Iconic Golden Mile Complex gazetted as a conserved building

URA to offer a package of incentives to make the site more attractive to potential buyers

The iconic Golden Mile Complex, which resembles a typewriter with its terraced facade and towering columns, has been conserved.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee yesterday announced that the 16-storey building has been gazetted as a conserved building, one year after the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) had proposed to do so.

To address concerns from building owners that conservation may affect the chances of a collective sale, URA will offer a package of incentives to make development options for the site more attractive to potential buyers.

In a pre-recorded video posted on Facebook, Mr Lee said Golden Mile Complex - completed in 1973 - is the first modern, large-scale, strata-titled development to be conserved in Singapore.

This decision was not taken lightly, he added.

He acknowledged that some owners may see conservation as a constraint, and noted that owners have been planning for a collective sale, with some intending to use the proceeds to fund their retirement.

The URA has thus sought to ensure that the conservation will not undermine collective sale efforts, by offering potential buyers incentives to rejuvenate the building.

The incentives include allowing developers to build a new tower block about 30 storeys high beside the main conserved building.

The site boundary may also be extended to include part of adjacent state land to allow for design flexibility, while tax incentives will be provided, lowering development costs. Mr Lee said the incentive package is unique to Golden Mile Complex, which he described as "one of finest examples we have of the 'Brutalist' style of architecture, which favours minimalist construction over decorative design".

"We hope that developers will consider the potential of the site, alongside our vision to rejuvenate a national icon," he added.

URA said the package was devised based on the site's attributes, including its "exceptional standing as a rare and iconic landmark from Singapore's initial years of post-war nation building".

Mr Lee hailed the building, which was designed by local architects Gan Eng Oon, William Lim and Tay Kheng Soon, as bold and visionary at the time.

"It challenged conventional views in Singapore and across the world, of what modern urban living could look like, adapted to our tropical environment," he said.

In its proposal last year, the URA said Singapore has thus far conserved more than 7,200 buildings, with most of them dating from the colonial period.

With its conservation, Golden Mile Complex joins a handful of other post-independence heritage buildings like the Singapore Conference Hall and Jurong Town Hall to be legally protected.

"The unprecedented incentives show that the state has the political will to balance market forces to push the decision through," said International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Singapore president Yeo Kang Shua.

He hopes the incentives would help developer-buyers, as well as the complex's current owners, to see heritage buildings as sites with financial potential rather than a liability due to the need to adhere to guidelines during redevelopment.

Mr Ho Weng Hin, who chairs heritage group Docomomo Singapore, said the conservation sends a strong signal that the country is ready to recognise its own architectural heritage.

He said he was encouraged by the authorities' willingness to think out of the box and offer a "unique cocktail" of planning incentives addressing owners' concerns, ensuring that conservation would be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Mr Tay Hong Beng, head of real estate at KPMG Singapore, said interest in a collective sale among developers is likely to pick up following the announcements.

However, potential buyers might choose to adopt a wait-and-see approach as the tax incentive package offered is unprecedented.

"Some of them may still have reservations over navigating conservation guidelines and how the requirements could impact them," said Mr Tay, adding that developers may also be concerned about the cost of maintaining and rejuvenating the 48-year-old building.

Retrofitting the building to include greener technologies may also prove a challenge for developers, he noted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2021, with the headline 'Iconic Golden Mile Complex gazetted as a conserved building'. Subscribe