Zhongshan Park adds 800 hotel rooms in Balestier

LISTED property developer Hiap Hoe and sister company SuperBowl Holdings, a listed leisure and entertainment group, aim to take the burgeoning Balestier area up a notch with their maiden hospitality and commercial venture.

Through their 50:50 joint-venture company HH Properties, they are making their debut with Ramada Singapore and Days Hotel Singapore, two new-to-market hospitality brands, in Zhongshan Park, a S$300 million integrated development in the heart of the Balestier Heritage Trail.

Hiap Hoe is a family-run property developer founded by chairman Teo Guan Seng. Its prominent residential projects include Waterscape @ Cavenagh, Skyline 360° at St Thomas Walk and Signature at Lewis.

Hiap Hoe chose Balestier for its first hotel and commercial project to commemorate the area's rich history. The location is named after Joseph Balestier, the first US consul in Singapore, and it is well-known for local fare such as chicken rice and bak kut teh.

Balestier also has special significance for Hiap Hoe, which operated out of a small office on Balestier Road for many years.

"It's a hometown thing. The company has a deep feeling for Balestier. When the land for Zhongshan Park opened for tender, its owners felt that they had to do a project in this place," says Charlotte Teo, general manager of HH Properties.

Both hotels will be managed by the Wyndham Hotel Group, the world's largest hotel company. Ramada Singapore and Days Hotel Singapore are set to offer nearly 800 rooms for business and leisure travellers. The more upscale Ramada Hotel Singapore has 384 rooms in 17 storeys, an all-day dining restaurant, about 6,000 sq ft of meeting and banquet space, a business centre, a gym and a pool. A room at Ramada Singapore will set guests back by about S$184 a night. The hotel is slated to open by March 2013.

Days Hotel, which caters to budget-conscious travellers, has 405 blue and orange-themed guest rooms sized at 194 sq ft each. The hotel also has a full-day dining restaurant and a gym. Room rates for Days Hotel begin at S$160 a night. It is expected to open by New Year's eve.

Teo adds that Ramada Singapore and Days Hotels Singapore will offer the same high-quality service as its more prolific peers downtown. "We put a lot of effort into the service quality and interior design of our hotels. We want our guests to enjoy their time here. Although we are located in the outskirts, we are staying competitive to the hotels in Orchard," she says. Its peers on Balestier Road include budget hotels Ibis Hotel, Aqueen Hotel Balestier and Value Hotel.

Hiap Hoe purchased the 190,000 sq ft government land site for Zhongshan Park for S$73.3 million in 2008. Ramada Singapore, as a well as Hiap Hoe's 13-storey office tower, will sit above a retail podium of 50,000 sq ft. Tan says 70% of the retail space has been leased out. Its anchor tenant is a NTUC Fairprice supermarket, while other tenants at the mall include Breadtalk, Subway and Crystal Jade restaurant. Rentals at the office tower are S$5 to S$10 psf for floor plates sized at 5,375 sq ft. Hiap Hoe will occupy two floors in the office tower at Zhongshan Park once it is ready. The company says the office tower and the retail mall are expected to open by 1H2013.

Both hotels flank a public heritage park leading to the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, a museum commemorating one of the Republic of China's founding fathers. The museum was once Sun's residence whenever he visited Singapore while the Chinese-themed park was built in his honour. The name Zhongshan Park is derived from Sun Zhongshan, Sun's Hanyu Pinyin name.

This story first appeared in The Edge Singapore weekly edition of Dec 24-31, 2012.

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