger efforts to rejuvenate the estate and the Tanglin Village area, where it is located.
BIDDERS DISAPPOINTED AT OUTCOME
The tender closed in March with five companies throwing their hats into the ring, including health equipment firm AIBI International and F&B group Fifty Raffles Place.
The highest bidder was contemporary art gallery Yeo Workshop, which had put in an offer of S$32,892 per month for the space, which measures 16,447 sq ft in gross floor area.
SLA had said the tender would be based on price and quality, with a heavier emphasis on the latter.
The lack of an award was a disappointment for the homegrown art firm, which had hoped to set up a “multi-use arts club” with educational programmes, as part of a tie-up with art collectors and a venture capitalist group.
“What is rare is to find an art school that is self-funded, self-initiated, and ready to plug-and-play a concept like that,” said Yeo Workshop’s founder Audrey Yeo.
“It is a bit of a shame that there is no recognition that this is actually a really special sort of project.”
AIBI International had put in a bid of S$25,000, with the hope of creating a retail showcase with a “gym modelled as a playground”.
Its marketing director Pauline Kwek said the concept was especially relevant as “people (have been) getting more health and fitness conscious” amid the pandemic.
SLA CONSIDERING ‘RE-PARCELING’ SPACE INTO SMALLER UNITS FOR DIVERSITY
With no winner for the tender, SLA said that the agencies will review tender parameters to “relaunch the site at a later date”, while “keeping in view the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic".
Possible changes include splitting the block into smaller units.
“The introduction of smaller, boutique-sized concepts allows for a collection of diverse experiences housed within the site, contributing to the continued vibrancy of the area," said SLA.
“This will also cater to businesses that are looking for smaller spaces,” it added.
However, AIBI International and Yeo Workshop said they would think twice about putting in bids again if the space were to be carved up.
“Honestly, we already find that the project is not very big and for a holistic approach you would definitely need the whole space,” said Ms Kwek.
Ms Yeo echoed the sentiment, adding that flexibility is the main draw of larger spaces.
TENDERS FOR TWO OTHER BLOCKS DELAYED
Separately, tenders for two other neighbouring blocks - 26A and 26B - have been delayed.
They were slated for tender in February, but SLA said launch plans have been pushed “towards the end of the year” as a result of the pandemic.
Bids will still be assessed based on price and quality, with quality carrying a heavier weightage to “support the introduction of innovative and new concepts”.
In the meantime, SLA said infrastructure upgrades such as road resurfacing and the construction of pick-up and drop-off points are ongoing.
It added that they will be done progressively across Tanglin Village, which also comprises the Minden and Loewen clusters.
SLA had said in 2018 that it would be improving accessibility, traffic flow and space planning between clusters in the area over the next two years.