Evans Road site to get $3m facelift

PHOTO: Evans Road site to get $3m facelift
Above photo is Units occupied by the site's three tenants - Hatched, The Wine Company and Mr Prata (above) - will be repainted and fitted with brighter lighting by new landlord Winsta Holding.

A popular spot along Evans Road will soon get a new lease of life.

The 14,508 sq m site at 26 Evans Road, which houses well- known eateries and the Evans Lodge student hostel, has a new landlord, Winsta Holding.

The hostel operator, which told The Straits Times two days ago of its $3 million makeover for the site, will take over the premises from Yess Le Green in early January. Renovations will start in the same month.

Winsta won the tender for the state-owned plot on Nov 16 with its offer of a $171,899 monthly rent, more than double the Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) guide rent of $77,000.

The tenancy is for an initial term of three years, renewable for up to six years.

The refurbishment includes converting some of the hostel's 225 single rooms into two-room apartments with attached bathrooms, as well as adding kitchen facilities and new gym equipment.

This may be a necessary move. Reviews of the hostel on sites like TripAdvisor describe the rooms there as "vile" and "disgusting".

One reviewer complained of a cockroach infestation and another of toilet cubicles reeking of urine.

The carpark there will be repaved and expanded. Units occupied by the site's three tenants - breakfast joint Hatched, The Wine Company restaurant and the 24-hour Mr Prata - will be repainted and fitted with brighter lighting.

Winsta is in talks with The Wine Company to build more accessible toilets.

It has also asked Yess for the contact details of students who want to stay on.

"We will approach the students, look at their contracts, see what they are paying and work out a way forward," said Ms Lynn Sim, 34, director of Winsta Holdings, which operates six hostels here.

But rents will go up.

"It's necessary. The price we won the bid on is quite high," she said, adding that rents are likely to be $6 to $9 per sq m.

They are now about $5 per sq m, according to tenants there.

Ms Sim said that Winsta will work with the three tenants and encourage them to stay.

"They have been here for so long and have built up a certain reputation.

We would like them to continue, but we do have a bottom line to meet," she said, adding that a high bid was placed as such long-term leases for hostels are rare.

The site - comprising buildings that opened in 1958 as Eusoff College, the National University of Singapore's first university hall of residence for women - drew 23 bids in total.

The next highest bid was Central Warehouse Service's $170,333 a month. Yess also placed a bid of $150,540 a month.

Yes, which has been leasing the site since 2003, could not be contacted for comment.

It is not known how much it pays in rent, but The Straits Times understands that it is substantially lower than what Winsta will pay.

Ms Sim said existing tenants need not move out if they sign a new lease.

The hostel will be renovated in stages and any displaced students will stay at Winsta's other hostels.

Handover plans are being worked out, she said.

Ms Belinda Lim, co-owner of The Wine Company, said she has spoken to the new landlord.

"I am glad a new landlord has come in and wants to keep us. We are definitely staying for sure," she said, adding that business has dropped recently as the place is run down.

"There is a lack of lighting at night and the carpark is too small," she said.

She is writing to Winsta to see if it is possible to reduce the space she is renting, in light of the increase in rental.

Mr Prata co-owner Chandra Sehkar, 53, said: "I would like to stay.

We have been here for seven years. Customers are familiar with the place.

We will seriously consider staying even if the rental goes up."

Mr Gerald Tan, 30, who owns Hatched, said he needs to take a closer look at its accounts before making a decision.

"We did expect an increase with a new landlord coming in. If the sums work out, we will continue," he said.