Katong Village stays put for another year

Katong Village stays put for another year

Six months ago, tenants of Katong Village were asked to pack up and leave to make way for a hotel.

But a tender to redevelop the site, owned by the Government, did not draw any bids and the authorities have decided to extend the tenancy for another year.

However, seven of the 11 tenants have either closed or relocated, leaving behind four entertainment and food outlets in the former Joo Chiat police station in East Coast Road.

From now till October next year, these businesses can stay but will have to vacate in three months if there is a successful bid for the 8,239sqm, 99-year leasehold land.

A Singapore Land Authority spokesman said the one-year extension was offered to operator Excalibur Leisure, which sublets space to mainly F&B outlets.

"The extension is intentionally kept short to facilitate the tenant giving up the property once it is triggered for sale," he said.
"The alternative would be to leave the premises vacant and under-utilised while awaiting sale."
But this interim arrangement also means that the tenants' future hangs in the balance.

The buildings on the site, dating back to the 1920s, have housed food and lifestyle businesses since 2000.
The conserved police station, facing East Coast Road, is home to the 24-hour Old Hong Kong teahouse which opened in 2006.

Its director, Hong Kong-born Singaporean Victoria Li, 47, said: "I've friends in the property sector who took an interest (in the Katong Village site) but are still a long way from deciding to buy this place.
"There are three reasons - the economy is not doing that well, there are too many building restrictions and the few hotels in this area average only a 60 per cent occupancy rate," she added.

Since 2009, Ms Li said she has been offered contracts of differing lengths from six months to a year, and as short as three months.
These short-term leases have made it difficult for businesses to stay rooted and build up a regular customer base.

But Ms Catherine Wong, director of the 200-seat Wine Bos restaurant that closed in July after a year of operation, is still on the lookout for new premises.

"Katong Village is a quaint little area which is not facing the main road. I thought it'd be good to retain the good mix of tenants and turn it into a mini-Dempsey area," she said of the site's potential.

Indeed, Katong Village, in a part of Singapore famed for its Peranakan heritage and eateries that sell Katong laksa, among other food, has over the years attracted businesses keen to tap that buzz, and add to it.
In 2000, there was makanmakan@Katong which opened to much fanfare but fizzled out within two years.
In 2006, popular food establishments Waraku Japanese restaurant, Samy's Curry and Samba Brazilian Steakhouse opened in Katong Village but have since closed.

Now, the area is usually deserted, except on weekend nights when patrons visit the two remaining watering holes.

Source: The Straits Times – 5 October 2012