Will Golden Mile Complex be next after the Peace Centre en bloc?

Peace Centre is a part-seven, part-10-storey commercial podium block, and Peace Mansion, a 22-storey residential tower with 84 apartments and two penthouses.
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

After four en bloc attempts, both the shopping mall Peace Centre and residential complex Peace Mansion went back on the market for the fifth time and were finally sold.

At $650 million, the buyers are property players Ultra Infinity and Chip Eng Seng, a Sing-Haiyi Crystal joint venture.

Built in 1977, the adjoined properties consist of 232 commercial units and 86 apartments. More than 80 per cent of the owners agreed to the sale.

As it is currently zoned for commercial use, the Urban Redevelopment Authority needs to give approval to develop the property into a mixed-use residential-commercial development.

This means the 76,617-sqft site with a gross plot ratio (GPR) of 7.89 can be redeveloped with 60 per cent commercial and 40 per cent residential. The latter translates to 240 residential apartments at an average size of 1,000-sqft per unit.

Due to the site being zoned for commercial use under URA’s Master Plan 2019, the offerers need not pay additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD). On March 26, 2019, the owners obtained in-principle approval from the Singapore Land Authority to refresh its 99-year term lease.

Convenient location

Located in District 19, Peace Centre/Peace Mansion (PCPM) is advantageously situated near popular malls such as GR.iD, Wilkie Edge, Bugis Junction, Bugis+, The Cathay and Plaza Singapura.

It has excellent connectivity, with six MRT stations within a 600m radius – Rochor, Bencoolen, Dhoby Ghaut, Bras Basah, Little India and Bugis.

There are also educational institutes aplenty. Singapore Management University, the School of the Arts, Lasalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Kaplan City Campus are in the vicinity.

If you’re a parent looking to enrol your child into primary school, St Margaret’s Primary School and Stamford Primary School are within a 1km radius. Other schools within a 2km radius include Anglo-Chinese School (Junior), Farrer Park Primary School, River Valley Primary School and St Joseph’s Institution Junior.

Home of KTVs

Peace Centre has garnered an infamous reputation for being home to an array of Chinese KTV lounges, with at least five karaoke bars occupying an entire floor each.

At these nightclubs, patrons lavish tips on their favourite hostess by buying her a flower garland or sash in exchange for her company and undivided attention. These garlands range from S$50 all the way to an eye-watering $10,000, and each hostess may receive multiple adornments throughout the night.

No peace at Peace Mansion

Many of the girls working the nightlife at Peace Centre call Peace Mansion home, conveniently located just a stone’s throw away.

They return at odd hours after long nights of revelry, causing a general ruckus and disturbing the local residents. Some unwanted noises include the slamming of doors and metal gates, as well as the occasional shouting across the lobbies.

Despite regular police enforcement checks around the area, residents are still unhappy and frustrated. Several young families have uprooted and moved out due to the incessant noise pollution.

Government-imposed restrictions

After the KTV Covid-19 cluster fiasco in July 2021 which resulted in 253 cases, the group of lounges have been affected by the government clampdown and were forced to shut indefinitely.

Many of the lounges have been closed since then, giving the nearby residents some respite from the noise.

When we visited the area on Dec 7, the only thing lingering was the hazy odours of old cigarette smoke and joss sticks. Every floor was dark and utterly devoid of any semblance of life.

Golden Mile

Built almost half a century ago in 1973, this one-of-a-kind landmark is iconic for its Brutalist architectural style. It is amongst the first buildings in Singapore to be an integrated mixed-use development, blending a combination of offices, shops and residences all into a single building.

Recently it has been put up for collective sale again at the same reserve price of $800 million. This comes as no surprise as the complex is desirably situated in the prime location of District 7 and a mere 10 minutes away from the Central Business District and Orchard Road.

Its status as a conserved building means developers have to abide by certain conservation guidelines and preserve the building’s familiar facade.

Incentives for developers

To sweeten the deal and make it more appealing to potential buyers, URA is offering additional planning incentives unique to Golden Mile due to the building’s conservation being the first of its kind.

These perks include increasing the floor area by one third, a full tax waiver for the conserved floor area, partial tax waiver for the new floor area, lease renewal for a fresh 99 years as well as the flexible option to reconfigure the site boundary to make it more suitable for the area.

The existing multi-storey carpark can be replaced by a 30-storey tower, bringing up the GPR to 5.6. It has also been zoned for commercial use, so there are no ABSD fees for the developers.

If developers are enticed enough by the incentive package and game to accept the conditions, Golden Mile will definitely be the next complex to undergo an en bloc. This will be good news for the residents who are suffering the consequences of the limited management fund.

Golden era of siam dius

Most notably known for its Mookata restaurants and Thai discos, Golden Mile is fondly referred to as ‘Little Thailand’. The KTVs here are referred to as siam dius, which is a catch-all term for Thai themed discos or nightclubs.

During pre-Covid days, the siam dius come alive at night, with loud music blasting and alcohol flowing freely. The upper levels of the mall transform into a complex of beer bars, KTV lounges and late-night Thai discos serving mostly local male clientele.

There used to be a staggering number of seedy establishments – more than 13 in fact. It is evident Golden Mile is a popular destination amongst the type of crowd that favours this particular flavour of night entertainment.

Will Golden Mile follow in the footsteps of Peace Centre soon?

With rapid gentrification happening a stone’s throw away along Beach Road, it’s simply a matter of time before Golden Mile will be scheduled for redevelopment.

Maintaining the property is also expensive and difficult with their shrinking maintenance fund. Water leaks, rats and cockroaches were becoming a common occurrence as a result of the deterioration. It got so bad that in 2006, Nominated Member of Parliament Ivan Png called it a “vertical slum”, “terrible eyesore”, and “national disgrace”.

Many shops in Golden Mile have since been permanently shuttered, casting a gloomy shadow over the derelict establishment.

Drawing similarities between Peace Centre and Golden Mile

Like Peace Centre, Golden Mile Complex shares an uncannily similar reputation as a destination for what some may call seedy, dimly lit joints. It is only natural to draw a comparison between the two sites.

One huge advantage of the PCPM en bloc is that developers need not worry about working within the restraints of building conservation. However, with plans to build a residential tower, there might be a tighter time constraint for the development to be completed and sold on time – if the developers want to avoid the hefty ABSD of 30 per cent of the land price.

On the other hand, Golden Mile faces a slightly different challenge – where the eventual developer has to take into consideration the restrictions that may come with preserving a conserved site.

Still, with Golden Mile’s attractive location, we think developers might be game to rise up to the challenge of redeveloping the site, especially with the incentive package offered to help defray some costs.

What will happen to the KTVs?

Asking the important questions here – what happens to the siam dius with the en bloc on Peace Centre and potentially, Golden Mile Complex? Will they have a place in the new developments? It is highly unlikely, but no one can say for sure.

It’s apparent that most, if not all, of the KTV lounges, have been forced to move or shut down with the tightening of measures around nightlife establishments.

The en bloc was what drove the final nail into the coffin (at least for the ones at Peace Centre), and perhaps, when Golden Mile Complex does eventually get sold and redeveloped, it would sunset the proliferation of siam dius in our nightlife industry altogether.

This article was first published in 99.co.

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