Cheng Hsing Yao, group managing director of GuocoLand Singapore, is convinced that as a developer, one has to look beyond Covid-19 pandemic and take a long-term view. He believes it is more important to ensure that buildings can withstand the test of time and be adaptable for its occupants.“There will be all kinds of shocks going forward,” says Cheng. “But the concepts of sustainability and liveability are evergreen — how people live and work, how we build a community and create an environment that is safe and promotes wellness,” he adds.
Now, part of that future has arrived in the form of GuocoLand’s Guoco Midtown which was envisioned as a “City of the Future” even before the Covid-19 outbreak. And Cheng believes Guoco Midtown will demonstrate how cities of the future can be liveable and sustainable while engaging its occupants and the community.ADVERTISEMENT
On Aug 20, GuocoLand unveiled its plan for the 124,122 sq ft, residential development site on Tan Quee Lan Street. Called Guoco Midtown II, the new development will be an extension of GuocoLand’s Guoco Midtown mixed-use development located directly opposite on Beach Road. By linking the two sites with an underground tunnel, the result is a mega development with an enlarged footprint of 3.2ha and maximum gross floor area of 1.5 million sq ft.At Guoco Midtown II, the residential component is Midtown Modern, comprising two 30-storey residential towers with over 500 apartments. The apartments are a mix of one- to four-bedroom units, catering to singles, couples, families and even emptynesters. The development will focus on wellness, with large green spaces and a wide range of recreational facilities.
Adaptable living spaces
The apartments at Midtown Modern are designed with spaces that are adaptable to meet changing lifestyle needs. For instance, parents working from home with children on home-based learning, would require multiple workspaces, not just one, says Cheng. “The most important is to ensure that the space is convertible — whether for sleeping or as a workspace,” he says.The other issue that Cheng has been thinking about is the location of power points within the home. “Typically, because they are on the walls, you will have to drag a cable from the power point to the dining area if you’re working there and need to charge your laptop,” he says. “It’s dangerous because you might trip.” The solution? Power points integrated with the dining space which can be used for work devices and equally, for the hotpot, he adds.ADVERTISEMENT
Naming the project “Midtown Modern” was intentional as the concept is about living in a garden, which is similar to Martin Modern, GuocoLand’s other project in Martin Place, which is about living in a Botanic Gardens setting in prime District 9, relates Cheng. Both are centred around the idea of the modern, hectic lifestyle, where coming home represents a complete change of pace, where one can relax and connect with nature. “Even for those who work from home, there’s a need to wind down after work,” he adds. “The quality of life is enhanced if there’s a lot of greenery and recreational facilities.”At Midtown Bay, the 30-storey residential tower at Guoco Midtown, the theme centres around “live, work and entertain”, says Cheng. “It caters for urbanites who don’t sleep much, but work a lot, play and entertain a lot.” The 219 units at Midtown Bay are a mix of one- and two-bedroom units of 409 to 753 sq ft; and two- and three-bedroom duplexes of 990 to 1,324 sq ft. The duplexes are designed with bedrooms on the upper level, and the living, dining and kitchen area on the lower floor. “This allows owners to con- vert the lower floor into a home office with one or two staff, while retaining their privacy,” explains Cheng.
Retail clusters, MRT access
Having amenities at one’s doorstep is equally important. At Guoco Midtown and Midtown II, there will be three low-rise, retail and F&B clusters, each fronting a public space. Two of the retail clusters are at Guoco Midtown: Midtown Garden along Beach Road, and Mid- town Market directly behind the conserved Old Beach Road Police Station building. The third retail cluster is Midtown Square at Mid- town II and is located above the Bugis inter- change MRT Station and fronting Tan Quee Lan Street.ADVERTISEMENT
“Each cluster will be different in character and atmosphere, with distinctive retail and F&B offerings,” says Cheng. These public areas will be naturally ventilated, he adds. GuocoLand will carry out active place management of these public spaces.“The Beach Road-Bugis area has all the locational characteristics of a ‘Midtown’, with the confluence of business, entertainment, culture and the arts as well as residential, but it lacked an anchor point,” says Cheng. GuocoLand wants Guoco Midtown and Midtown II to be the anchor of the area. “The heart of activity is usually centred around the MRT station,” he adds.As such, GuocoLand had been eyeing the site at Tan Quee Lan Street ever since it acquired the commercial site on Beach Road for the upcoming Guoco Midtown in October 2017 for $1.622 billion. The site at Tan Quee Lan Street was purchased jointly with Hong Leong Holdings for $800.2 million last September. “It was important to acquire this second site as it allows us to control access to the MRT station,” says Cheng.Read More: GuocoLand secures $730 mil green loan for Tan Quee Lan Street projectThe site at Tan Quee Lan Street is adjacent to the Bugis MRT interchange station for the Downtown and East West Line. From Guoco Midtown, the Esplanade MRT station on the Circle Line is accessible via overhead pedestrian bridge to Shaw Towers (which is being redeveloped) and South Beach. FromSouth Beach, there is an overhead bridge to Suntec Citytoo, where the offices and the Suntec City Mall is, as well as the Promenade MRT interchange station for the Downtown and Circle Lines.For those who work in the city area, it is an added convenience being located within a five- to 10-minute walk of 7 million sq ft of offices, over 3 million sq ft of shopping and F&B spaces as well as 10 five-star hotels. For families with children in secondary or tertiary levels, being close to an MRT interchange station with access to different lines is an added convenience, says Cheng.
Shift towards activity-based working
Even before Covid-19, many multinational firms were already adopting a “core and flex” strategy, says Cheng. Covid-19 merely accelerated that trend. Guoco Midtown is offering this office concept for its 30-storey, Grade-A office tower with 770,000 sq ft of space. The new concept will give tenants the flexibility to have both long-term dedicated office space (core) and shorter-term dedicated offices (flex) for special project teams and situations requiring shorter-term offices.“As companies will need to be nimble with their business plans in a more uncertain environment, this concept offers them flexibility and cost savings,” says Cheng.Should office tenants need to reduce their office space requirements by 15% to 20%, the core and flex concept provides that flexibility, points out Cheng. Safe distancing measures also means that if, say, 40% of a company’s staff work should from home, it does not necessarily translate to 40% less space. Even when there is space contraction, companies require a flex and core option too, adds Cheng. Cheng believes there will be a shift towards activity-based working and a hybrid of office- and home-based working in the future. “The office space thus plays a critical role to encourage collaboration and innovation among staff,” he says. “The longer people work from home full time, the more they will appreciate an office space.”Guoco Midtown is also incorporating features such as contactless lifts, turnstiles and fittings. Its HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning) system prevents cross-contamination between floors, says Cheng. The HVAC system comes with carbon dioxide sensors to manage fresh air intake, MERV 14 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) high performance filters with dust spot efficiency up to 95% and is able to carry out UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation) that can remove more than 90% of pathogens, including viruses.Within Guoco Midtown is the Network Hub, designed as a members-only business and social club that caters to both office tenants at Guoco Midtown and residents at Mid- town Bay and Midtown Modern. The five-storey network hub has 80,000 sq ft of space including members’ lounges, meeting rooms that are virtual-technology ready, private dining rooms with kitchens and travellers’ lounges for busy executives to freshen up when they arrive from the airport. The Network Hub is also directly connected to the 30-storey office tower.Covid-19 has made staff well-being and safety a priority for companies. Even within flex offices, tenants are mindful that their staff have dedicated spaces rather than shared spaces. “Companies usually sign on leases nine to 12 months ahead of the completion of a project,” says Cheng. “But even at this stage where we are two years away from completion, we are already getting very strong interest and are in advanced discussions with several prospective tenants.” Guoco Midtown is expected to be completed in phases from 2022 to 2024.
Dedicated facilities, wellness
Within the development are 20 thematic gardens and landscaped public spaces spread across Guoco Midtown and Midtown II. They cover the ground floor, various podium levels and even the rooftops of the towers and add up to 3.8 ha, which is bigger than the combined footprint of the site. “These gardens give a sense of living and working in nature and promotes well-being,” says Cheng.GuocoLand has also ensured that the office and residential towers have dedicated facilities. The office tower for instance has its own gardens on levels 7 and 30, a 40m lap pool, a 100m jogging track, an event plaza and party pavilions on the rooftop of the tower, with views of Marina Bay and Kallang Basin. Even entrances are separate for each of the different components. There also multiple drop-off points.“People shouldn’t overreact and look at things solely from the Covid-19 lenses,” says Cheng. “A good mixed-use development has to be synergistic, and yet have exclusivity for each component.”