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SBF Centre unveiled

UNTIL late 2011, the 31,560 sq ft L-shaped public park located next to Capital Tower was a popular hangout for despatch riders, smokers, post-coffee- break-cum-post-lunch office workers, as well as pedestrians using it as a shortcut to get from Robinson Road to Cecil Street and vice versa. However, come 2016, the space will no longer be occupied by a transient and random crowd. Instead, it will be a hub for the business community.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF), which turned 10 this year, will be a major occupier of the 31-storey commercial building that will rise up on the site of the former public park. As such, the building, which until recently was christened The Index, will be re-named the SBF Centre. The commercial complex, which will contain a mix of offices and medical suites, is jointly developed by Far East Organization and its listed arm, Far East Orchard Ltd, which had won the site in September last year with a bid of S$311 million (S$882 psf per plot ratio).

SBF has been headquartered in Keppel Towers at Hoe Chiang Road since 2005. It occupies 20,000 sq ft in Keppel Towers and is expected to take up at least the same amount of space at SBF Centre. Discussions are still underway with Far East Organization on the specific space requirements for SBF.

Besides office space, SBF also needs space for meeting rooms, a boardroom and seminar rooms, says Gerald De Cotta, the organisation's director of corporate communications. SBF serves 18,400 companies, which represents the top 10% of businesses in Singapore, according to De Cotta. It also receives about 60 visiting dignitaries annually, made up of a mix of business and government delegations, including ministers, prime ministers as well as various heads of state. "So, a location like SBF Centre will be very adequate to properly receive such delegations," he adds.

It also makes sense for SBF to be located in the CBD as many small and medium-sized businesses, which are its constituents, are situated there as well, notes Chng Kiong Huat, Far East Organization's executive director of development and planning.

SBF's new headquarters will take up the entire sixth level of SBF Centre. Meanwhile, the medical centre will occupy the third to fifth levels and contain 48 medical suites. These suites are sized from 614 to 1,346 sq ft. The upper levels of the building will contain 192 strata-titled office units, with sizes ranging from 592 to 1,442 sq ft, as well as strata-titled whole floor office units of 10,549 sq ft each.

The ground level of the building will have a covered plaza with a "park-like environment" containing trees and landscaped gardens. It will also feature F&B outlets and alfresco dining.

There is intense interest from potential buyers in the F&B outlets on the ground floor, says Chng. However, the developer is considering holding these back and offering them for lease so it can control the choice of F&B tenants that will best serve the building's occupiers and draw traffic to the area.

The design architect for SBF Centre is Singapore-based DP Architects, and the building is slated for a BCA Green Mark Platinum award. The commercial building will have two frontages, with access to the plaza and medical centre from Robinson Road, and to the office block from Cecil Street. There will also be a two-level basement car park. Far East Organization will erect sheltered walkways linking SBF Centre to Capital Tower next door, where the entrance to the Tanjong Pagar MRT station is located.

The medical suites are expected to attract practitioners who want a presence in the CBD, as well as medical group practices who prefer a large space downtown, says Chng. The medical suites and office units at SBF Centre are primarily for sale, with prices starting from S$3,500 and S$2,400 psf respectively. The project is scheduled for launch early next year, says Chng.

This story first appeared in The Edge Singapore weekly edition of Dec 10-16, 2012.

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