Exciting possibilities for new Marina Downtown

Area likely to have mix of homes, offices and recreational facilities

A large new precinct near the Central Business District to be freed up by a new undersea road offers many exciting possibilities, say property consultants.

They say the upcoming Marina Downtown could complement the existing CBD in the same way the financial hub of Canary Wharf complements the city of London.

The 70ha area, to be developed once a section of the East Coast Parkway (ECP) is removed, is likely to feature a mix of homes, offices, retail and recreational facilities, said property and planning consultants.

This will allow for a new CBD, with the Marina Bay area as a seamless extension of the existing financial district.

On Wednesday, the Government unveiled details for the undersea Marina Coastal Expressway linking the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and the ECP. As part of the development, a 1km section of the ECP from Marina Boulevard to Prince Edward Road will be removed.

In the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Masterplan 2008, land in the area known as the "Downtown Core" is zoned as white sites - intended for commercial, hotel, residential, sports, recreational and other such uses.

Planning rules allow high-intensity development on these white sites, which means more skyscrapers are likely to dot the area, consultants said.

Century 21 chief executive Ku Swee Yong expects more buildings with large floor plates, coveted for trading floors by banks and commodity houses. Such large spaces feature in the upcoming Marina One mixed development and Asia Square towers.

"It is difficult to find any plot of land within Raffles Place now that can allow you to have such large floor plates," said Mr Ku.

Jones Lang LaSalle national director of research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui expects more mixed developments to spring up to accommodate a residential population, with supporting entertainment, food and beverage options.

Civic facilities such as parks and places of worship could also be added, to ensure that the CBD will not become a ghost town over the weekend, added Mr Ku.

Knight Frank head of investment and capital transactions Ian Loh added that there could also be plans for links between the new developments, with more underground passageways.

But consultants say that the new Marina Downtown is likely to be dominated by office space.

"There will be more offices than homes in the new area, because Marina Bay already has quite a lot of residential developments like The Sail, Marina Bay Residences and Marina Bay Suites," said Mr Loh.

Mr Ong said the key priority is to provide enough commercial land to support economic growth, so land parcels closer to Central Boulevard and the Marina Bay MRT station will likely be mostly for commercial use.

Consultants also suggested that the large area of the new downtown means its development is likely to be done in phases.

They said the high plot ratios of the white sites spell a potential flood of office or residential spaces, and the Government would be cautious in releasing these plots.

Mr Ku said office vacancies are high in Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar, while offices in Asia Square Tower 2 have yet to be filled.

More office space is set to come on the market after the sale of a commercial site at Telok Ayer Street, and when the Capitagreen building in Cross Street is completed.

"Unless the signal from financial institutions is such that they will start hiring aggressively, the Government will be careful about flooding the market with more office space," he said.

ocheryl@sph.com.sg