Sitting on one of the last undeveloped plots in the Orchard Road area is a two-storey grey bungalow dwarfed by towering condominiums, hotels and shopping centres.
The late Mr Tan Hoon Siang bought the 25,741 sq ft freehold property in Cuscaden Road for $18,591 in May 1949 at an auction. He was the great-grandson of famous philanthropist Tan Tock Seng.
The house is named Villa Marie, with a sign above one of its doors, another on its gate and a third on one of the walls.
It was probably named after Mr Tan Hoon Siang's second wife, Madam Marie Windsor, who died in June 2007 at the age of 95.
Mr Tan died at the age of 82 in May 1991, while his first wife, Madam Chee Hoong Luan, died at the age of 63 in May 1973.
Now the house has been put up for sale by his three sons, acting as trustees for his estate, for $160 million to $170 million. Inquiries have been strong for the site since it was put on the market last Monday, said marketing agent JLL. The tender for the site closes on May 12.
"Interest is coming from both local and overseas developers and hotel investors," said JLL international director Karamjit Singh.
Some of the overseas parties already have a presence here, while others are looking to make their maiden investment in Singapore, he added. The site is zoned for hotel use, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority has said it would consider a proposal for a 20-storey residential project as well.
Today, the grounds show some signs of disrepair. A fountain at the front of the house is not operating and is full of moss, while stones marking walking paths have fallen away. At the back of the house, a Buddhist shrine could be seen when The Straits Times visited last Friday, with an elderly gardener pottering around.
Mr Tan's family is said to have lived in the property, which appeared to still be occupied last Friday, with a maid ironing in one of the rooms where a portrait of him was prominently displayed.
He had a son and five daughters with Madam Chee, whom he married in 1931. He had another two sons and three daughters with Madam Windsor. He headed several rubber companies in Malaysia as well as Bukit Sembawang Estates, and was a director of OCBC Bank.
Prior to taking up residence in Cuscaden Road, Mr Tan lived in a house in Leonie Hill. In 1981, he sold it to a unit of Far East Organisation for $51 million, or $307 per sq ft per plot ratio. The company appears to have amalgamated the site with others and built Leonie Condotel.
Very few redevelopments of landed houses have taken place in Orchard over the past few decades, noted Savills Singapore research head Alan Cheong.
This article was first published on April 11, 2016.
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