Pines members fume over club's likely relocation

Members became suspicious at the start of the year when two hotels, Novotel Singapore on Stevens and Mercure Singapore on Stevens, neared completion on the site of the former club, but no clubhouse was built. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - After a four-year wait, some members of well-known club The Pines are furious to learn that the newer and better facilities they were promised will not materialise after all.

Among the promises - a members-only clubhouse integrated into the club's site at 30, Stevens Road which was demolished in November 2013 after the site was acquired by a unit of Oxley Holdings, Oxley Gems, to be made over into a hotel and commercial development.

Members learnt the club may not return to the site and could be moving to a new location.

Those who spoke to The Straits Times said they became suspicious at the start of the year when two hotels - Novotel Singapore on Stevens and Mercure Singapore on Stevens - neared completion on the site of the former club, but no clubhouse was built. Novotel Singapore on Stevens began operations earlier this month.

Last Wednesday (Oct 18), 44 members submitted a joint letter to the club, which is managed by Exklusiv Resorts and owned by motoring tycoon Peter Kwee.

"Many of us even attended a meeting where floor plans were shared. We raised no objections to a facility as long as it was at the same Stevens Road site," the letter said.

The Pines Club, formerly known as The Pinetree Club, was sold to Mr Kwee in 2002 for about $100 million, after its former owner, Mr Chng Heng Tiu, defaulted on bank loans.

Mr Chng got the loans by using the club as collateral to finance business ventures in China.

Mr Mahader Hassan, 60, an entrepreneur and long-time member, said they were shown artists' impressions of the redevelopment at a briefing session in Sept 2013.

The new facilities included a stand-alone clubhouse of about 30,000 sq ft, with amenities such as a swimming pool, fusion restaurant and tennis courts.

But members were suddenly told in March last year that the "rules" of the club had been amended, which would affect the address of the club, but the club did not update them further.

Members then heard they would have to move to Laguna National Golf and Country Club in Changi, which is also owned by Mr Kwee.

On Saturday, spokesman for The Pines Eric Chan said a letter "with full details" would be sent to members next week.

When asked if the club will be relocating, he would only say "I won't be refuting it".

He confirmed that the club had intended for its facilities to remain in Stevens Road when redevelopment first started, but he was unable to say when this changed.

The management took "quite some time" to give members an explanation as it "has been exploring all possible options", he added.

Developer Oxley Gems, in response to media queries, said that it had purchased the 103-leasehold estate from Exklusiv Resorts free from encumbrances.

A spokesman for the developer said this means it is not obligated to extend the use of its facilities to members of The Pines.

It had acquired the 198,889 sq ft land parcel in March 2013 from Mr Kwee for $318 million. He said the use of the project has not changed and it "is still hotel, commercial, clubhouse and basement in the development for Gems' own use".

Mr Paul Ang, 53, a businessman and member, said: "If they were not planning to have the clubhouse at Stevens Road, they should be transparent about it."

Now, he hopes the management would allow him to cancel his membership and be compensated fairly. There should also be enough alternatives for the estimated 1,500 club members left, including transferring their membership to another club, he added.

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