Bottle Tree Park site set to see changes

China-based Fullshare Group secured the Bottle Tree Park site with a bid of $169,000 a month, more than double the $72,200 rental guide issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
China-based Fullshare Group secured the Bottle Tree Park site with a bid of $169,000 a month, more than double the $72,200 rental guide issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

China-based firm secures site's lease, plans to build leisure park attraction

It took about a decade to grow Bottle Tree Park from a largely empty plot of land to a rustic watering hole that drew a loyal crowd attracted to its simple kampung feel.

But change is afoot again for this sleepy corner of Yishun, whose lease has been extended several times since it was supposed to end in 2012.

A new management, which outbid the current one by more than two times, is expected to take over next month and transform the 7ha plot into a leisure park attraction with more food and beverage outlets and activities such as camping and fishing.

China-based Fullshare Group earlier this month secured the site's lease with a bid of $169,000 a month, more than double the $72,200 rental guide issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The current management of the park, Bottle Tree, submitted a bid of $68,000.

Fullshare is expected to invest $5 million to revamp the place. The company has investments in health care and international trade businesses in Singapore. On its website, it lists among its interests "tourism real estate and high-end tourism business development" in overseas markets.

Experts said the amount being invested is no small change.

SLP International consultancy and research head Nicholas Mak said Fullshare would have to make more than $830,000 in revenue a year, over six years, just to cover its initial investment, excluding operational expenses such as rental and labour.

The tenure of the site is three years, with an option to extend it until April 2020.

Bottle Tree, which ran the park for the last decade, paid a monthly rental of about $15,000. It also invested about $4 million to develop the park, which opened in 2006 and later included a seafood restaurant and fishing pond.

According to Bottle Tree director Alex Neo, the management could cover costs but the park was not profitable.

PropertyBank director Edith Tay said while Fullshare's bid may seem high, it might be possible to get high returns on its investment if it can come up with an attractive concept.

She said: "They might have considered looking at a more integrated concept and increasing the number of tenants. Such big sites with water features and proximity to a train station in Yishun are rare in Singapore."

Fullshare International Group managing director Wang Bo, said: "The project aims to be a comfortable, natural and relaxing getaway. In its design and planning of the project, the company will consider the protection of the park's natural environment and its original style." For instance, the wooden pavilions of the park will be refurbished but kept intact.

Bottle Tree Park will stop operations on Aug 10. Most existing tenants reportedly do not intend to stay on.

One of them is Bottle Tree Seafood Restaurant, which has been there for close to a decade.

Operations manager Neo Siong Hoon, 34, said it had been in talks with the new management for a space about a quarter of its existing one and for more than double its existing rental.

In the end, it decided against it. The restaurant is slated to reopen in Marina Barrage in November and will keep the "Bottle Tree" name.

Rentals at the park are expected to increase by at least double to triple the current rates but existing tenant Fishing Paradise, which runs the fishing pond there, is keen to continue at the current site, where it has been since 2009.

Fishing Paradise partner Edmund Kong, 35, said: "We have built up a stable customer base over the years and intend to roll out a new business concept if we continue here.

"We expect that the new management will also carry out marketing and events, which will help pull in customers."

Bottle Tree Park has been at risk of shutting down since its lease expired in 2012. It was given several lease extensions by the authorities because the management had fought for it.

Like many Bottle Tree regulars, technical officer Ronald Lim, 61, who visits the park about every two months, said he hopes it will not lose its rustic charm once the big boys come in.

He said: "It has an ambience like the countryside. If it becomes more commercialised, I do not know what it will be like... Will they keep the ponds and fruit trees? This kind of environment is hard to find in Singapore."