PropertyGuru Property Report No.168 (October - November 2021)

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86 RAIL TRACKS POSITIVE IN ASIA

INDIA LIMITS PANDEMIC PAIN 78

96 ANGRY KOREANS SHOOT FOR MOON

ROCHOR REVIVAL IN SINGAPORE 66

70 CHINA COOLS IT ON HOUSE PRICES

USD10; SGD13; IDR135,000; MYR41; THB330

SRI LANKA’S TROPICAL TRAILBLAZER 50

NO. 168 asiapropertyawards.com/newsroom

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Grand Trinity

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UOL

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HZS Design

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Home Away from Home

Ametus

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Ametus

BEACHWALK RESIDENCE

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ISSUE 168 Publisher Jules Kay Editor Duncan Forgan Deputy Editor Al Gerard de la Cruz Senior Editor Richard Allan Aquino Digital Editor Gynen Kyra Toriano Media Relations & Martketing Services Manager Thaddeus Siu Senior Media Relations Executive Tanattha Saengmorakot Media Relations & Marketing Services Executive Piyachanok Raungpaka Product Lifecycle Marketing Manager Marco Dulyachinda Editorial Contributors Liam Aran Barnes, Bill Bredesen, Diana Hubbell, Steve Finch, George Styllis, Jonathan Evans Head of Creative Ausanee Dejtanasoontorn Senior Graphic Designer Poramin Leelasatjarana Sales Director Udomluk Suwan Regional Manager of Awards Sponsorship Kanittha Srithongsuk Business Development Executive, Sponsor Partnership Priyamani Srimokla (Priya) Thaikom Chaitrakulpibuool (Chris) Regional Solutions Manager Orathai Chirapornchai Solutions Manager (Australia) Watcharaphon Chaisuk (Jeff) Solutions Manager (Cambodia) Phumet Puttasimma (Champ) Solutions Manager (India and Sri Lanka) Monika Singh Solutions Manager (Indonesia) Amanda Michelle Wulan Putri Solutions Manager (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) Huiqing Xia (Summer) Kai Lok Solutions Executive (Malaysia) Samuel Poon Solutions Manager (Myanmar) Nyan Zaw Aung (Jordan) Solutions Manager (Philippines) Marylourd Pique Maria Elena Sta. Maria Business Development Manager, Corporate Sales (Singapore) Alicia Loh Solutions Manager (Thailand) Kritchaorn Rattanapan Rattanarat Srisangsuk Solutions Manager (Vietnam) Quan Nguyen (Val)

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Distribution Manager Rattanaphorn Pongprasert Editorial Enquiries duncan@propertyguru.com Advertising Enquiries petch@propertyguru.com Distribution Enquiries ying@propertyguru.com PropertyGuru Property Report is published six times a year by

© 2021 by PropertyGuru Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission of the publisher KDN PPS 1662/10/2012 (022863)

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CONTENTS | Issue 168

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Gadgets

Trends

Style

Play it cool with appliances that stay innovative and intelligent when the heat is on

These space-saving kitchen furniture choices will help you cook up a storm

Make a killing this spooky season with haunting, moody décor

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Project Confidential: Business is blooming

Interview: Aussie rules

Design Focus: Tropical tonic

One of China’s largest botanical gardens takes root inside a Chongqing shopping mall

Lui Violanti, chair of PropertyGuru’s Australia awards series, says the property scene Down Under will continue to entice Asian investors

Nandike Samaranayake of ACS Integrated is honouring Sri Lanka’s remarkable architectural legacy through his work

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CONTENTS | Issue 168

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Neighbourhood Watch: Rochor

Destination: China

Destination: South Asia

The charismatic central enclave is establishing itself as one of Singapore’s key property investment hubs

Beijing’s push for “common prosperity” has put the squeeze on property prices in major cities and emerging markets alike

India has seen residential sales plunge, but the vast country is well placed to ride out the storm

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Special Feature: Along the right lines

Dispatch: Moon’s shine fades

Dispatch: Pause for effect

New transit lines and upgrades in Asia’s metropolises are taking the strain of overloaded roads and opening new investment frontiers

Haunted by soaring property prices, South Korea’s leader is eyeing the 2022 presidential elections with trepidation

A surge in interest from domestic buyers and strong fundamentals offer hope for Thailand’s second-home investment destinations

Damosa Land Inc.

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EDITOR’S NOTE Issue 168

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This time last year in my editor’s note I said that some green shoots for the post-pandemic world were beginning to make themselves apparent. I’ll hold my hand up and admit that — on the surface at least — that prediction hasn’t worn all that well.

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In the intervening 12 months we’ve witnessed destructive waves around Asia, with paralyzing restrictions as a result.

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It’s been a frustrating year, of that there is no question. But our crystal ball gazing wasn’t entirely flawed. Some fledgling possibilities are becoming more robust, while others continue to emerge. We turn our attention to all these this issue. In our special feature, we look at how rail infrastructure in some of the region’s most crowded cities is opening fresh perspectives for investors. These new lines are connecting suburbs to urban centres, thus providing scope for outward growth. We venture Down Under to hear why a senior real estate insider believes that Australia is still a fair dinkum bet for Asian property seekers. India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Singapore are among the other destinations we touch upon in this globe-trotting emerging markets edition. We also pay a trip to a mall in Chongqing, China where business is—literally— blooming in the form of a dramatic botanical garden. Who says there aren’t any green shoots appearing? Enjoy!

Duncan Forgan Property Report duncan@propertyguru.com

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DETAILS | Gadgets

ABOVE ALL

COOL RUNNINGS

The PLY 4-way cassette-type air-conditioner will fit into most ceilings, with an outlet that lets air spread above and fall slowly, preventing draughts. Built with a 3D i-See sensor, this AC can monitor your temperature and location, then automatically adjust its airflow and temperature.

Create pockets of cool for you—and your prized perishables—with appliances that stay innovative and intelligent in any sweltering clime. Brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric

$2,000-4,000, depending on size th.mitsubishielectric.com/ en/products-solutions/airconditioning/index.html JUST CHILLING Equipped with plasma technology, the LN Series inverter airconditioner filters out most microscopic particles—a cool tool against epidemics. Its proprietary 3D i-See Sensor detects your body’s temperature and makes smart adjustments to its own, while the “Poki Poki” motor controls airflow precisely, ensuring energy efficiency.

CHILL ACTION The four-door, touchscreen-controlled L4 Grande refrigerator smartly adjusts its temperature according to the items inside and room conditions. Even in subzero temperatures, meats in its chilling case can be sliced easily later without much defrosting. The Orange LED feature, meanwhile, prolongs your greens’ nutrients.

$1,200-1,500, depending on size mitsubishi-kyw.co.th/en/Refrigerator/ index.html

$1,500-2,000, depending on size mitsubishielectric.com/ products/airconditioning/ln/ index.html

DEEP BREATH FAIR-WEATHER FAN The 3D Flow Fan R12A-DA not only oscillates left and right; it can turn 90 degrees up or even do a full 180 vertically, great for air circulation. With a direct-current motor and special blades, it generates large volumes of air in breezy silence.

$300 mitsubishielectric.com/en/productssolutions/home/seasons/index.html

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The Lossnay VL-100 energy recovery ventilator (ERV) throws stale air out and lets fresh air in, free of PM2.0 particles. It also reduces your AC’s workload by lowering the temperature of clean air as it fills your room. Available in ceiling and wall-mounted types.

$500 mitsubishi-kyw.co.th/ Product/For-Business/ Intelligent-Ventilator-Business. aspx?lang=EN 25


DETAILS | Trends

GATHER ROUND

WHAT’S COOKING

If you need a quick rest or nibble while cooking, take a seat at the Seno table by Article. Made of scratch-resistant American white oak with thin splayed legs, the 47-inch-wide table will give your kitchen a mid-century modern look. Also comes in walnut.

Fit out your kitchen with smart, space-saving furniture choices that will have you blowing chef’s kisses

$699 article.com

SMORGAS-BOARD The six-foot-high Buffet of Buffets by Home Styles stores and flaunts your kitchenware in an open central shelf and hutch with adjustable shelves and wood-framed Plexiglas cabinet doors. It also has three utility drawers and a removable storage bin that easily fits nine wine bottles.

Up to $913 homestylesfurniture.com BUNCH OF CROCKS

TALL ORDER For your kitchen bar, the Indonesian-made Brando stool from the Safavieh Home Collection makes for a relaxing seat with a rattan backrest and upholstery of polyacrylic and brown cushion. Standing 28 inches high on mahogany legs, the stool can accommodate up to 250 pounds.

From $252 safavieh.com

Save your wall from nailing pot racks and just store your kitchenware in the Enclume Cookware Stand. This freestanding rack offers six sturdy shelves in a frame of hammered steel or solid copper that gracefully tapers to a height of about 54 inches.

$371 enclume.com

STOCKED STACKS Only five inches wide, the slim Yamazaki cart can be wheeled around the kitchen into impossible nooks between your appliances, islands and counters. Each shelf of this non-plastic, Japanese-inspired cart can support up to six kilograms of your spices, oils and condiments.

$120 theyamazakihome.com

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DETAILS | Style

LOCUS FOCUS

VAUNT ED HOUSE

If you press this kooky, seveninch-long doorbell by Nobie Vivid, a three-dimensional “eyeball” will open its lids and light up green with bedeviling vocals and horror music. Look for the mounting hole and iron ring on the back for easy hanging.

Let your home come alive this spooky season with positively haunting, moody décor

$26 amazon.com

SMELLS SCARY Come for the bewitching pink champagne scent of the black Vetiver d’Orient candle by L’Objet; stay for its luxe box. The handcrafted container is made of Limoges porcelain and 24k gold, embellished with a spider finial detail for the ultimate Halloween trinket.

$150 l-objet.com

HEAD WITH HEELS

SQUASH UP K&K Interiors’ artificial pumpkins are spellbinding autumnal ornaments to show off with their velvety surface and gold filigree stems. You may choose from a variety of colours, including burgundy, orange, green and white, in sizes up to 12 inches wide and 14 inches tall.

From $49 kkinteriors.com

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Why go for table legs when you can have a whole skull? The skeletal pedestal of Design Toscano’s Lost Souls table, topped with pencil-edged glass, is a gothic statement piece. The skull is handcast in resin with real crushed stone in faux bone finish.

$289 designtoscano.com

SUPER NATURAL Deaden your hallway or front yard with Grandin Road’s gnarly Spooky Tree, which features flexible branches festooned with orange mini-lights. Stake these ghostly polyvinyl-andiron creations, which rise to six feet tall, into the ground or just let them twinkle on a stand indoors.

From $129 grandinroad.com

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ADVERTORIAL

ADVERTORIAL

HIGHS AND LOWS Developers in the Thai capital make a pivot towards low-rise living, by popular demand from pandemic-weary property seekers and investors

Thonglor station of the BTS Sukhumvit Line, Bangkok’s main mass transit line. Vacant land along the route saw an annual price index increase of 34% in Q1 2021. With Walden Thonglor 8, investors can capitalise on a recurring income programme that guarantees returns of 7% within two years. The limited-time offer starts at just THB500,000.

Today’s property seekers are justified to look for lowrise residential developments. High-density living has been known to increase the transmission rates of harmful pathogens, especially virulent diseases like Covid-19 which seem to thrive in cramped spaces. In Thailand, not only do property seekers demand more privacy; they clamour for low-density spaces with which they can exercise safe distancing—and it shows. After three consecutive quarters of declines, the price index of lowrise houses in Greater Bangkok recorded an increase in the first quarter of 2021, data from the Real Estate Information Center (REIC) shows. Unsurprisingly, Thai property developers are making a pivot to low-rise projects amid the third wave of the pandemic. One of them, Habitat Group, has been a pioneer in this regard. “As the condo market slows down, we should not add new supply to the market or in locations where we’ve launched or developed,” Habitat Group CEO Chanin Vanijwongse tells Thai press. 30

Habitat Group had trailblazed the philosophy of “LowRise, High-Living” a few years before the pandemic. In a prescient move, the developer embraced the idea of developing horizontal or low-rise residential properties but with all the amenities of a vertical development. A formidable market player not just in Bangkok but also in Pattaya, Habitat Group has switched high-rise condominium projects for low-rise developments in its prime landbanks around the Thai capital. One of these is Walden Thonglor 8, a one-of-a-kind luxury project in one of Bangkok’s most coveted neighbourhoods. Secluded from the chaos of the city in Thonglor 8 Alley, the eight-storey project has only 117 units on offer. As the most coveted location in the Thai capital, Thonglor experiences meteoric land price rises each year. In 2019 before the pandemic, a 658-square-wah site in the neighbourhood was sold for a record THB1.9bn. Walden Thonglor 8 is a rewarding investment solution as much as a comfortable home for end users and owneroccupiers. The development is only five minutes from the

“With Grade A locations scarce, especially along Sukhumvit Road and the BTS route, land prices are at a premium,” Chanin tells Thai media. Residents will appreciate Walden Thonglor 8’s proximity to major shopping centres such as The EmQuartier, The Emporium, and Terminal 21, as well as supermarkets, parks and tourist attractions. The Thonglor commercial area is filled with well-known F&B options, from classy restaurants to charming cafés.

The development is created like a “vertical garden,” with landscaping to encompass and add more privacy to the building. The rooftop alone is an “urban forest” where residents can reconnect with nature and laze away among green, aquatic elements and amenities such as a waterfall stone wall, fountain, lap pool, onsen tub, pool terrace, and floating walkway. In support of the “new normal lifestyle,” the project offers Nasket service, a revolutionary ecosystem that allows residents to order grocery, food, and more from a tablet. Habitat Group has also partnered with JALUX, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, to provide a range of five-star, hotel-like services to residents and homeowners. Walden Thonglor 8 is proof that a luxurious haven of peace and quiet need not rise to the skies—it can be down to earth, too.

At the same time, Walden Thonglor 8 affords homeowners a level of solitude and privacy only associated with homes on the fringes of Bangkok. The building is fronted by a unique tinted glass façade that mirrors the sky during the day, ensuring that prying bystanders do not have a view of the interiors. At night, the warmly lit, high-ceilinged multi-purpose rooms create a charismatic display of the building. The project is incredibly well-lit by day, thanks to a widefrontage layout and full-height windows with 12mm-thick low-E glass, reducing heat transfer and energy consumption. A courtyard at the central hallway features a skylight roof and allows ventilation to circulate around the building.

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BUSINESS IS BLOOMING One of China’s largest botanical gardens takes root, not in the wide-open spaces of a city, but inside a Chongqing shopping mall BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ

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onsumers from China would normally be trawling luxury stores in Europe or North America. But with the pandemic corralling cashed-up shoppers—they purchased €47bn ($55bn) in luxury goods within the mainland last year—business is booming for China’s retail sector. In a Chongqing shopping mall, it is also blooming. Inside The Ring Chongqing, the new retail destination by Hongkong Land, grows a 6,000-square-metre botanical garden, one of China’s largest. The 430,000-sqm development in Chongqing’s Jinzhou business district is the first of many “Rings” that, according to Hongkong Land chief executive Robert Wong, will herald “the future of retail.”

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ENCASED IN A GLASSHOUSE-LIKE ENVELOPE, THE 6,000-SQM INDOOR BOTANICAL GARDEN IN THE RING CHONGQING IS ONE OF CHINA’S LARGEST

China’s largest automobile manufacturing base and producer of one-third of the world’s laptops, the 31-million-strong city of Chongqing has enough purchasing power to propel mall culture forward. The Ring Chongqing has a built-in consumer base in adjacent Yorkville North, Hongkong Land’s 9,800-unit residential project bordering Zhaomushan forest. Featuring a ring-like, L-shaped layout from Hong Kong architecture firm PH Alpha Design, the mall fronts a 14,000sqm retail street and a 111,000-sqm office complex. The site showcases China’s taste for “a new form of commercial space,” says PH Alpha Design director Ping Xu in a statement. Fresh off work on 11 SKIES, Hongkong Land’s giant airport development, design studio Lead8 stepped in the project in 2018 for a “major design intervention.” “In the pre-Covid-19 days, a lot of shopping centres to us felt very monotonous,” says Lead8 co-founder and executive director Simon Chua. “The experience is the same from city to city. They don’t take on too much of a different identity apart from the tenant mix and the shops. The IP is not good enough anymore.” In a sketch, Chua et al ideated something unique: a botanical park contorted into a 154,000-sqm mall. As the building’s main visual anchor, the park would mine the best practices of biophilia, the idea that affinity for nature is intrinsic to humans. “That sketch was the sketch. That was the turning point,” Chua says. “The client looked at it on the wall and said, ‘Wow, we never thought about that before.’” With China Constructor Third Engineering Bureau, builder of the 354m-high Raffles City Chongqing, on board, the project broke ground by July 2019. The plot, accessed from Jinzhou Avenue and Huangjue East Road, lent itself well to building the seven-level mall. “A lot of the foundation was really solid granite like in Hong Kong,” says Chua. 34

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“We didn’t have to drill down and bury hundreds and hundreds of metres of piles. The challenges are there but the city has a very good foundation.” The project called for sufficient tonnages of quality soil, especially in the microclimate-controlled sunken plaza where many of the flora would take root. “We didn’t believe in putting plants in a box,” says Chua. Procuring a nutritious soil mix was also key to success. As was timing: The plants were procured early, then taken to a designated space for observation in transit to the mall. “Moving plants around too often can be very damaging for them,” explains Chua. “A lot of time was spent thinking about how they could adjust to the climate on the site before we moved them into a permanent space.” With Shenzhen-based interior landscaper Popjoy Design, Lead8 sourced some 70,000 plants across 300 species for the project, with “thousands more” scrapped due to budget and practicalities like plant height and adaptability to indoor environments. The gardenscapes run almost the

THE ELEVATED WALKWAYS ALL HELP TO CREATE INTIMACY WITH NATURE AND EXTEND THE GARDENS VERTICALLY. IT’S NOT JUST THE IDEA OF BEING IN THE BOTANICAL PARK BUT ALSO HOW THE BOTANICAL PARK CAN COEXIST WITH THE COMMERCIAL SPACE

HONG KONG DESIGN PRACTICE LEAD8 MADE SURE TO CURATE THE RETAIL FLOW IN THE RING CHONGQING FROM THE MOMENT SHOPPERS STEP OUT OF CHONGQING METRO LINE 5, TO WHICH THE MALL HAS A DIRECT CONNECTION THE INDOOR BOTANICAL PARK COMPLEMENTS SPECIAL ACTIVITY HUBS LIKE OPEN LAB, A SPACE FOR READING AND LEISURELY GATHERING

entire height of the mall, from the sunken plaza on Basement One (B1) to the L6 level. Mature trees are suspended from above as hanging fixtures, creating an “aerial forest.” Seeing such a tableau of greenery only from a worm’s-eye view would have been an awful waste of space. Spiralling up the garden is an interconnected series of vertiginous steel ramps, the Oasis Walk, designed by Lead8 to have shoppers engage with the garden at all levels. “The elevated walkways all help to create intimacy with nature and extend the gardens vertically,” says Chua. “It’s not just the idea of being in the botanical park but also how the botanical park can coexist with the commercial space.” Ratcheting up the biophilic factor are 24m-high waterfalls, distributing humidity around the foliage, its cascading sounds soothing shoppers. At night, 3D projections are mapped out on the falls, further eliciting visceral responses from people. Sensors, which work with the HVAC systems to

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optimise temperatures and ventilation around the garden, detect anomalies in humidity. “Humidity is the biggest enemy for retail, but it is also the friendliest element to the plants,” says Chua. “You’ve got to look after both.” See-through curtain walls, punctuated by multi-level reading and social spaces called Open Lab, keep the garden sunlit. They also provide a visual connection to the retail street outside, landscaped by Australia’s Aspect Studios. The walls shoot up to a 42m-high dome, reinforced by vertical steel frames. “It was very challenging to keep the vertical frame in place without bending because it does create a very strong torsional effect on the structure,” says Chua. “We had to use a lot of temporary structures during the construction stage to stop it from bending.” The mall is made to recall a “mountain city,” with curved ceramic tiles and striated aluminium panels on its façade symbolising breeze, wind and cloud. The mountain theme

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BY DRAWING VISITORS CLOSE TO AERIAL LEVELS OF THE INDOOR GARDEN, THE SERIES OF ELEVATED RAMPS KNOWN AS OASIS WALK ACCOMPLISHES THE PROJECT’S BIOPHILIC GOALS

CLOSE TO NATURE The resurgence of the biophilia design movement comes at a critical time for placemaking. The concept, first hypothesised by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson in 1984, has gained traction with shifting circulation patterns and growing health and wellness standards after the pandemic. In China, design stakeholders would be hard-pressed to find a better sector with which they can test the biophilia hypothesis than retail. Shopping malls last year added 8 million square metres to the supply in major Chinese cities, according to CBRE. “A shopping mall is a busy, intense kind of space,” says Simon Chua. “Living through almost one and a half years of Covid has made us realise the importance of placemaking in the future.” Environments suffused with plants trigger a 15% productivity increase in occupants, according to a report by organisational psychologist Cary Cooper. However, biophilia is more than just adding plants to a room. Nature can be assimilated into internal spaces and architectural structures in the form of brass, bronze and wood, as well as the use of warm tones, according to David Buffonge, co-founder and executive director of Lead8. With a push from pandemic protocols, mall spaces will increasingly accommodate open layout concepts and formats, leading to what he calls “retail without borders.” Design innovators today can manipulate biophilic elements into producing good health corollaries. Says Chua: “Every architect has the responsibility to come up with something that addresses placemaking post-Covid. We’ll see what will come next.”

AS THE MALL’S RETAIL PLANNER AND INTERIOR DESIGNER, LEAD8 OPTIMISES NAVIGABILITY THROUGH THE BUILT SPACE WITH WELL-DESIGNED, CONSPICUOUS SIGNAGES

continues inside, to the stepped design of the gardenfacing balconies. The terracing of the balconies generates more sightlines around the garden. “If you have such a beautiful space in the building, it will be a waste for some of the floors above not to see everything,” says Chua. Speciality areas anchor every level of The Ring Chongqing, which holds 74,000 sqm in net leasable areas. These include a “commune village” on the L4 and L5 levels with interlocking, double-storey shopfronts for F&B tenants. On the L2 level is a 3,000-sqm STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) play centre, Kidzplorer. A sports zone, Free+, spans three levels of the mall. The Ring Chongqing opened in April, concluding a threeyear development sprint from design to construction. “Everything in China happens at lightning speed—a decade is too long,” says Chua. “A decade is the amount of time China needs to put up a high-speed rail across the entirety of the country.”

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The subterranean levels of the mall are connected to Chongqing’s Metro Line 5. It fell on Lead8 to curate the retail journey from the moment customers alight at Chongguang station, below basement level. “And before you know it, the botanical garden is right in front of you,” Chua says. “The fact that people discover a botanical park inside a building—it’s the least of what you expect when you go into any commercial space.” Lead8 holds out hope for the mainstreaming of biophilic retail environments after the pandemic. For Chua, it lets younger people comprehend their place in the greater scheme of the biosphere. “I know I’ll have to bring my children because the garden has educational value in addition to just the experience of shopping.” It becomes a learning experience for his demographic cohorts, too. “You will be seeing a lot of biophilic thinking and design coming very, very soon,” says Chua. “But it’s inevitable. People need nature. Nature doesn’t need people.”

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Aussie rules Lui Violanti, an experienced architect and chair of PropertyGuru’s Australia awards series, believes that the property scene Down Under will continue to bear fruit for Asian investors BY BILL BREDESEN

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When we caught up with him, he had just spent the morning on site at another commercial project in Perth, where he was overseeing extensive rebuilding work on a century-old Victorian building in a retail area, including the faithful recreation of its historic mouldings. “The world is an open canvas for us. Every day is a new challenge where I say I’ve never done that before,” he says. Inhabit has 22 offices worldwide, including one in Perth. The company works with architects, builders and developers to craft and engineer unique facades. “Now, as I’m in the autumn of my career, it’s the subtleties I enjoy most: working with really good designers, people who are very considerate in how they design—and not just being part of the biggest or tallest towers,” he says. In addition to the design challenges, Violanti says he is also constantly seeking new ways to promote sustainable development, noting the world is “past the tipping point” and “we can’t put our heads in the sand anymore.” He points to Europe’s strict standards as a future model for the rest of the world. “We don’t have that level of sophistication because we’re not forced to do it—yet,” he says. “But that knowledge and those processes have to translate to Australia. And I’m pretty sure in places like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Shanghai—all these cities have to follow suit. We can’t keep going the way we are.”

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t the University of Western Australia in Perth is an engineering building whose eye-catching new facade features a veil created by overlapping aluminium petals that provide shading and thermal control. According to the architects, the design is also a reference to a repeating mathematical pattern related to a sun symbol.

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The veil, recently installed by Lui Violanti and the global facade consultancy Inhabit, is an example of how new design technology and sustainability standards are being leveraged to create building facades that are increasingly efficient, economical, and technologically advanced. An architect with three decades of experience, Violanti is the chair of PropertyGuru’s Australia awards series.

THE EYE-CATCHING NEW FAÇADE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA BY GLOBAL FAÇADE CONSULTANCY INHABIT IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE KIND OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN CHAMPIONED BY LUI VIOLANTI

I’ve seen emerging cities, which were small—and now you go there and there’s 15 or 20 million people, and they are bursting at the seams. They’re amazing but people are looking for different lifestyles

Why do you think Australian properties continue to have such strong crossborder appeal to Asian, and especially ASEAN, investors? Australia is a place where even our mega cities, like Melbourne and Sydney, have space and gardens. They offer access to recreation, parks, and good public transport. The lifestyle is nice and it’s moderately priced. I wouldn’t say life is inexpensive, but it’s moderate compared to some big cities around the world.

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Broadly speaking, how has foreign investment held up amid the pandemic? Investment in Australia overall has increased because our economy is still growing. Our mining sector has gone exponential and that has been a product of China. When it comes to investment in property, that’s where it’s dipped. I think people are stopping for a moment, taking a breath and seeing what happens. A big chunk of real estate development is based on students from Asia, as I mentioned. That has dried up because the borders are shut. As an investment destination, I think Australia will be one of the first to jump up again post-Covid.

DECADES OF IMMIGRATION HAVE ALREADY LENT A STRONG ASIAN FLAVOUR TO CONURBATIONS AROUND AUSTRALIA

In my travels in Asia, I’ve seen emerging cities, which were small—and now you go there and there’s 15 or 20 million people, and they are bursting at the seams. They’re amazing but people are looking for different lifestyles, and as families become more affluent they start asking: What can we do for our children? A lot of money flowing into Australia comes from parents who want their children to have a better life here. We have a large population of students from Asia who come here for university and stay. Many start their careers and even their 44

families here. Australia is a multicultural country that embraces all nationalities and people. A lot gets made of rising prices in Australia—and there’s a view that Asian investors are partly responsible. What’s your take on this? I think this is a worldwide phenomenon. I don’t think it’s any different in Australia than say L.A., London, or any major city where property prices are rising. Property could only expand out to suburbia so far.

AUSTRALIAN CITIES SUCH AS SYDNEY COMBINE VIBRANCY WITH LIFESTYLE PERKS SUCH AS PLENTY OF GREEN SPACE, MAKING THEM ATTRACTIVE FOR ASIAN INVESTORS

Also, building costs are increasing and people are more affluent than they used to be. Is it a product of Asian investment? I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on the reason why. People buy real estate as an investment—because they want it to increase in value so they can sell it and buy a larger property, seeking better returns. People don’t live in a house for 30 years anymore.

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MELBOURNE HAS BEEN SUBJECTED TO NUMEROUS STRICT LOCKDOWNS, BUT VIOLANTI BELIEVES THAT ITS HARD LINE ON RESTRICTIONS WILL HELP ENHANCE ITS STATUS AS A SAFE BET FOR INVESTMENT

I know Australian developers rely on Asian (especially Chinese) manufacturers for supplies. What is the current state of supply chains? It’s terrible. A lot of our projects have been held up for months because of supply chain issues. There’s a shortage of containers in the market and prices for them have gone up fourfold or fivefold. So supply prices are also going up. Steel is up. Most building products are more expensive, not due to scarcity but because of the time it takes to get here—the longer lead times. Now the market is saying: We want local products. We don’t mind paying extra for more certainty and the perceived quality of local products. We’re happy to pay more because we have more control over it—rather than something coming out of a plant in Asia that may take an extra five months. Our local industries are booming because there’s this push for local content. 46

Many parts of Australia have implemented strict lockdown measures during Covid-19. What’s the feeling among developers about the post-pandemic real estate landscape? In the old days for commercial builders, we just had offices in office buildings. Then came hot desks and “first-come” seating and open lounges. I think floor plans will be reduced and there’ll be an effort to work out hybrid systems—a roster for ins and outs. That’s already happening now. Residential, I think, will recover. I think Australia will be seen post-Covid as one of the safer countries, and more accessible, and people will say the government took hard steps early but maybe they paid off. I think the property sector is going to be steadier in its overall growth—not exponential. I think it’ll be more controlled. But, saying that, I think a lot

PERTH, WHERE VIOLANTI IS BASED, IS ANOTHER AUSTRALIAN MARKET WITH HUGE APPEAL FOR ASIAN INVESTORS

of companies also have money stashed away that they haven’t invested. Maybe Australia will be one of those places where they can get a quick return. As chair of PropertyGuru’s Australia awards series, could you talk a bit about your history and role with the awards?

As an architect, I see projects that I can’t imagine getting involved in. They’re so vast and massive that I look around Australia and think: If we only could! When we’re judging awards and see a development that comes out of Indonesia that’s the size of a city—a small city—we go: Well, someone has actually created a city. It’s mind-blowing.

This will be the third year I’ve been involved in the awards. The first year was an amazing introduction to what it was—because I didn’t actually know how big an event it was until I actually got immersed in it. To take the stage in Bangkok at the awards and see so many high-profile developers from around the world is an incredible honour. I try to explain it to people here. Perth is a city of 2.5 million people. These awards cover two-thirds of the world’s population. That is a big chunk of people you get exposure to. 47


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A Diamond in Davao Comprehensive, sustainable urban planning and thoughtfully developed residential real estate conspire to take the southernmost Philippine city to boomtimes ahead

aimed for organic architecture and design to effect lasting, positive impact on the community. One of The Diamond Heights’ unique features is its underground rainwater retarding pond, which helps ensure that the barangay (village) remains a floodfree neighbourhood. “Beyond simply developing for profit, our ultimate goal is to elevate their home experience, and we’ve ensured to bring this to Diamond Heights as well,” says Chuah. The Diamond Heights was constructed to the highest specifications with careful planning. The structures utilise polypropylene (PPR) water lines, cast-inplace wall systems, and aluminium powder-coated windows. They also integrate such quality finishes as 600x600 tiles, quartz kitchen countertops, brass shower fixtures, and fibre cement boards.

Davao City, the populous metropolis near the Philippines’ tallest peak, Mount Apo, is scaling greater heights. The southern port city of 1.6 million is growing at such a fast economic clip that officials are firming up plans to pilot its progress and development in a more sustainable, efficient manner.

The Manila-based property developer’s investment in Davao reflects just how bullish national developers are on the city’s real estate sector. Wee Community Developers, Inc. is developing The Diamond Heights, a 25-hectare gated community in the fast-growing barangay of Communal, just 10 minutes from the Davao International Airport.

The world is taking notice too, with foreign governments from Japan to China in various stages of funding infrastructural developments that could change the city for good.

The residential project is being developed over five phases in progressive Buhangin district, close to major schools, health institutions, shopping centres and business areas. Within the community itself are ample green areas and open spaces for leisure and relaxation.

Before the pandemic in 2019, the Davao region, which includes Davao City and surrounding provinces, saw its GDP grow by 7%, outpacing the national average of 5.9%. With encouragement from JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), Davao officials are formulating a comprehensive urban master plan to transform the city into a highly industrialised, globally competitive metropolis with a safe, climate-resilient environment. “Davao’s stellar performance in the past few years, attributed to the frenzy of infrastructure and modernisation projects, signals indeed of the city’s positive economic outlook,” says Carlo Choa, VP for sales and marketing at property developer Wee Community Developers, Inc.

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While Davao’s housing market is saturated with bungalow-type units on lots with big cuts, The Diamond Heights banks on functionality. A horizontal development, The Diamond Heights offers 1,483 four- to five-bedroom houses in lot sizes ranging from 60 sqm to 100 sqm. “We’ve taken into consideration maximising the usage of the lot area,” explains Paolo Chuah, project director of The Diamond Heights. “We wanted to explore a better way to develop and utilise living spaces, so they can enjoy their homes more.” With an expert in-house team of architects and designers, Wee Community Developers, Inc.

get better value many times over in terms of functionality, specification, design and location. Set for turnover in 2023, The Diamond Heights’ growth will certainly run parallel to Davao’s. By interplaying organic architecture and superb craftsmanship, The Diamond Heights provides homeowners and investors a space of tranquillity and safety in a booming city. For more information on The Diamond Heights, please contact +63822446611 or visit www. facebook.com/OfficialDiamondHeightsDavao

“We wanted to bring Diamond Heights a notch higher than normal and offer a much greater value to the market,” says Carter Choa, one of the project architects and Wee Community Developers, Inc.’s vice-president for Technical. “We used stronger and more durable materials to provide a quality home that lasts.” In sync with Davao’s push towards becoming a climate-conscious metropolis, Wee Community Developers, Inc. procured sustainable materials and followed eco-friendly practices during development. The doors and jambs, for example, use recycled steel, while the roofs, walls and ceilings utilise framing, thus lowering the ecological impact of the project during construction. The design and layout of the house themselves promote energy efficiency: With large windows and ceiling heights of 2.9 metres, the interiors are bathed in natural light and ventilation. The houses exude character with various facade colours, trading excessive detail on the exterior for more elegant, understated geometrical shapes and vertical elements. The floor plan is open and expansive, with no protruding columns and beams, making it a very flexible living experience for occupants. Residential property seekers have realised the lucrative opportunity of owning homes at The Diamond Heights for reasons other than their own use, Wee Community Developers, Inc. reports. The prices on offer at The Diamond Heights remain affordable relative to other developments in the region. For their hard-earned money, investors

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Tropical tonic

With Sri Lanka emerging as an architecture hotspot, Nandike Samaranayake of ACS Integrated is honouring the legacy of Geoffrey Bawa, the island nation’s legendary design pioneer BY DIANA HUBBELL

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hen it comes to architectural design in Sri Lanka, the legacy and influence of Geoffrey Bawa are inescapable. Born Deshamanya Geoffrey Manning Bawa in Colombo, he single-handedly created tropical modernism, an architectural style that exerts considerable influence all over Southeast Asia to this day. The combination of clean lines, muted hues, and local wood, stone, and other materials conveys a level of sophistication and regional specificity that is unrivalled. “Geoffrey Bawa started practising in a time when there were major economic restrictions, so a lot of his architectural decisions were influenced by the materials that were available in Sri Lanka at that time,” says Nandike Samaranayake, director and principal architect at ACS Integrated, one of the island nation’s most respected practices. “I think the restrictions that he faced helped inspire the extreme talent that he had.” Samaranayake has a deep-rooted admiration for the master designer. Colonialism throughout Southeast Asia fostered a tendency to turn to western aesthetic and cultural ideals. When the British, French, and other powers arrived in the region, they sought to recreate the architecture of their homelands and touted it as inherently superior. Bawa, in contrast, borrowed elements from international vernacular architecture while putting a distinctly Sri Lankan twist on them. “He was a master of understanding and applying certain traditional materials, proportions, and use of space,” Samaranayake says. “He also incorporates colonial influences. We had Dutch and Portuguese occupations. By marrying these styles to local materials, he created a uniquely Sri Lankan style.” Today, examples of tropical modernism are ubiquitous throughout Sri Lanka and celebrated throughout the world. Yet for all of Sri Lanka’s architectural splendour, the nation did not have the chance to realise its full potential for decades. From 1983 to 2009, a bloody civil war ravaged the country and put any ambitious development projects and tourism plans on pause.

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They used to say that anything on the shoreline should not be higher than a coconut tree, so we had to change that mindset to get things done. It was time to bring proper commercial development to Sri Lanka because we have some of the finest beaches in the world

NANDIKE SAMARANAYAKE OF ACS INTEGRATED BELIEVES THAT SRI LANKA’S ARCHITECTS HAVE A MAJOR ROLE TO PLAY AS THE COUNTRY SETS ITS SIGHTS ON FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

“Sri Lanka was in suspended animation for 30 years because of the internal conflict,” Samaranayake says. “There was very little development and even the tourism was affected deeply during this time.”

In many cases, some of those locals have inherited land from their families and want to sell it to invest it in something more stable. Luxury condominiums are a particularly appealing option.

Lately, thanks to an extended period of peace, Sri Lankan development has finally hit its stride, albeit with a few setbacks. The nation boasts a stunning array of wildlife, breathtaking coastlines, and all manner of other attractions to lure affluent international tourists and investors. Stability inspires confidence and it is not difficult to see how Sri Lanka is ripe for the sort of development that has revitalised other nations in the region. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic then Colombo would be pushing ahead with its development,” says Samaranayake. “It’s happening, the infrastructure is in place. It’s actually in a good position overall, but it’s not a good time in the world in general.” Although the pandemic has certainly put the brakes on projects, Samaranayake maintains that there is light on the horizon. The last few years have seen a spate of new high-end, eco-chic resorts opening in Sri Lanka. Outside investment has serious potential, but much of the investment in Sri Lanka’s nascent luxury residential market is coming from within the country.

“We have a population of 20 million,” he says. “Imagine that just 1% of the population has money that they want to invest. Then you have 20,000 condominiums that could be sold and there aren’t 20,000 luxury condos currently in Colombo.” To fully utilise that potential, Samaranayake believes that Sri Lankan architects need to come up with innovative solutions that defy outdated conventions while still staying true to Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage. “They used to say that anything on the shoreline should not be higher than a coconut tree, so we had to change that mindset to get things done,” Samaranayake says. “It was time to bring proper commercial development to Sri Lanka because we have some of the finest beaches in the world.” Those beaches may someday host some of the most stunning resorts and condominiums in all of Asia. A new generation of designers and architects are ready to take on Bawa’s mantle in new and visually striking ways.

“There’s potential in the luxury residential market here,” Samaranayake says. “Think of it in these terms: Luxury condominiums are desirable for locals who have disposable income.” 52

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Skyloft Hotel, Kandy “Geoffrey Bawa incorporated traditional arts and crafts like batik into hotels. It was quite a hit because it highlights local craftsmanship,” says Samaranayake. Similarly, he incorporated several nods to the local culture into this stylish boutique hotel in the rolling hills around Kandy. “In Skyloft, some of the ceilings are painted like they are in the temples,” he says. “I wanted to embody the concept of a ceremonial procession but to do so in a somewhat more abstract manner. We commissioned a local artist to do a line drawing that captured some of that feeling.”

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Destiny Mall & Residency Towers, Colombo The early plans for this ambitious, mixed-use development came with a few fundamental flaws. “I had to point out that most of the units that they had planned were facing each other, so there was no privacy,” he says. “I told the client that they needed to rethink this. Then I pointed out how you can maximise the views by creating a view towards the outside, so we had to entirely redesign the towers from the ground upwards.” The result: Apartments with a view and considerably more of a sense of seclusion for residents.

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M2M Verandah Offices “We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to collaborate on this project,” Samaranayake says on working alongside the celebrated firm CoArchitects and PWA Architects, which were involved with landscape design and the design of the interior of the ground floor lobby. Upon completion, the M2M Verandah Offices promise to be an über-modern workspace, with bright, airy interiors and plenty of places for conferences, as well as organic meetings and exchanges of ideas. Clean lines, natural lighting, and geometric shapes all contribute to a stylish, contemporary environment engineered to help foster innovation. “It was quite an experience working with them,” he says.

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Nagananda International Institute for Buddhist Studies Although this university teaches other disciplines beyond Buddhist studies, it was important to the client that the design embodies a sense of harmony and serenity. “If you look at the layout, you’ll see that all of the feng shui is there,” Samaranayake says. While the initial space was striking, it felt too aesthetically tied to Chinese history and culture. The challenge was to craft something with a greater sense of place, without sacrificing the elements of feng shui that had been carefully incorporated. “We had to make it look and feel more Sri Lankan. One of the things that the donors insisted on was the golden roof tiles.”

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MAS Intimo – Innovation Centre MAS Holdings, a prominent garment manufacturer, wanted a truly eye-catching space to expand its corporate future. Although construction is currently on hold, the glassencased, undulating structure is already poised to become a true statement space. The project is a collaboration with RKA India, whose architect Ragi Kadiragamar has been lending his signature touch.

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Marriott at Weligama Bay “You will find that many Marriotts look similar because the requirements are somewhat regimented,” Samaranayake says. He wanted to find a way to make the hotel stand out while remaining within the hospitality behemoth’s strict guidelines. “Half of the building was facing the sea and half was facing the landside, but they wanted all the 200 rooms facing the sea.” By rearranging the layout, he created a resort that made better use of its location. Like Bawa, he also incorporated distinctive local materials. “In the treatment of the facade, we used this lava stone, which is lighter than granite. We had to work on the anchoring for it because it’s close to the sea, which can be quite corrosive.”

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Choice of colours BY JONATHAN EVANS

Encompassing some of Singapore’s most charismatic enclaves, Rochor is one of the island state’s key property investment hubs

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Anyone seeking out Singapore’s multi-ethnic heartland will eventually gravitate towards Rochor. Aside from hosting community bases for Indians and Malays—the latter signposted by iconic mosque Masjid Sultan—it’s a beacon for architectural advancement, embodied by LaSalle College of the Arts’ loveably askew headquarters. Rochor also houses the National Library and a dazzling array of commercial hubs including the massive, 24-hour Mustafa Centre. While its cosmopolitan sprawl may lack the scenic dazzle of the island’s exclusive waterside areas, Rochor benefits from its proximity to the CBD. And though the area is not synonymous with swank, its latest condo offerings evince newfound leanings for luxury and forward-thinking design.

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Midtown Bay

Masjid Sultan

The M @ Middle Road

Maison Ikkoku

Mustafa Centre

Ginett Restaurant & Wine Bar

Slated for vibrant Beach Road, GuocoLand’s latest integrated project is a mixed-use, work-live-play concept modelled along the lines of nearby residences such as Duo Residence and South Beach Residence. The 33-storey tower’s 219 units range in size from one to three bedrooms and also incorporate 40 adaptable duplex units. Midtown Bay’s facilities include a clubhouse, indoor gym, function room, tennis court, gardens, rooftop pool, running track and children’s playground complemented by Midtown Hub, a social club with office suites, networking lounges and meeting facilities. It all lies within easy reach of Suntec City’s convention centre and retail haven, several malls, three MRT stations, the imposing School of the Arts, and a smattering of country clubs.

A short walk from the once-infamous Bugis Street—immortalised in song by the late troubadour Leonard Cohen—stands this golden-domed gateway to the Kampong Glam enclave, which nowadays is a melting pot of Islamic cultures. The mosque was rebuilt in its current style in 1932 after it was built for Sultan Hussain Shah of Johor in the previous century, when a burgeoning Muslim population were migrating to “Singapura”, thus establishing Kampong Glam. Masjid Sultan has nonetheless remained largely unchanged since its inception and now acts both as a place of worship and an unmissable visual signifier of this buzzing area that— while foreign in conception—ironically now stands as a symbol of multicultural Singapore.

The M @ Middle Road by developer Wing Tai Asia is a mixed-use development on a strategic artery in Rochor slated for completion in 2024. Promoting a holistic living concept including plentiful work and recreation space, it features 522 residences across three 20-storey towers and a sixstorey tower with ground-level retail stores. With units split between one to threebedroom configurations, each living area is fitted with adaptable furniture to maximise space including sliding doors, moveable countertops, concealed storage space, and shifting partitions that can create an extra bedroom. Leisure options include a 50-metre pool, jacuzzi pool, rain garden, and a social club with a baking studio and gaming room. The innovative design is executed by long-established practice P+T Group while LaSalle College students produced artworks for the project.

A true original in the heart of Kampong Glam, this evergreen speakeasy recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Malaysian founder Ethan Leslie Leong, a veteran drinks-biz rock star, has continually refined his multi-awarded, industrial-chic bar over the years. It’s now also a distinguished Japanese fine-dining destination serving all-day seafood treats, as well as a 10-course omakase dinner selection. Booze and bonhomie make cosy bedfellows at Leong’s brainchild, where bespoke experimentation comes with select ingredients. Among the crowd-pleasers is his Journey of the West cocktail, which juxtaposes hojicha green tea with Bulleit Bourbon and Guinness reduction, and comes served with classy bar bites. Maison Ikkoku has multiple offshoots across the island-state including a specialist in Singapore Slings.

In a city-state where shopping is king, one of Singapore’s best-loved retail institutions celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Mustafa’s first incarnation opened on Little India’s Campbell Lane, selling ready-made clothing. In 1973, Mustafa added electronics and foreign goods to its inventory before moving to the now-defunct Serangoon Plaza to accommodate surging custom. Finally, in 1995, it became so successful that owner Mustaq Ahmad relocated the superstore to a vacant row of shophouses on nearby Syed Alwi Road, where it has remained ever since. On weekends Mustafa has drawn cosmopolitan crowds of over 15,000, making it known as an affordable retail paradise. The 24-hour store now covers four floors, and employs 1,400 staff. A popular inhouse rooftop restaurant, Kebabs ‘n’ Curries, serves Indian fusion fare.

This bistro-style French restaurant and wine bar occupies the ground floor of Middle Road’s fashionable Hotel G and comes with culinary credibility and trendsetting prowess. The space skews towards Instagrammers with high ceilings, an openplan design, and contemporary art on the walls. Culinary offerings are overseen by executive chef Sylvain Royer, winner of a coveted Maître Cuisinier de France award. An unapologetic party venue, Ginett’s clientele comprises large dining groups and casual Friday-night drinkers, with a wine list starting at $6 per glass and a semi-alfresco setup that helps separate more bibulous guests from the foodies. Its menu focuses on charcoal-grilled meats, imported cold cuts, and French cheese, plus high-grade seafood. In its fifth year, Ginett is a mainstay on lists of Singapore’s best French restaurants, which is no mean feat considering the competition on this gourmet-paradise island.

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FRUIT OF LABOUR

Even so, the construction and project management teams encountered difficulties during the delivery stages due to a dearth of building materials in Davao. The pandemic further compounded disruptions to the project.

An office tower becomes an emblem of Davao’s agricultural heritage and future as a tech-oriented business hub in the southern part of the Philippines

“Creating a building envelope that was never before seen in this region called for herculean logistical challenges for the curtain wall and architectural fin supplier,” recalls Saldaña. “We had to narrow down a selection of contractors and suppliers within a short radius to ensure both material standards and low-carbon footprint procurement.” Damosa Diamond Tower has large cuts of leasable spaces, which can be subdivided into smaller templates without compromising accessibility to the high-speed elevators and fire exits. Accessible from the main highway, the tower provides ample parking spaces, PWD facilities, bicycle racks and shower rooms. It also has retail spaces of its own, leasable to banks, convenience stores, cafes and restaurants. Common areas, including the elevator lobbies, feature elevated ceiling heights while lifestyle facilities, like the roof garden, gives occupants some of the best views of the city. Workplaces inside the tower provide those views without the glare. PDP Architects achieved this by creating distinctive exterior fins, casting shadows on the building at the right place and at the right time. Custom-manufactured per piece, the bespoke fins are placed at certain angles, filtering light as it enters the west-facing building. The wavy fins shimmer differently with every angle, catching light as a diamond would, hence the building name.

Over the past five years, an annual average of 25,000 square meters of office space have been completed in Davao City, according to JLL Philippines. Investors are lured to the city’s stable economic fundamentals and rich talent pool—often compared to Manila’s graduates. The pandemic also spotlights Davao as firms look to establish alternative workspaces closer to where talent lives. As developers compete for a slice of the Davao pie, one company remains a steadfast innovator in the city: Damosa Land. Through agri-rooted developments and partnerships with tech-savvy businesses, the Davao-based property developer still commands home advantage over its peers. In 2018, the developer began construction of Damosa Diamond Tower, a class-A green office building in the highly walkable Damosa IT Park, home to some of Mindanao’s first BPO (business process outsourcing) centres. The rise of Damosa Diamond Tower comes as Davao becomes an even more popular hotspot for the decentralising

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IT-BPO industry. In the last 10 years, lease transactions in the city have grown 28%, mostly driven by offshoring and outsourcing (O&O) firms, according to JLL Philippines. Future-readiness sets the Damosa Diamond Tower apart from other Davao office buildings. In response to the pandemic, the 15-storey project has integrated building materials with anti-microbial properties and minimised public touchpoints throughout its premises. With worldclass floor plans, flexible templates and high-speed elevators, the building is gearing for occupancy by multinational companies as well as local businesses. “Being future-ready means being flexible in terms of design and space,” says Cathy Saldaña, CEO and managing partner of PDP Architects, the design practice behind the project. “A future-ready office space means having designs that transcend current trends and spaces that offer spatial diversity, which opens options for workers to work in an area they are comfortable.”

The fins also serve another purpose: announce the heritage of the developer and the region overall. The building takes inspiration from the curve of the banana, Davao’s top export.

Still the project kept its sustainability goals on track, establishing materials recovery facilities and proper waste management during construction. Rain harvesting, rainwater catchment, and greywater recycling, along with water-saving faucets, are now key components of the building. Non-toxic materials were used for the fins, façade glass, flooring surfaces, walls, ceilings, and LED lights. “With environmental conservation awareness now rising, sustainability and green solutions are now important factors that people and companies nowadays are considering when choosing their workspaces,” says Saldaña. A landmark of contemporary real estate that reflects Damosa Land’s legacy and spirit of innovation, the tower is ready for business. Damosa Diamond Tower has recently achieved its final EDGE building certification from the IFC—the first office building in Mindanao to do so. “Overall, all of these elements contribute not just to design but also to the function,” Saldaña says. “So that form meets function, efficiency meets flexibility, and heritage meets the future.”

“We wanted a development that would translate Damosa Land’s agricultural and agri-business nature and will veer away from the typical box-looking building,” says Saldaña. “We took a slice of a banana tree, and seeing the fibres and the sinus, it became the inspiration for the architectural character that envelopes the building.” Furthermore, Damosa Land and the design team followed standards set by the Philippine Green Building Council (BERDE). The architects produced the curtain wall system in a low-carbon environment, in collaboration with renowned façade manufacturer Sunland. The team also installed eco-insulation features, minimising heat transfer and resulting in a cooler facility, energy efficiency, and thermal comfort for occupants.

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COOL RULERS

Beijing’s new push for ‘common prosperity’ has put the squeeze on property prices, not just in China’s tier-one cities but for investors looking for earners in emerging markets too BY STEVE FINCH

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ew residential markets anywhere in the world have experienced a recent rollercoaster quite like Shenzhen.

After home prices in this southern city facing Hong Kong recorded annual price growth of 14 percent in 2020—despite the worst start of a year on record due to the pandemic—the central government fired Shenzhen’s mayor Chen Rugui and other top officials.

YINCHUAN IN WESTERN NINGXIA IS ONE OF THE BEST PERFORMING INVESTMENT DESTINATIONS IN CHINA WITH HOME PRICE GROWTH OF UP TO 11% IN RECENT MONTHS

Successor Qin Weizhong was named at the end of April and charged with curbing runaway house prices with strict orders from Beijing. The impact of the new mayor has been nothing short of miraculous. After failing to sell at auction on August 4, one home in a high-end high school district of Shenzhen— what the Chinese eagerly refer to as being in a sought-after xuequfang—eventually sold more than two weeks later for about CNY100,000 ($15,400) per square metre, according to reports in state-run newspapers in Shenzhen. That price tag comes in at considerably more than the average price in Tokyo, and only a touch below what buyers would expect to pay in Manhattan. But by Shenzhen standards, it was a bargain: coming in at a staggering 40% below what homebuyers were paying in the same sought-after downtown district just three months prior. Up to June, the average price of a secondhand home in Shenzhen fell 15% this year, while previously runaway prices of new homes were scaled back to just 3.5% growth versus a year earlier, according to official government statistics. Shenzhen was turned from a fishing village into a model special economic zone under Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the 1980s. And now the city is once again being used as a model for how to fight rising home prices seen as inequitable by China’s rulers. During the first half of this year alone, Shenzhen’s municipal authorities—closely watched by the central government— enacted more than 300 rounds of cooling measures aimed at reining in home prices,

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The opportunity to make gains seen in past years haS diminished as the entry prices have continued to rise and restrictions remain tight. At the same time, the country continues to shift to more sustainable economic policies

DEBT-HIT DEVELOPER LAUNCHES FIRE SALE The Evergrande Group was seeking to sell its single largest asset, the 26-storey China Evergrande Center in Hong Kong for about $2 bn, and its electric vehicle business valued at $12.5bn following talks with Chinese financial regulators in late August. The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission told Evergrande executives that the company needed to actively resolve debt risks. Reports suggest that Beijing is applying more pressure on Evergrande to pay off debts of about $37bn in bills and trade receipts due over the next year.

Evergrande, China’s second-largest property developer by sales, remains the most visible postpandemic casualty as the central government seeks to clamp down on runaway borrowing and unregulated capital flows. Beijing remains concerned that Evergrande’s enormous debt burden, by some estimates more than $300bn, could spark knockon problems for other companies in China and overseas. In August, rating agency S&P downgraded Evergrande from B- to CCC or extremely high risk.

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according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post which closely tracks house prices across its mainland frontier with Shenzhen.

This dramatic shift from post-lockdown resurgence to subdued sales has been replicated across China’s largest cities, engines of the country’s residential market.

Among them, further restrictions on purchase eligibility have been enacted as well as China’s first pricing reference scheme which sets guideline prices below actual transaction prices, in effect capping price growth and speculation, while increasing the land available for development which has eased the rush for land and property in the city.

In July, the growth rate of new and second-hand home prices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou collectively climbed just 0.4%, nearly half the rate recorded a month prior, according to central government statistics.

“The irrational mania that appeared in Shenzhen’s firsthand residential property market in the past few quarters was gradually diminished and replaced by a more prudent and rational sentiment,” Carlby Xie, research director for Southern China at Savills, said in July.

Beijing saw the strongest gains with just 0.8% price growth on new homes in the Chinese capital. But that’s a far cry from China’s boom years and the gains previously witnessed in the capital. In recent months, China’s top central government officials have increasingly echoed a now commonly heard refrain from the Xi Jinping: “Housing is for living, not for speculation”.

Vice Premier Han Zheng became the latest top Chinese politician to repeat the mantra after a meeting with Xi at the end of July in which the central government said it would aim to clean up illicit funds and other “illegal” activities related to the property sector over the next three years. New measures designed to tackle house prices, announced simultaneously by the central government, included greater scrutiny of capital inflows and higher mortgage rates. “These measures do not target any cities in particular,” says Jesse Wang, director of FG Studio in Shanghai which designs housing sales centres across China for developers including Greenland Group, Landsea Group and China Resources Holdings. “I think the purpose is designed to curb what has been a strong rebound since the Covid-19 lockdowns.”

SHANGHAI SET TO BOOST RENTAL SUPPLY China’s largest city and real estate market Shanghai has announced plans to build 220,000 new rental homes over the next four years as city administrators sought to alleviate problems associated with the city’s spiralling real estate prices. The drive for more rental housing marks a nearly 50% increase in the number of units made available in the past five years. Home prices in Shanghai have risen each month during the past two years. The cost of housing in Shanghai is now more than 36 times a resident’s average annual salary, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this year, Shanghai was ranked the world’s most expensive city and is now home to the sixth-largest number of billionaires in the world.

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QIONGLAI IN SICHUAN PROVINCE IS AMONG CHINA’S EMERGING CITIES TIPPED FOR STRONG GROWTH

Investment banks and rating agencies including Morgan Stanley have in recent weeks downgraded their view on China’s property sector and its leading companies amid stricter government policy. “Continuous de-leveraging may affect developers’ land acquisition capacity and growth outlook, leading to marginal downside risks to property management companies’ contract gross floor area growth,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Chloe Liu wrote in a note at the end of August. The million-dollar question now for China’s reeling residential market: Where will be the new centres of growth and what will these look like? With even lower-tier cities facing central government scrutiny, developers and investors will look to the ever further outer edges of China’s biggest cities, says Luo Minjie, a director of Waterfront Urban and Rural Development, a housing subsidiary of state-owned Sichuan Port and Shipping Investment Group.

There is every sign that residential market restrictions in China are here to stay and will likely expand. When Xi and the central government spoke of its new overarching policy focus on ‘common prosperity’ in July, the property sector and soaring house prices were named among the worst offenders. China watchers say that Xi has roughly quadrupled the rate at which he has used the term “common prosperity” so far this year, a sure sign among Sinophiles that policy change is in the air—and here to stay for the foreseeable future. “The government’s resolve to balance housing prices is believed to aid the ‘common prosperity’ effort,” Wen Sheng, an editor of the nationalistic Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial on the new policy in late August. He cited the education sector as the other key industry deemed to be eroding family wealth in China. While previous efforts to rein in soaring house prices in China have focused on the largest cities known as tier-one in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, there are signs Beijing is extending its increasingly strict oversight further into the provinces. In July, housing officials held talks to discuss runaway prices with counterparts in the small cities of Yinchuan, Xuzhou, Jinhua, Quanzhou and Huizhou—all among the best performers this year in terms of price growth. 76

The previous month, new home prices in Yinchuan grew more than 11% in a year, making this little-known city of 2.3 million people in Western Ningxia province the second-best performer among China’s cities, according to the official central government statistics. Only Guangzhou recorded higher rises in new home prices over the same period, but its growth slowed to just 0.2% in July as city officials tried desperately to rein in the market. Asked where the next price growth hotspots might be seen in China, Savills’s director of research James MacDonald suggested new opportunities in the residential and retail market disappear as quickly as they appear amid increasingly strict oversight. “The opportunity to make gains seen in past years has diminished as the entry prices have continued to rise and restrictions remain tight,” says MacDonald. “At the same time, the country continues to shift to more sustainable economic policies.” Capital markets have reacted with caution to the new regulatory winds blowing from Beijing. At the end of June, Chinese property stocks slumped to ten-year lows with developer Vanke reaching a 30-month low of CNY24.08 in Shenzhen, and Poly Developments and Holdings closing to CNY12.13 in Shanghai, its lowest price in two years.

Although much has been made of China’s rapid migration to its expanding cities, Luo says that urbanisation has still only reached 60% and is expected to climb much higher over the next 15 years or so as China further catches the 80% urbanisation rates recorded in some developed countries.

The government has recently allowed developers to convert existing developments to residential lease usage and permitted rentals in future Real Estate Investment Trusts or REITS which, in turn, has fueled the rental market in China’s largest—and still costliest—city. “Hurdles remain given the low yields and a lack of investment-grade stock,” cautions MacDonald of Savills, but added: “Institutional investors are increasingly exploring opportunities in the leasing market as domestic demand for rental properties continues to grow in leading cities.” With the range of investment opportunities further narrowing in mainland China, private investors look all but certain to seek out house-buying opportunities outside of the mainland. The central government has in the past clamped down on cross-border capital flows to rein in speculation overseas. But there have been no such new measures amid the round of recent domestic price and buying curbs, said Georg Chmiel, group executive chairman of China’s largest overseas online house-buying portal Juwai IQI. In July, inquiries on Juwai.com increased by double digits across at least ten of the most popular overseas markets among Chinese house buyers such as Australia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. “Some of this growth will be due to buyers squeezed out of their local market,” says Chmiel. “The clampdown on investors in China’s tier-one cities has been a driver of demand for overseas investment since it began.”

“A 20% potential raise indicates that nearly 300 million farmers will become urban residents,” says Luo. “Urbanisation in China still has huge potential.” Citing the example of his native Sichuan province, one of the most densely populated corners of the globe, Luo speaks of small cities including Qionglai, Chongzhou and Jianyang— all satellites of the provincial capital Chengdu—as possible new centres of residential growth and opportunity for homeowners and developers.

SHANGHAI’S BOOMING RENTAL MARKET HAS BEEN A BENEFICIARY OF CHINA’S NEW REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

He said his own company Waterfront Urban and Rural Development is focusing more on cultural tourism projects, holiday and leisure accommodation, and rural revitalisation development in response to the government’s stricter oversight of the residential market. The rental market, long maligned in a country where house ownership is considered important in the context of marriage, family and wealth, is viewed by many market observers as a beneficiary of the new regulatory environment in China. The rental market in Shanghai, which has witnessed the steepest house prices in China and among the highest anywhere, has bucked the trend in recent months, according to Savills.

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BATTERED BUT UNBOWED India’s well-documented struggles to contain the pandemic have seen residential sales plunge. But with potential for growth in several areas, the vast country is well placed to ride out the storm BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ

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RESIDENTIAL SALES IN MUMBAI AND OTHER MAJOR CITIES IN INDIA PLUNGED DURING THE SECOND QUARTER OF 2021 DUE TO THE PANDEMIC

DHAKA IS THE WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING MEGACITY AND REGIONAL PLAYERS ARE MOVING INTO THE BANGLADESHI CAPITAL TO SUPERCHARGE ITS PROPERTY SECTOR

BANGLADESH Having recently transcended the ranks of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), Bangladesh has set its sights on joining middle-income countries soon. Now the world’s second-largest exporter of readymade clothing after China, Bangladesh harbours around 150,000 social enterprises, including Nobel-winning microfinancier Grameen and nongovernmental development agency BRAC. For its commendable pandemic response, the country has consistently placed inside Bloomberg’s ranking of the 50 most Covidresilient countries. Bangladesh is urbanising fast, too. Dhaka, the capital, is now the world’s fastest-growing megacity and, along with the port city of Chittagong, the country’s major centre of real estate activity.

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o one could have predicted the response when the Delta strain of Covid-19 began its global dance of death.

From March to April, India’s masses joined elbow-to-elbow election rallies, some attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, attended packed cricket games, and crowded into riverbanks for Kumbh Mela. But by May, the pandemic body count was climbing higher and higher. “We had been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that India would not get a second wave,” says Siddhart Goel, senior director and head of research at Colliers India. As the wave of infection crested, residential sales plunged anywhere from 23% to 62% quarter-on-quarter in up to eight major cities—Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune—during the second quarter of 2021, analysts from JLL to Knight Frank report. Residential launches also dropped between 20% and 43% quarterly even as the housing and urban affairs ministry exhorted developers to “offload, offload, offload” inventories.

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But given India’s recent history of delayed possession dates and highly leveraged developments, disenchantment with off-plan projects runs high among property seekers. Developers have also mismatched demand to supply, building prolifically in the high-end to luxury segments while end users sought affordable housing. “In the last five to seven years, it’s the end users who’ve been moving the markets,” says Ajai A. Kapoor, CEO of real estate service provider 360 Degrees. “Investors had almost disappeared.” The pandemic has forced developers to follow upfront price practices. In place of hidden discounts, they have dangled a slew of privileges before buyers, including equated monthly instalment (EMI) holidays, cancellations, refunds, rebates, and even free furniture. With the repo rate at an all-time low of 4%, consumers can take out home loans at historically competitive terms. Price levels in the major markets of Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Chennai dipped by 1% to 2% annually in the first half of 2021, according to Knight Frank.

State government initiatives have further rationalised price points. Maharashtra, for one, has slashed construction premiums this year by 50%, passing on savings to consumers. In a program replicated from West Bengal to Karnataka, the state also reduced stamp duties on home purchases to as low as 2% from September 2020 through March. “At price points where you have an eligibility to get a loan on which interest is subsidised and available as a tax deduction, it becomes extremely attractive for first-time homebuyers to invest in property rather than rent,” states Amit Khanna, managing director of the advisory firm Phoenix Advisers, in a recent roundtable with proptech giant PropertyGuru. Sweeteners include few longsighted buoys to the property sector, however. Parliament members have found the country’s INR20 lakh crore ($308bn) Covid-19 stimulus to be “inadequate” and called on the Union government to provide lasting incentives to small enterprises and households. “It’s kind of like how you need to protect a small child,” says Goel. “Initially, you need to make sure that the child can stand up, start walking, and start running.”

“There are heightened interests from regional players to invest in Bangladesh’s real estate sector, in association with the government through a public-private partnership or private players,” reports Shankar Arumugham, head of strategic consulting and valuation advisory for JLL in South Asia. To realise its “Vision 2021” economic roadmap, Bangladesh necessitates $24bn worth of infrastructural investments every year. The World Bank has thus far funded the Dhaka Urban Transport Project, allaying the capital’s perennial traffic woes. The first line of an expansive metro rail system has also been under construction in the city since 2016. It would connect the busy Motijheel business district to the northern suburb of Uttara, unlocking real estate values along the way. “In terms of private development real estate, the residential township segment is largely untapped in Bangladesh and offers a sea of opportunities, given the expanding middle class,” reports Arumugham.

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WITH REAL ESTATE MARKETS IN PAKISTAN NOTORIOUS MAGNETS FOR BLACK MONEY, THE GOVERNMENT IS LOOKING AT WAYS TO PROMOTE TRANSPARENCY IN THE SECTOR

The pandemic years may yet prove to be footnotes, in hindsight, to the inevitability of progress in the subcontinent. Barring economic disruption, the Indian housing market will become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030

End users have cleaved into downgraders, typically workers in the currently disadvantaged retail and hospitality industries, and upgraders who have kept their livelihoods. Both groups have been able to move away from congested tier-one cities due to the work-from-anywhere (WFA) and digital schooling phenomena. Suddenly owners of coveted 4BHKs—fourbedroom flats with halls and kitchens—are scouring for even larger, more open spaces while owners of smaller units are demanding balconies, decks and terraces. “Many Indian homes are not meant for working because we have larger families compared to the western world,” explains Goel. WFA has motivated affluent households to rent or purchase villas, bungalows and freestanding second homes in self-contained townships as well as tier-two and tier-three cities. Some have moved to vacation spots like Goa and Chennai altogether. “I know almost eight to 10 families who have been living their life out of these secondhome locations over the last year,” says Kapoor. Yet the residential sector received only 4% of the estimated $2.9bn investments that flowed into Indian real estate in H1 2021, according to Colliers. Non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) have avoided deploying capital into the housing sector for a few 82

years now. Also, the Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA) continues to curb ill-gotten developer cashflows. Institutional investors have skirted purely residential developments for mixed-use sites and integrated townships: essentially any development with income-generating components. Two of India’s biggest transactions during the pandemic—RMZ Corp’s $2bn deal with Brookfield Asset Management and Blackstone Group’s $1.5bn portfolio acquisition from Prestige Estate—involved commercial assets. “Funds will not invest money at a land acquisition stage, especially for housing,” says Goel. “Having said that, the financing coming from international private equity funds into all these other asset classes does have an indirect knock-on effect on the real estate sector.” Among income-generating assets, data centres show the most potential, having received investments of about $161m in H1 2021. Last year, the Indian colocation data centre industry absorbed a record 102 megawatts (MW) of power, rivalling user markets in Europe and the Americas. “We still haven’t started using data in the amounts used in those locations,” says Goel. “The future for the data centre market is going to be huge.”

PAKISTAN While India has vaulted to high real estate transparency rankings in recent years, its western neighbour is still opaque with the largesse of black money. In Pakistan, around 3,434 housing societies or schemes are outside the tax net. These findings, reported by Pakistani media in July, tip off the extent of ill-gotten wealth laundered into the country’s property industry. “Black money is one of the easiest places to source finance from, and a lot of that gets invested into the real estate sector, especially at the stage of the purchase of land,” says Siddhart Goel, head of research for Colliers India. “A lot of the black money that gets generated and invested comes from various sources. Some of it is political money. Some of it is from criminal listings—or the taxation system is not good enough.”

In a study of 300 real estate transactions in Karachi, PKR13bn ($79m) was paid over and above the Federal Board of Revenue’s determining property valuation rates. The report came on the heels of the Paris-based global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) retaining Pakistan on its “grey list” of countries that failed to curb terror financing and money laundering. “Once you start sorting out taxation, especially personal tax, less black money will get generated and move into the real estate sector,” says Goel. “You need to make sure that there is access to funding for developers so that they don’t have to rely on that money.” Nevertheless, Pakistan has followed India’s footsteps, passing bills that would be the basis for the creation of the country’s own Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), thus promoting transparency in the sector.

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SRI LANKA’S VISUAL APPEAL AS AN INVESTMENT DESTINATION IS CLEAR, BUT THE COUNTRY IS STRUGGLING UNDER THE WEIGHT OF A DEBT CRISIS AMONG OTHER PRESSING CONCERNS

SRI LANKA AND THE MALDIVES The real estate inventory in the island nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives is a blip compared to India. “In addition to scale, the stage of growth in their real estate sectors are different,” says Roshan Madawela, chief executive of the consultancy Research Intelligence Unit (RIU). “India is now a mature real estate market compared to Sri Lanka where policies still need to nurture the market and make the landscape attractive for local and international developers.” With its all-important tourism sector in shambles, Sri Lanka even has plenty to learn from its archipelagic neighbour. Last year, the Maldives managed to attract 555,494 visitors, below par for the world-famous tourist destination but a feat nonetheless in the pandemic year. Isolating and safe distancing are inherently easy within the archipelago. “The Maldives have a geographical advantage because their holiday resorts consist of little islands,” notes Madawela. “It’s very easy to have holiday bubble areas.”

While Indian occupiers joined the worldwide pivot to hybrid work, offices still outshone homes to account for almost 35% of investments in H1 2021. With Indian e-commerce growing 27% yearly, the industrial and warehousing sector attracted $775m of investments in H1 2021—the highest of any year since 2016. To ensure unhindered movement of goods nationwide, India is increasing the freight share of its railways to 45% by 2030. It is also redeveloping, through public-private partnerships, more than 120 railway stations into airport-like, live-workplay-and-ride hubs, unlocking real estate values in their surrounds. Returns on commercial investments are generally less susceptible to long-term rental defaults than their residential 84

counterparts, Kapoor argues. Investors can reap about 7% to 8% in ROI on commercial property, compared to 2% to 2.5% on residential. The housing sector could find more enthusiastic investors in 32 million Indians scattered worldwide, including 13 million NRIs. “For most non-resident Indians, there’s always sentiment attached to real estate investment,” says Goel. “That’s why they would typically like to invest money in locations where they originate, where their families are.”

has been so low in the last five to seven years, and the new supply is expected to be of far greater quality.” The pandemic years may yet prove to be footnotes, in hindsight, to the inevitability of progress in the subcontinent. Barring economic disruption, the Indian housing market will become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030. “The general feeling is that if the real estate market didn’t crash during these times,” says Kapoor, “then it never will.”

Given its chronic balance of payments crises, Sri Lanka has more pressing concerns besides anaemic tourism. It currently owes $960m in loan repayments to India, which time and again extends currency swaps to its southern neighbour. With a pro-Beijing administration at its helm, Sri Lanka has also looked to borrowings further afield. In August alone, Sri Lanka inked a $308m loan agreement with China, adding to the $1bn in credit support it had received from Beijing since 2020. “There will be very serious challenges for Sri Lanka to meet the debt repayments,” says Madawela. “The long-term position is quite worrying. It’s something that will require a lot of restructuring from a fundamental economic perspective.”

With only 9.5% of India’s billion-strong populace vaccinated so far, the next 12 months presuppose uncertainty. The residential sector could still see incremental price rises alongside increased launches in the next few months, predicts Kapoor. “While both things are contrary, the pricing 85


ALONG THE RIGHT LINES Asia’s sprawling metropolises have long been notorious for their traffic issues, but new transit lines and upgrades are taking the strain off overloaded roads and opening new investment frontiers in the process BY LIAM ARAN BARNES

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he sun is setting on Charoen Nakhon Road in Bangkok’s Klong San district. Nearby a vehicle on the Gold Line, Thailand’s first monorail, rumbles overhead towards luxury mixeduse development IconSiam. At street level, patrons file in and out of the row of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, some of which date back almost a century. Beyond the rush-hour fumes on the opposite side of the road, a contrasting scene is unfolding at the neighbourhood’s newest eatery. Well-heeled diners line up outside a converted shophouse. Most made reservations months ago. The dryaged beef dishes cost more than a day’s salary of those eating pad thai a few doors down. For interior designer Timothy Frost, a 10year resident of Klong San, the opening of an upscale restaurant in this “charming, community-based district” is the latest sign of change. “There have been some alterations to the area’s ambience since IconSiam opened and the Gold Line started operating,” he says. “Luckily, there’s still plenty of space in this part of the city. Newcomers are not displacing beloved establishments. I just hope this co-existence continues and the community’s special culture remains intact.”

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It is a familiar urban scenario throughout developing Asia, a region that is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and populations. But the rise of city living has encouraged car use and often left urban planning by the wayside. Faced with challenges relating to congestion, environmental degradation, and inequality of access to key services, major metropolises including Bangkok, Manila, and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) have accelerated mass rapid transit system investment in recent years. In Bangkok, the ongoing extensions to the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) subway, as well as the completion of the Gold Line, are supercharging urban sprawl. Previously peri-urban neighbourhoods are now connected to the city’s central business districts. As a result, these once far-flung locales have become investment hotspots. High-profile condominium launches in recently connected neighbourhoods include Ananda Development’s Elio Del Moss Phaholyothin 34 at Sena Nikhom station on the BTS Sukhumvit Line’s northern extension and The Tree Charan Sanit Wong-Bang Phlat by Pruksa on the MRT Blue Line’s second extension. In 2015 developer Sansiri partnered with skytrain operator BTS Group in a five-year joint venture to build eight residential properties worth THB30bn (US$917.7m) along the lines. Improved accessibility to the CBD soon lures investors and developers. Property prices increase and the gentrification cycle begins. On average, land values in Bangkok increase by USD23 per square metre with every 10% decrease in distance to the nearest mass rapid transit station, according to the ADB. “With urbanisation comes increased living costs, and a gross majority of the infrastructure endeavours are initiated and managed by private companies with the intent to make a profit-driven enterprise,” says Marciano Birjmohun, a local real estate analyst and director at the Singapore-Thai Chamber of Commerce. “This is quite different from other major Southeast Asian cities where the government can regulate and subsidise commuters.” Private ownership and a limited public sector oversight have stymied any comprehensive transit-orientated development (TOD) strategy in Bangkok. In most cities, this includes landuse solutions that enhance accessibility and encourage high density, mixed-use development within walking distance of transit stations. Some condo developments along the BTS lines do connect with stations via footbridges. Retail operator Central Group even funded one of BTS’s few elevated walkways at Ploen Chit Station—it ends abruptly at the entrance to one of its 88

Previously peri-urban neighbourhoods are now connected to central business districts. Improved accessibility to the CBD soon lures investors and developers. Property prices increase and the gentrification cycle begins

BANGKOK GOES ELECTRIC It has been a big year for electric excursions in the Thai capital. In April 2021, local renewable power firm Energy Absolute introduced a battery-powered ferry fleet to the Chao Phraya river. The six-ferrystrong fleet—soon to be increased to 28—transports commuters from Rama V Bridge to Sathorn and can carry up to 250 passengers. The new boats will reportedly save the country 4.73 million litres of diesel fuel a year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 13,000 tonnes. City authorities also recently floated 12 retrofitted electric-powered vessels on one of Bangkok’s

busiest canal routes between the Thewet and Hua Lamphong piers. On terra firma, meanwhile, electric tuk-tuk service MuvMi deployed 100 clean-riding vehicles in March 2021 to serve shoppers, residents and commuters in the mid-Sukhumvit district between Sukhumvit 3 and 51, north to New Phetchaburi Road. The Thai government announced last year that it wants 30% of the city’s transport network to be electrified by 2035.

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luxury malls. But by and large, these meagre instances of TOD do not benefit commuters and local communities.

attracting no shortage of interest,” says Dang Phuong Hang, managing director of CBRE Vietnam.

“Bangkok is one of the few major cities in the region that has no TOD around its transit lines,” Birjmohun adds. “Even future expansions of the Yellow, Red, Green and Orange lines lack any basic TOD integration. Footpaths are missing at some of the stations.”

Since 2015, high-end residential sales prices in District 2 have increased by 7.3% annually, well beyond the citywide average, according to CBRE Vietnam data. Residential supply in the proposed new hub, meanwhile, is slated to grow at an annual rate of 11.5% until 2025, equal to 15,000 to 16,000 new units each year.

In contrast to Bangkok’s dearth of urban planning, plans are afoot to transform HCMC’s eastern districts in anticipation of the arrival of the country’s first transit system. The goal is to merge the existing hi-tech park in District 9, the Thu Duc university district, and the upcoming financial centre in District 2 to create a new and independent administrative hub likely to be dubbed “Thu Duc City”.

The 19.7-kilometre Metro Line No 1 will connect the district with the under-construction Ben Thanh subway station in District 1. Construction of the nine-line Ho Chi Minh City Metro began almost a decade ago. But delays, cost overruns, inability to disburse funds, and a lack of enforcement across contractors have all blighted progress. More recently, the pandemic has brought work to a standstill. Completion is now expected in 2022.

These setbacks have exasperated conditions in a city already facing rapid urbanisation, mounting traffic congestion, and pollution. MANILA EMBRACES PEDAL POWER

“People are holding their breath in anticipation for the completion of these lines, hoping they will be worth the congestion caused by the many road closures over the last decade during their construction,” says Thien Duong, managing director of Transform Architecture and a member of the Vietnam Green Building Council. “It’s also harmed lots of businesses on these closed roads. For example, large sections of Le Loi, a key boulevard in the city centre, have been closed for almost five years now.” Still, there are green shoots for business owners and future commuters. There is evidence that some stations will at least feature TOD elements.

“Developers started acquiring sites near future metro stations several years ago, with residential properties

MANILA’S TRAFFIC PROBLEMS ARE LEGENDARILY TERRIBLE, BUT THE CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES IS SET TO BENEFIT FROM AN EXTENSION TO ITS EXISTING LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT AS WELL AS A NEW SUBWAY SYSTEM

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When the first lockdown struck Manila in March 2020 and use of public transport was temporarily restricted, many citizens turned to two wheels to travel. A few months later, the government unveiled a highly anticipated stimulus package as part of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. It promoted bicycles as a priority mode of transport, allotting PHP1.1bn for a national bike lane project. The package has contributed towards the construction of more than 310 kilometres of bike lanes in Metro Manila, which opened to the public in July 2020. The hope is now that these lanes will continue to be used once the pandemic has finally passed and traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels on the city’s streets and highways. In a recent poll by research institution Social Weather Stations, 87% of Filipinos thought priority should be given to bicycles and pedestrians over public vehicles. If that’s anything to go by, there could be a silver lining for Manila’s traffic-choked streets.

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QUACH THI TRANG SQUARE, A LANDMARK IN HO CHI MINH CITY, HAS GIVEN WAY TO BEN THANH STATION, WHICH IS SET TO BE ONE OF THE LARGEST RAIL TRANSIT HUBS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

One notable example is the redesign of Quach Thi Trang Square. For decades, the free-for-all roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market was visual shorthand for HCMC’s anarchic traffic. It has since made way for Ben Thanh Station, which upon completion next year will be one of the largest urban rail transit hubs in Southeast Asia. Three of the metro’s proposed nine lines will converge here. And it will feature four subterranean levels including a shopping plaza. Overground, there will be a landscaped pedestrian area and park. It is a step in the right direction for a city notorious for its lack of pavements and chronic traffic issues. A major constraint to mass rapid transit in the region over the years is the timing of Southeast Asian megacities’ growth trajectory. Urbanisation in developing Asia began much later than in other global cities—from the 1970s to the 1990s—after the establishment of car culture. Road networks have therefore dictated urban planning. Nowhere is this more pertinent than in Manila. The Philippine capital, a cluster of 16 cities tenuously fused by the 23.8-kilometre EDSA highway, was dubbed the world’s most congested city in 2019 by the TomTom Traffic Index. Such problems are estimated to cost the country’s economy PHP3.5 92

bn (US$70million) every day, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. This figure could rise to PHP5.4bn a day by 2035 if the situation does not improve. The city ironically is home to Southeast Asia’s oldest surviving transit system. Opened in 1984, the Light Rail Transit is also one of the region’s busiest, with lines serving a combined 700,000 daily passengers. But the network is plagued by poor maintenance, frequent shutdowns, ineffective operating and emergency systems, and inadequate security. World Bank research from 2017 found that more than a third of the 130 light rail vehicles did not run or failed international safety standards. Progress is being made. The two-station, fourkilometre, extension of line 2, opened in July 2021, took six years to complete. The Manila Subway Phase 1, meanwhile, is scheduled to be partially operational by 2022 and fully completed by 2025. As with Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City transit line extensions in Manila will come at a price. JLL Philippines country head Christophe Vicic anticipates uneven development between neighbourhoods surrounding the new infrastructure and those further away.

BANGKOK IS UPGRADING OTHER MODES OF TRANSPORT IN ADDITION TO ITS RAIL NETWORK, INTRODUCING ELECTRIC-POWERED VESSELS TO SOME OF ITS BUSIEST CANAL ROUTES

“The rise in real estate prices and rents is also likely to impact living affordability within these particular areas, which may push out some current residents and tenants,” he says. “There are certainly downsides to the development of transit lines. But it can be mitigated against by adopting an inclusive and progressive approach where relevant stakeholders are equitably benefitting from these projects.” One example is the Chamber of Real Estate & Builder’s Associations’ proposal to allocate affordable housing when developing transit-oriented developments. Hong Kong’s Rail plus Property model is another lauded formula. The approach involves the MTR conducting tenders to private players to build TOD on the stations with a profit-sharing element from sales and rental income from the projects. “While this has been a solid financial model, it’s also a good base to review how economic gains can address the negative impacts of transit line development,” Vicic adds. “Factoring in affordable housing within the TOD or using some of the revenue to fund civic programs for the affected neighbourhoods may be a pathway to explore.”

Policymakers, governments, and the private sector in developing Asia’s megacities could learn a thing or two from Hong Kong’s MTR system, widely regarded as an exemplar on implementing and extending transit systems with limited impact upon communities, the environment, and public space. Yet, observers would agree that we are where we are. Plus, there’s no catch-all set of rules for wildly disparate cities where unique challenges range from haphazard urban planning to gross over-reliance on the private sector. It’s impossible to be wholly positive about the construction of transit line infrastructure. It has contributed towards existing issues of inequality, uneven development, and environmental degradation. Yet when private vehicle ownership is the main alternative, it seems by far the lesser of two evils.

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Golden Age A new ‘city’ with internationally designed homes takes shape right across the Philippines’ biggest international gateway—is this the promise of the future that property investors have been waiting for?

Townships have never been more valuable during the pandemic. In providing a seamless ecosystem for both work and leisure, townships provide their workers and residents a self-contained space where they can operate in wellness, safety and security. There are now 80 township sites across the Philippines, with more than half of them sited outside Metro Manila, according to a report by Lobien Realty Group. In a country made up of islands, airports are essential engines for such urban growth. They are the ultimate economic catalysts, minting the modern-day currencies of speed, accessibility and mobility. To premier Filipino real estate developer SM Development Corporation (SMDC), location should be a critical determining factor in the building of townships and similar communities. For its next endeavour, SMDC has targeted one of the best neighbours a township could ever have: an airport. SMDC has focused its efforts on not just any airport but the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s main gateway. Right across NAIA will rise SMDC’s Gold City: an 11.6-hectare masterplanned community.

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Making history as SMDC’s first township, Gold City is envisioned as the gold standard of property development for Metro Manila. It will, if nothing else, redefine township development in the Philippines. SMDC aims to offer a sound investment with Gold City. Real estate has always played a big role in improving the Philippines’ economic standing: providing not only a tangible asset to investors but also improving the lives of residents and the wider community. This is especially true for townships, which have been known to unlock job opportunities, expand road networks, and many other benefits. Airports are the most ideal anchors for new townships, according to the SMDC team. Due to its proximity to the capital’s key airport terminals, SMDC’s Gold City is all at once connected to the Philippines and the world at large. A compelling live-work-and-play destination, Gold City will be developed in four phases. It will be home to condominiums, commercial spaces, and a variety of recreational facilities, within the vicinity of a wellnetworked, bustling residential catchment in Parañaque City.

The township will give rise to eight residential towers under the premium Gold Residences brand. Representing two phases of Gold City, Gold Residences will boast interiors designed by award-winning Singaporean studio Michael Fiebrich Design. The buildings will feature hotellike lobbies, high-grade finishes, and lavish amenities fit for discerning lifestyles. Also joining the project is renowned Hong Kong landscape architecture firm Adrian L. Norman Limited (ALN), endowing the site with a medley of unique water features and aesthetically pleasing softscapes. As the centrepiece of a township, Gold Residences gives homeowners ease of access to different institutions and facilities like hospitals, shopping malls, and schools, with the added convenience of easy travel to and from the NAIA terminals. The homes are also set close to the major transport hub known as the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange. The township itself will have public transport and shuttle services as well as a well-planned pedestrian network, making the development very navigable on foot and lowering residents’ carbon footprint.

and trigger an economic surge once borders fully reopen. The development itself will be a tourist destination, a reference point for historical and contemporary attractions in Manila. More importantly, it will elevate the quality of life in the populous metropolis by providing efficiency and expediency in one place. Now more than ever, the community in which one chooses to live can mean the difference between life and tragedy. The world as we know it is a far cry from the busyness of the days before the pandemic. Gold City paints a picture of life after the pandemic. A convergence of modernisation, dynamism, innovation and prestige, Gold City symbolises the city of the future. For more info, visit www.smdc.com

Gold Residences shows high investment potential. It offers property seekers in the Philippines and abroad a more lucrative route for growing their capital in the pandemic. Since launching in November 2019, the first phase of Gold Residences already registered a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%. Set along Ninoy Aquino Aveñue, a prime location, Gold City is predicted to further the urbanisation of Parañaque

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IN THE PAST, PEOPLE BELIEVED THAT REAL ESTATE PRICES WOULD STABILISE AFTER THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED NEW POLICIES. BUT THEY ARE NOW FINALLY REALISING THAT HOUSING PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO RISE NO MATTER WHAT THE GOVERNMENT DOES corruption scandal were a warning to the new president to fix the country’s social and economic ills. Not only has the situation deteriorated further, but the president is now tussling with a major housing scandal that could threaten his hopes of reelection.

Moon’s shine fades Mired in scandal and haunted by soaring property prices, Moon Jae-In is eyeing the 2022 presidential elections with justified trepidation

Since taking office in 2017, Moon has imposed a raft of cooling measures including tax hikes and lending restrictions. But house prices have risen more during his administration than any other since 1995 when statistics were first compiled. The combined value of homes nationwide reached a high of $5tn by the end of 2020, up 13.1% from a year earlier and up 42.9% since 2017.

By George Styllis

In Seoul, meanwhile, apartment prices have soared 58% during Moon’s tenure.

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The measures were intended to curb speculation and a market awash with cash after years of loose lending rules and record-low interest rates under the former administration. The fact they haven’t curbed it reflects the intractability of a problem that goes back decades.

he success of Parasite sent out mixed signals from South Korea.

On one hand, director Bong Joon-Ho’s film elevated the country’s movie industry with its unprecedented global success. On the flip side, the parable of class struggle in Seoul laid bare the fault lines of Korean society to a wider international audience. In the movie, the contrast between the basement hovel-dwelling Kim family who infiltrate the lives of the wealthy Parks

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PROPERTY IN GANGNAM, ONE OF SEOUL’S MOST EXCLUSIVE AREAS, IS FAR BEYOND THE REACH OF ALL BUT THE WEALTHIEST KOREANS

could not be starker. While the dramatised plot of the film makes several unlikely leaps in its mission to entertain, its themes of systematic inequality—especially in the housing market—ring true for many poorer Koreans. When President Moon Jae-In took office in 2017, he made it a cornerstone of his leadership to tackle both house prices and social disparity. Protests that had rocked the country and led to the impeachment of his predecessor Park Geun-hye following a huge

“In the past, people believed that real estate prices would stabilise after the government announced new policies,” said Jung Ji-yeon, a director at Gallup Korea. “But they are now finally realising that housing prices will continue to rise no matter what the government does.”

Korea’s housing market has been riven by speculation and easy money since the end of the 1990s. Rapid urbanisation and rising demand for housing prompted prices to soar, making owning a home an attractive investment and something of a national trait. According to a survey conducted in 2020 by data company Statista, around 83% of respondents said they should own their homes. The survey also found that Koreans perceived homeownership as intrinsic to personal stability and this perception would not change even if the value of the home declined. The sensitivity around owning a home has become acutely felt by young people who have only found it harder to get on the property ladder. With wages stagnant and youth unemployment high, younger generations have become increasingly frustrated at the barriers to property ownership. According to national statistics, home ownership among those aged 70 to 79 in 2019 was around 70%. In contrast, among those below 30 it was just 10.1%. Indeed, a new term young-gul — meaning to “gather up everything you can, even your soul” to afford a home — has been coined in reference to their plight.

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Dispatch “The ruling party’s defeat could make him a dead-duck president, stripping him of any remaining policy momentum, much of which he had already lost,” said Kim Hyungjoon, a political science professor at Myongji University in Seoul. Since coming to power Moon can lay claim to some impressive feats. He brokered three meetings between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and led one of the most successful responses in the world against the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. But most voters seem more concerned about having a roof over their head than any possible outbreak of nuclear war.

In March, a housing scandal broke involving Korea Land and Housing Corp, a government-owned corporation responsible for the development of land in cities. At least 20 employees of LH Corp have been accused by civic groups of purchasing 23,000 square metres (5.7 acres) of land for roughly KRW10bn ($8.9m) in an upcoming development comprising 70,000 housing units, based on classified knowledge they had received. For those already skeptical about corruption in government, the scandal appeared to confirm their fears. Protesters responded by plastering angry messages on the doors of LH’s office in Seoul. One read: “the den of thieves!” The government has been quick to condemn the scandal. But the damage it might do to Moon’s chances of reelection was made apparent at mayoral elections in April. The vote, largely seen as a referendum on Moon and his party ahead of next year’s presidential race, saw its highest turnout for parliamentary elections since 1992 at 66.3%. The ruling party lost support from every age group except voters in their forties. Moon’s approval rating dropped below 30% for the first time since his inauguration in May 2017.

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PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN LOOKS TO BE IN TROUBLE AHEAD OF NEXT YEAR’S ELECTION, WITH HIS FAILURE TO COOL THE HOUSING MARKETS SEEN AS A POTENTIALLY DECISIVE ISSUE

In a Gallup survey published in July, Moon’s real estate policies were cited as the top concern among the 51% of respondents who disapproved of him. Acknowledging the public’s anger in the wake of his party’s defeat in April, Moon said the government needs to modify some of its policies, including mortgage regulations and tax hikes, to help those without houses or single home owners. More recently, his Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said stabilising home prices was the government’s biggest public welfare policy goal as plans were announced to add more than 132,000 new homes in Seoul through 2028. Whether that will be enough to convince voters remains to be seen. Already the president’s rivals are looking to exploit the situation with some offering travel vouchers, seed money for business investment, rent subsidies and a “basic housing” policy in which the government would provide cheap and long-term rentals. Unless Moon can top that, come election time he might end up joining the millions of others in taking the first daunting step to looking for a new residence.

Pause for effect The pandemic has hit Thailand’s second-home destinations hard, but a surge in interest from domestic buyers and fundamentals of sun, sea and sand provide hope for the future By Liam Aran Barnes

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urn the clock back to early 2020 and Phuket’s beaches buzzed with peakseason holidaymakers soaking up the island’s signature mix of sun, sea and sand. Honeymooners lounged under resort cabanas, families set sail for snorkeling trips and kids cut loose in the cerulean waters. Since the pandemic shuttered Thailand’s borders, however, those same shorelines have fallen silent, devoid of international arrivals—and homebuyers. Unlike other Thai resort destinations, Phuket’s residential property market has historically relied on overseas investors.

THAILAND’S PRIME TOURIST LOCATIONS RETAIN THEIR VISUAL APPEAL DESPITE WITNESSING LITTLE FOOTFALL DURING THE PANDEMIC

In 2019, foreigners purchased 90% of new 5,471 condominium units, according to global real estate consultancy Knight Frank. Most hailed from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, buoyed by rental yields and second-home opportunities largely offlimits in their native countries. Yet with travel restrictions still in place—in primary investor markets in Phuket and the rest of Thailand—the pandemic has hit the island’s property market hard. Knight Frank notes that only 1,862 units from seven condo projects hit the market last year, an annual drop of 66 percent. Some developers have chosen to bite the bullet and pause marketing efforts. Others

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CEO Hachi Yin believes its diverse product mix is poised to appeal to Thai buyers. “We started thinking about how we can start opening up to the Thai market, as we’d never targeted it before,” he says. “The Thai market is now one of our priorities for 2021, but the challenge is that, unlike in China, nobody here really knows us.”

THE LONG-TERM OUTLOOK FOR PHUKET REMAINS POSITIVE SIMPLY BECAUSE THE FUNDAMENTALS HAVE NOT BEEN AFFECTED BY THE PANDEMIC. PROPERTY PRICES ARE STILL VERY AFFORDABLE COMPARED TO MANY OTHER COUNTRIES AND OFTEN OFFER GREAT RENTAL RETURNS have slashed prices and started getting creative with their services, offering valueadds such as bespoke furniture packages and even long-stay visas like the Thailand Elite Card. But one of the most significant trends to emerge from the past 20 months is the rise in demand from the domestic Thai market. “The pandemic has caused a dynamic shift in the second home market.” Bill Barnett, managing director of Phuket-based hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks, says. “We have seen an entirely new segment of luxury domestic Thai buyers. Call it urban angst but lifestyle property for Thais is hot again.” International travel restrictions, worsening pollution in Bangkok, and workplace uncertainty are just some of the factors behind this surge in interest for resort properties. Wealthy urban investors are also looking to escape the city and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. “If you look back five years, island real estate was focused on investment-type condominiums, but today, it’s single-family homes or second residences,” adds Barnett. Hua Hin is primed to cater to this domestic investment resurgence. A two-and-a-half drive from Bangkok, the coastal town’s combination of high-end villa developments, world-class golf courses, and watersportorientated lifestyle activities has long been a hit with international investors and retirees. Over the last 12 months, however, the domestic market accounted for 64% of

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total transactions in Hua Hin, according to a recent report by property portal FazWaz. One Hua Hin development already benefitting from this new wave of investment is The Banyan Thailand. The resort community is best known for featuring one of Thailand’s top golf courses—designed by renowned local architect Pirapon Namatra. It is home to bespoke villas and plots, ranging from THB14m ($429,053) to ultra-luxury options around THB80m ($2.45m). Most residents traditionally hail from Western Europe. But in recent years domestic investor interest has surged, with Bangkokians leading the way. Although the pandemic has inevitably accelerated this trend, the resort’s CEO Tjeert Kwant also credits it to shifting perceptions of Hua Hin. “The town was often viewed as a sleepy retirement destination, but the pandemic in a way has done a lot to change that image,” he says. “For instance, some highly influential bloggers, who probably wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the border closure, visited last year and loved it, which goes to show how much it has to offer now.” Heartened by the heightened demand for Bangkok-friendly holiday homes and the absence of foreign buyers, The Banyan tweaked its marketing strategy in mid2020 to focus primarily on the Thai capital. As Tjeert explains: “Me being from the Netherlands, having Bangkok on your doorstep is the equivalent of a neighbouring target market the size of Belgium.”

Property developers on Phuket are also adapting product offerings to cater to the new demographic. Large condominium blocks filled with small studio units have been the market default in recent years. And while a number of these project types remain in the pipeline, mixed-use properties featuring upscale lifestyle amenities are now coming to the fore. “We expect developers in the future to focus more on high-quality, low-density developments that offer privacy and focus on space, health and wellness as key selling points,” Tomas Noren, managing director of Phuket property firm Resava Real Estate, says. Utopia Corporation, one of the island’s most prolific developers in recent years, has already demonstrated that the pilethem-high approach is waning in Phuket. In addition to a focus on largely low-rise residential properties, one of the company’s unique selling points has been its ability to thematically differentiate its offerings. The recently launched villa development Utopia Thalang, for instance, takes aesthetic inspiration from Japan while Utopia Yamu features Moroccan design elements.

HUA HIN’S PROXIMITY TO BANGKOK ENHANCES ITS APPEAL TO SECOND HOME INVESTORS WHO LIVE IN THAILAND’S CAPITAL

This may change with the launch of its latest project. Located on Phuket’s sunrise coast overlooking Phang Nga Bay, the Bay of Icons is a 20-rai (3.2 hectares) development surrounding Ao Po Grand Marina. Utopia has plans to transform the area over the next five years into a master-planned lifestyle and leisure enclave. It will feature exclusive residences and Southeast Asia’s first Tonino Lamborghini-branded hotel. Other perks include a 300-berth marina and a private helipad, designer retail boutiques, and upscale dining destinations. As with most new launches over the last two years, the true litmus test for Utopia’s ambitious lifestyle destination will be the eventual reopening of the island, buoyed by the Phuket Sandbox scheme. The program, which allows vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the island, has proven relatively successful since its unveiling on July 1. Although travel concerns and ongoing quarantine requirements in other countries will limit visitor numbers, it is at least a light at the end of the tunnel for Phuket’s property industry—and indeed other key resort markets in Thailand. “The long-term outlook for Phuket remains positive simply because the fundamentals have not been affected by the pandemic,” Noren says. “Property prices are still very affordable compared to many other countries and often offer great rental returns. “Let’s not forget that this is still a fantastically beautiful place to live with extraordinary natural resources for its residents to enjoy.”

These themed properties have long been a hit with Utopia’s investor base in China. But

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Kurraba Residences Kurraba Point, Sydney

A stellar design team consisting of architectural practice SJB, interior artisans Mathieson Architects, and landscaping maestro Dangar Barin Smith collaborated on Kurraba Residences. Each residence is built with design specifications traditionally accorded to elite private homes, with bespoke features that range from ornate marble fireplaces to private verandas set against spectacular harbour views. Units are truly custommade to seamlessly integrate architecture and interiors. Architecturally, the development pays homage to the classic 1920s apartment buildings that characterise the prestigious edges of the Sydney harbourfront. The residences also feature a well-designed cellar and tasting room, suitable for wine connoisseurs and collectors. Secure garage parking spaces are allocated for residents, as is lift access to upper levels of their homes.

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But more than just visually arresting spaces, Kurraba Residences offer contemporary luxury amenities. Occupiers benefit from such conveniences as full smart home automation, a concierge, butler, and parcel delivery services. Foreshore parks, sheltered coves and secret beaches are within the development’s vicinity. Only a short distance from the Sydney CBD, the site affords property seekers the opportunity to reside in a sanctuary on the edge of a modern Australian metropolis.

FACT BOX

The Kurraba Residences is a collection of waterfront estates at Kurraba Point, one of the most exclusive enclaves in Sydney, Australia. Located along a peninsula by the Sydney harbour, the seaside property at 147 Kurraba Rd is hemmed in by lush foreshore gardens on all three sides.

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Paragon Of Pyrmont by THIRDi Group

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Mount Street Residences by THIRDi Group

Developer: Third.i Product type: Apartments Architect: SJB (exterior), Mathieson (interior), Dangar Barin Smith (landscape) Launch date: November 2020 Total land area: 4,727 sqm Number of units: 24 Average unit size: 197 sqm Price range: $2.5 - 50m Sales office contact: Tel: +61 404 133 140 Email: callum@thirdigroup.com.au, katief@thirdigroup.com.au Address: 343 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, Australia

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16 AR YE S

COUNTDOWN TO THE PROPERTYGURU ASIA PROPERTY AWARDS GRAND FINAL BEGINS NOW

Our first Digital White Paper now available for download at AsiaRealEstateSummit.com COMING UP

Join us at the next PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit: Virtual Edition, which opens on 8 December 2021 as part of the exciting ‘PropertyGuru Week’. This year’s summit will tackle the data revolution in the industry, as well as sustainability, green tech and financing, and innovation. Featuring global experts, climate champions and visionaries.

SPEAKERS INCLUDE:

Earn the ‘Gold Standard’ in regional real estate Celebrating 16 years of connecting and recognising the most outstanding developers and real estate projects from India to Australia. Be part of the excitement. Tune in to our livestream at AsiaPropertyAwards.com

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Dr. William Thomas, PhD Director, South East Asia The Economist

Kotchakorn Voraakhom CEO and Founder Porous City Network

Ommid Saberi Senior Industry Specialist International Finance Corporation

Susan Bennett The Original Voice of Siri

Fmr. Ambassador Curtis S. Chin Senior Fellow, Asia Milken Institute

The Economist Keynote

Visionary of the Year 2021

Finance Keynote

International Keynote

Policy Keynote

#GuruSummit #InspireInnovators

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