New lease of life for lifestyle centre

New lease of life for lifestyle centre

It has been an uphill battle for tenants at a lifestyle centre in Serangoon Gardens which was built as a buffer between a foreign workers' dormitory and landed properties in the area.
But the tenants at the Lifestyle Hub @ Burghley have finally managed to breathe some life into the development.

Business has as much as doubled from last year, said the tenants who operate art workshops, sports facilities, eateries and education centres.

This was after taking matters into their own hands by organising carnivals and roadshows, designing and printing thousands of fliers, and giving out freebies.

The owner of My Art Studio, Mr William Lee, 40, who was the first tenant on the 6,880 sq m site - which is slightly larger than a football field - said that nine tenants decided to unite last year "to change a desert into an oasis for kids".

The 40-year-old, who spearheaded the drive, said: "We knew we needed to drive awareness for this place. It was so dead. No one knew about this place, no one came." Tenants, he said, have spent about $10,000 out of their own pockets in total.

It has been a series of fits and starts for the site's master tenant Hean Nerng Facilities Management, since it won the tender for the state-owned site in 2010.

Then, the site's three single-storey blocks were found to be plagued by electricity brown-outs, leaky roofs and termites. After six-month-long renovations, three tenants moved in.

The number of tenants inched up until early this year, then two - a cafe and a music school - threw in the towel because business was dismal.

Things had turned a corner by the middle of the year, when the centre's 15 units were full and its tenant-mix stable.

Mr Kelvin Lim, the managing director of LHN Group, Hean Nerng's parent company, said that it took some time to get the place up and running as they had to ensure that the sub-tenants complemented each other.
"Also it was difficult to attract tenants and customers initially as we were sited next to the workers' dormitory which residents had major concerns over," he said, adding that this led to negative publicity.

The site is 15m away from a foreign workers' dormitory and is separated from it by a 2m-high fence. They both share the plot that used to house Serangoon Garden Technical School. The centre was carved out to form a buffer between the dormitory and houses in the area, after more than 1,400 residents petitioned against the building of the dormitory there.

It seems that the worst is over.

The good spell, however, may be short-lived - a sore point for several tenants there. The lease for the site ends mid-2014. The Urban Redevelopment Authority has zoned the site for residential development in Master Plan 2008.

When contacted, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which manages the site, said that Hean Nerng had just started its final two-year-term in July. "Should the planning authority subsequently allow for further interim use, we will put up the site for tender," said an SLA spokesman, adding that Hean Nerng can also participate in the tender.

Source: The Straits Times – 8 October 2012