Next stop: Underground mall linking Marine Parade station

Next stop: Underground mall linking Marine Parade station

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will develop an underground linear retail space next to the future Marine Parade station on the Thomson-East Coast Line.

The space, to have 12,370 square metres (133,000 sq ft) of gross floor area in a single storey, is seen as a way of getting more mileage from public infrastructure investment and optimising land productivity.

Provisional permission for the proposed retail development was granted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in March, and Marine Parade station is slated for completion in 2023.

The underground retail space will sit above part of the tunnel connecting the Marine Parade and Marine Terrace stations.

Having underground retail space next to MRT stations is not a new concept here; such spaces have been developed in the Raffles Place and Dhoby Ghaut stations, as well as in the linkway between the two stations (on the East-West and Downtown lines) at the Bugis Interchange.

However, Marine Parade is likely to be the first time the concept is being introduced in a fairly big way outside the city, said market watchers.

Large existing malls in the vicinity are not expected to take a big hit from the underground retail space, which is likely to provide ancillary convenience services to commuters on the go.

Contacted by The Business Times, a spokeswoman for LTA said: "To improve connectivity and maximise underground space, LTA will be constructing an adjoining underground space as part of Marine Parade station.

"The single-storey structure is constructed by taking advantage of the cut-and-cover construction of the tunnels to the east of the station along Marine Parade Road."

She added that upon completion, the retail space will be handed over to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the custodian of State properties.

An SLA spokeswoman said that, since the underground space and station will be completed only in 2023, the authority will be looking into how the space can be best managed and utilised.

Property-market watchers estimate that the 12,370 sq m (about 133,150 sq ft) of gross floor area would translate into about 80,000 to 86,500 sq ft of net lettable area (NLA) of retail space, after factoring in space for the pedestrian walkway and other circulation areas.

Danny Yeo, group managing director at Knight Frank, thinks the authorities could adopt one of three possible models in deciding to whom the underground retail space will be handed over.

One option would be to hand over the space to the party that will be given the licence to operate the Thomson-East Coast Line. "The operator would most likely be keen because of the additional revenue source from the retail rental collection."

Alternatively, SLA could appoint a professional asset-management and/or facilities-management firm to run the retail space on behalf of the state. "Such a party would bring in the tenants, manage them, collect rentals and do property maintenance - in exchange for fee income from the government," said Mr Yeo.

In the third scenario, the authorities could grant a long lease, say 20 to 30 or more years on the retail space to a third party.

"The lessee could pay an upfront premium to the state for the entire duration of the lease, or pay annual rental income. Either way, the lessee would then act as the master tenant, fit out the space, decide on the retail mix, bring in suitable sub-tenants and earn rental income from these sub-tenants."

Mr Yeo said he does not expect existing malls in the vicinity - Parkway Parade a stone's throw away, and One KM, further away in Tanjong Katong - to experience significant impact from the existence of the proposed retail space.

"This underground retail space will cater more to the convenience of MRT travellers. So there will be some F&B outlets and takeaway stalls, convenience stores, may be foot reflexology, nail bars, a place one could pick up simple cosmetics, a wellness centre."

In terms of scale, this retail space will be much smaller than the likes of Parkway Parade and One KM, which have about 566,000 sq ft and 205,000 sq ft of NLA respectively.

"This underground stretch next to Marine Parade Station is likely to feature mostly small tenants, catering to impulse shopping from fast-flowing commuter traffic, whereas the existing malls above ground have some large tenants, more facilities such as car parking and offer destination shopping."

DTZ's South-east Asia chief executive Ong Choon Fah said building subterranean retail space as part of an MRT station enables the reaping of greater benefits from infrastructure investment.

"It will offer convenience and form part of the service to commuters, for instance, if they want to pick up breakfast during the morning rush hour or if they forget to buy something from the pharmacy. We can expect outlets with sandwiches and finger foods, something commuters can grab and go - rather than fashion stores."

She agreed with Mr Yeo that these would, in short, be ancillary retail outlets for commuters on the move, and will not deal a big blow to the nearby big malls.

TEL will comprise 31 stations (all underground) and be completed in stages between 2019 and 2024. The East Coast stretch of TEL will comprise nine stations to be completed in two stages. The first seven stations from Tanjong Rhu to Bayshore (including the Marine Parade and Marine Terrace stations) will be ready in 2023.

LTA will also build Singapore's first underground MRT station bicycle parks, at four stations along the East Coast stretch - including the Marine Parade and Marine Terrace stations.

kalpana@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 18, 2016.
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