By Kalpana Rashiwala
Far East Organization plans to develop two hotels within its Far East Square project in the China Square location.
A 37-room designer boutique hotel will be converted from some of the offices on the upper floors of the conservation shophouses, while a new 28-storey hotel with 292 rooms will rise on a vacant spot within the site.
Far East will have to pay a differential premium to the state before it can begin work on the high-rise hotel.
Far East Square was completed in mid-1998, but the conservation shophouses restored in the development were originally built in the 1820s.
Plans for the hotel were revealed in a release yesterday issued by Far East and two neighbouring landlords in the China Square area - Frasers Commercial Trust (FCOT) and Great Eastern - when they announced their collaborative plans to revitalise the downtown heritage area, which is sandwiched between the old financial district and the historic Chinatown area.
The trio unveiled their "China Square Precinct Master Plan", which will integrate Far East Square, China Square Central (owned by FCOT) and Great Eastern Centre into a precinct known as "China Place".
With connectivity as a key theme of the Master Plan, the first phase of development will feature a $14 million covered linkway that the trio will build to connect their three properties as well as the future Telok Ayer MRT station.
The linkway costs will be split equally among the three partners. Work on the linkway is slated to begin next month and be completed by February next year.
To demarcate and enhance the area, China Place will have building markers, directional and circulation signs, and locally commissioned building mural artwork. In addition to these physical enhancements, a sustained line-up of activities, events and promotions is in the works to generate buzz in the area.
As a tribute to the area's history, a "Heritage Trail" will feature locally commissioned heritage sculptures that are with Singapore Tourism Board's existing heritage markers.
Far East's executive director, development and planning, Chng Kiong Huat, said: "The China Square Precinct Master Plan is an exciting opportunity for us to leverage our experience in heritage conservation to not only enhance traffic and connectivity to the area but to also support a live-in population with two new hotel developments."
Low Chee Wah, CEO of the manager of FCOT, said that the Master Plan will rejuvenate the area with more exciting dining and entertainment options for visitors, tenants from the surrounding offices as well as residents in the CBD area.
This article was first published in The Business Times.