SINGAPORE: A number of shop owners at Queensway Shopping Centre have banded together to resist the proposed collective sale of the 45-year-old development, even as residents at the adjacent housing apartment Queensway Tower seem geared up for a sale.
This is the first time the mixed development site - which sits on a land area of about 100,000 sq ft - is being put up for sale, said Ms Suzie Mok, senior director of investment at marketing agent Savills Singapore, who is handling the sale.
The freehold site, well-known for its sports equipment and attire shops, includes 241 retail units and 78 apartments.
Ms Mok declined to reveal the reserve price, but said that the estimated value of the land is “above S$500 million”.
OWNERS OF 50 SHOPS OPPOSE SALE
Last year, a collective sales committee was established to look into finding a buyer. An Extraordinary General Meeting was held for residents and shop owners on Apr 20 to begin obtaining the minimum consent of 80 per cent for the collective sale to go ahead.
The committee has 12 months from the first signature to attain the required votes to launch the public tender for sale.
Ms Mok told CNA on Tuesday (Apr 30) that while Savills was “mindful and sensitive” in providing the latest figures for the consent, the sentiment on the ground was “encouraging”.
At the same time, however, some shop owners have voiced their opposition to a potential sale.
About 50 shops, which "represent over 20 per cent share value" of the property, have put their signatures down to oppose a deal, said shop owner Mrs L C Lim.
The list of signatories has been submitted to the legal team representing the collective sale as well as Savills and the collective sales committee, said Mrs Lim.
Mr Narwant Singh, who owns sports shop Weston Corporation and four other units at the four-storey mall, and his son Mr Mandeep Singh, who owns shoe shop Limited Edt, are among those against the sale.
“The en bloc process is on but there is a tremendous amount of objection. Queensway is doing extremely well. The misleading information reported that footfall has dropped is rubbish. Queensway, no matter what, is still having the best footfall out of any part of Singapore,” said Mr Narwant.
His son, Mr Mandeep, added: “Queensway gives us most returns out of all our outlets. Queensway has built a reputation over many years for sporting goods. There is no need for advertising, just word of mouth.
“Yes, the en bloc process has started but we are very doubtful. Queensway is a very important place for us.”
Meanwhile, Mr Tsia Ven Loong, who owns three units at the mall, said he is ready to give up his engraving business at ABC Gifts and Souvenirs Centre.
Mr Tsia, who opened his first shop at Queensway Shopping Centre in 1975, said he has seen fewer walk-in customers over the years.
“It was tough to get into the mall, let alone own a shop here when it first opened. In the 1980s, this place had full occupancy. We could survive in the 1990s, but business really dropped in the 2000s.”
He has also faced challenges finding people to man the shops. At his peak, said Mr Tsia, he had 20 employees running three units; today, he has four people, including him and his son.
“We live in difficult times and trends are difficult,” added Mr Tsia.
The owner of Reuben Viton Career Services, who wanted to be only identified as Madam Tan, said that a collective sale would give her a chance to retire.
She added that she has been trying to sell or lease the unit, which she purchased in the 1980s, for more than a year without any success.
“I just want to retire. I am alright with getting rid of my business.”
RESIDENTS APPEAR TO BE SUPPORTIVE
The residents at 13-storey Queensway Tower appeared to be more supportive of the collective sale, citing the ageing property.
Ms Jessica Wong, who has lived there for 37 years, said that the area holds some “sentimental value” to her.
However, she said, she has also had to bear with constant leaking from the ceiling in her unit, because the building has been poorly maintained.
Another resident, Madam Wong Hui Lan, who has lived there for 40 years, said she is prepared to see the building go under the hammer despite its convenient location.
“I don’t really like the design and furnishings of the place anymore. It is old and as an elderly, the lack of infrastructure to cater to people like us is missing,” said the 78-year-old.
“I will miss this place because it is convenient. The bus stop is directly opposite and the (nearest) MRT (at Queenstown MRT Station) is about three to four bus stops down.”
A PART OF HISTORY
Listed by the National Heritage Board as part of its Queenstown Heritage Trail, Queensway Shopping Centre is one of Singapore’s first multi-purpose shopping complexes. It was opened in 1974 to provide shopping and recreational options for residents in Queenstown.
“Designed in the Modern style, the shopping centre is characterised by its octagonal facade and central sunken concourse which offers maximum and dual frontage shop units with display windows at two levels,” said the National Heritage Board in its website, roots.sg.
READ: Commentary: Behind dashed hopes of Mandarin Gardens en bloc sale, unbridled speculation and wishful thinking
CURRENT EN BLOC MARKET
Queensway Shopping Centre's en bloc ambitions come amid a slowing of the collective sales market, which saw 57 of at least 61 tenders failing to find buyers since the latest round of cooling measures kicked in last July, according to data from JLL.
Last month, Mandarin Gardens failed in its attempt at a collective sale about a month after raising its asking price to a record S$2.9 billion, after it managed to gather only 68 per cent of signatures.
Other projects that have failed to find a buyer include Spanish Village condominium at Farrer Road and Grange Heights.