CPF Board to move to Novena next Monday

But its service centre in the Robinson Road building will operate 'till further notice'

From next Monday, the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board's offices will move from their familiar premises at 79 Robinson Road to Novena.

However, customers will still be served at the CPF Service Centre on the second floor of the Robinson Road building "till further notice", the CPF Board said yesterday.

The CPF customer hotline 1800-227-1188 is also unchanged.

The move is part of the Government's efforts to relocate its offices to "free up prime office space in the Central Business District for higher-value uses", said the Board. Its previous homes include Victoria Memorial Hall and buildings in River Valley Road and Anson Road.

The relocation of its corporate operations to Novena Square Towers A and B has been on the cards since last year. The CPF Board will take over office space formerly occupied by Procter & Gamble (P&G), which is moving to The Metropolis in Buona Vista.

"The Board had explored other sites and Novena Square was chosen for its reasonable lease package and accessibility," a Board spokesman told The Straits Times.

The CPF Building was put up for sale in a public tender in September, which closed on Oct 28. Bids are currently being evaluated.

The CPF Board, which has occupied the building since 1976, is not the first government agency to move out of the Central Business District. In the 2008 Budget, then Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that several agencies would be relocated to free up office space for use by the private sector.

The Singapore Land Authority was first to move that year, from Shenton Way to Revenue House in Novena. Last year, some Ministry of National Development (MND) statutory boards, such as the Building and Construction Authority, moved from the MND Building in Maxwell Road to the Jem office tower in Jurong.

Property experts said the move by CPF was understandable. "Depending on how you look at it, the deal makes financial sense as CPF would become more 'asset light' and would be able to better concentrate on its core business," said OrangeTee senior manager of research and consultancy Wong Xian Yang.

DTZ South-east Asia CEO Ong Choon Fah said the building's age, need for upkeep and leasehold status might have factored in the decision. The CPF Building's 99-year lease began in 1968.

"You either do extensive additions and alterations or redevelop it yourself, or you sell it," said Mrs Ong. "These are the options that any owners of an old building would have to think about."

Property experts expect the CPF Building to fetch at least $450 million. Located at the junction of Robinson Road and Maxwell Road, it "enjoys unobstructed sea views", said marketing agent CBRE in September. The site is 47,056 sq ft, with the current building having a net lettable area of about 324,000 sq ft.

But with a plot ratio of 12.88 and a height restriction of 50 storeys, based on the 2014 Master Plan, the site could potentially yield a gross floor area of more than 600,000 sq ft, noted CBRE.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'CPF Board to move to Novena next Monday'. Print Edition | Subscribe