I've lived at Pine Grove at Ulu Pandan for 20 years: Here's my review of what it's like to stay in a huge development

I've lived at Pine Grove at Ulu Pandan for 20 years: Here's my review of what it's like to stay in a huge development
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

If you are less familiar with the Ulu Pandan area, Pine Grove may just appear to be an HDB on the outside rather than a condo. 

It’s exterior design is definitely very plain-looking, and what some might even consider to be rather boring. 

However, this condo caters to a specific niche – those who want wide open spaces. And in a land-sparse country such as Singapore, it has become an important commodity.

Helen (*not her real name for privacy reasons) and her husband chose Pine Grove for this particular reason.

“Because we moved back from a stint overseas, we realised what we missed the most was space. Also it was important for us that the kids have space and land to run around,” Helen said.

Another reason they chose to move is that they were growing out of their previous home. She recalled that while the apartment was in a good location, it had no facilities. In her own words, “the place was getting too small for our needs.”

She said they needed a home that had a bigger living space. And thanks to the freedom space they enjoyed while living overseas for a bit, they really wanted to find a new place offering a similar experience. “Also, the kids were growing older,” she added, “having access to facilities to encourage them to get outdoors was also an important factor for us.”

Let’s get to know how living at Pine Grove turned out for Helen and her family since the time they moved in 2001.

How Pine Grove compares to other estates

Naturally, the family were also looking at the other condos in the area. These were all old developments too, like Cavendish Park, Astor Green, Pandan Valley and Ridgewood condominium. 

“At that time, we had a limited budget,” she answered. “Pine Grove was already quite old at that point, but the psf price was very attractive.” As they wanted to prioritise larger space, they had to move further out of the central areas.

She recalled that out of all the neighbouring condos, their favourites were actually Ridgewood and Pandan Valley. However, because they were freehold, the prices were quite a bit higher, which didn’t seem feasible for them at that point. 

Helen admitted that she preferred Pandan Valley out of all the choices. She said the place just had a different feel to it. “It was much messier but carried much more character too.”

Ultimately, Pine Grove’s more affordable price is what made them finally decide to choose it over the rest. She said that as all of these developments effectively offered the same lifestyle too (they also had big units and huge land space), it made Pine Grove the more sensible choice.

They were also a little concerned about the lease since it was an older leasehold condo, but at that point they decided that the lifestyle benefits for their family was more important. Besides, they figured that because Pine Grove had so much land, it was bound to be an attractive plot for a collective sale in the future. 

What made Pine Grove stand out from other choices

Aside from the price, there were other things that attracted them to Pine Grove – and one of which was the land size.

“If I’m not wrong, it has nearly 800K square feet of space.”

(893,219 square feet of land, to be exact)

They were a bit hesitant at first by the number of units though, with Pine Grove having over 600 units. It seemed a lot, especially since they were coming from a small apartment with less than 50 units. However, during the first viewing, she said they were taken aback by just how much space there was. “It totally didn’t feel like there were so many units, as everything was so spread out.”

“We viewed 2 units that weekend, which just happened to be on the opposite ends of the estate. Just walking from one end to the other was quite a trek in itself!”

Helen said that they also really liked that despite the building looking like an HDB, there were a surprising number of facilities.

“Back then, the swimming pool actually looked quite modern,” she recalled, “and the kid’s pool even had a slide.” There was also a basketball and tennis court, and one of the blocks had a table tennis table below. These facilities became real plus points for them as with their young kids growing up, they felt like they wanted to be able to provide a home in which their children could do all these things.

Finally, the eventual unit that they chose was also much larger than their previous place. They liked the different levels of the maisonette unit. And because it was situated on the ground floor, they had easy access to their car.

What a typical day looks like at Pine Grove

So what’s living at Pine Grove really like? 

“It’s quite an idyllic place. I think it’s good if you have young children and family as the amount of space is truly a luxury,” Helen shared. 

She explained that walking is their chosen form of exercise, and they do this a lot in Pine Grove. They like to walk around the estate in the evenings and also along the Ulu Pandan park connector for a bit of variation. Helen’s husband also tries to make it a point to swim in the early mornings as it’s relatively quiet that time too.

The slide in the kid’s pool is quite an underrated attraction for young children. Not many condos have them, and it’s a great way to entertain when kids come over.

On the weekends, they also walk to Ghim Moh market for breakfast when they feel up for it. While driving is much faster, parking at Ghim Moh can get really busy, being a popular spot. The food selection there is great, and they frequent stalls like Thye Hong Fishball noodles a lot.

Besides Ghim Moh, Sunset Way is another nearby amenity. They found it to be a good spot for food on the weekends too.

For groceries, they would typically head to the NTUC Finest at Clementi. It’s constantly rushed and packed though, as it is quite small considering the number of people living at Clementi. For a less busy experience, though, they would go to Cold Storage at Jelita, which is open 24 hours.

A look behind the facade of Pine Grove

Pine Grove went through a major repaint a few years ago with a stark green colour, as Helen described it. “I suppose it’s just the old age, really. I never minded that it looked very plain on the outside, and they tried to maintain the development over the years.”

She admitted that some areas really do need a bit of TLC. The railings, for instance, are getting worn out and some parts of the building look quite run down. The shelters of some of the pavilions are quite dirty. If you spend some time walking around the estate enough, you’d also notice certain areas that are falling apart.

Then there’s also a longstanding issue that they didn’t quite consider when they first moved. The car park space, while plentiful, has no shelter. This means that the car will be completely exposed to the elements, and given the number of trees around, it’s quite common to come to your car seeing splatters of bird droppings. 

“As I understand from some older developments, the car itself may be sheltered, but it won’t be sheltered from the car park to the block.” For Pine Grove, though, nothing is sheltered at all.

So on a rainy day, they’d use an umbrella or just wait it out. With heavy rains, an umbrella can only do so much, and you’re still going to get wet somewhat. It gets even worse when you’ve just come back from buying groceries. “If you have young kids and need to secure them in the car, you can forget about it,” she added. 

And even if you don’t drive, one of the biggest downsides is that there’s no sheltered drop-off point. This means you’ll need to carry an umbrella everywhere you go. 

“This might seem like I’m complaining, but one of the downsides of staying in such a big development is the walk out of it in case you want to get to the main road to take the bus.” The distance will depend on the block you are staying at. Helen said if you are at blocks 1D, 1E, or 1F, it will be quite a long walk out – which also isn’t sheltered at all.

She said that security at Pine Grove is generally quite relaxed, and there’s not much to complain about.

However, she does wish that they could have some form of a sheltered car park as this is her biggest problem with the place. Plus, she said they also need to have some form of better maintenance for some spots. 

Considerations potential buyers should know

If you’re planning to buy a unit at Pine Grove, Helen shares some insights you won’t normally get from the usual information online.

First, she said there are two entrances to Pine Grove, which does help with the traffic if you drive (which you most likely would, in a location such as this). If Holland/Ulu Pandan Road is too busy, there’s the option of driving through the Mt Sinai area instead. There is also a minimart at the clubhouse, which comes in handy if you need any last-minute simple groceries.

In terms of unit layouts, there are quite a few varieties of unit layouts available, some of which Helen said they were considering before.

For a regular layout, there’s the typical three-bedroom layout in the taller blocks. There are also maisonette units with the two subvarieties. The first one is a ground-floor unit that opens up at the back with a small patio. Then there’s the second-level maisonette, where you’ll have to walk up the stairs to get home. 

These maisonettes are also quite an interesting split-level type, where you have four levels. “It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically you have the floor for the living, one for the dining and kitchen, another for the master and another bedroom, and finally another floor for the remaining two bedrooms,” she explained.

“From what I know, there’s also another type of maisonette with the dining and kitchen on one floor and the rest of the unit on another.”

There are car park lots right outside the ground-level maisonette units, but they aren’t designated for the unit specifically. Fortunately, most residents wouldn’t park in these lots out of politeness.

“We’ve had cases before where visitors just park in the spots right outside our home, but by and large most neighbours are respectful.” In any case, car park lots are definitely not an issue at Pine Grove. Even if you have multiple cars, it’s just a matter of paying for additional car park labels. 

Immediate food availability is where Pine Grove doesn’t fare that well – it’s really a development for drivers. Although Helen adds that you can walk to Ridgewood where there’s an E-sarn Thai food, a Jap restaurant, and a pizza joint. You could also head to Pandan Valley for The French Ladle, a quaint spot that’s been there for some time.

“We did also used to like walking out to this outdoor BBQ seafood joint called Rong Guang which was just right outside the entrance. Sadly, that’s gone now.”

That said, it’s good for would-be buyers to note that the Maju MRT station has just been confirmed at Sunset Way. It’s still not the closest walk from Pine Grove, but as of now, it will be the closest available MRT station.

Lastly, with the Pine Grove GLS going through, Helen cautioned buyers looking at the blocks closest to the old Nexus International School as those will be the closest – you will have to expect to deal with construction noise for the next few years. 

Staying at Pine Grove

There’s no contesting that Helen and her family love staying at Pine Grove Condominium.

“We really like being able to look out of our bedroom window to trees and wide expansive space. This estate is big enough for us to walk in the evenings without even having to leave its premises.” 

She loves how life seems to slow down a little at Pine Grove. There are a number of retirees living here, and so you don’t get people rushing about as much. When they go somewhere busy like Clementi Central, she found it quite apparent at how different the living environment is. While it is very convenient, it’s also very busy. She said you could feel almost overwhelmed at times. 

“We really enjoy how quiet Pine Grove can be on the inside, which is great if you are of a certain age,” she added. It’s not for everyone, but if you are looking for a change of pace this could be it. 

She also finds it nice to have some facilities in the estate. Compared to some of her friends who are staying at another HUDC, Ivory Heights, she prefers Pine Grove, which has just as big a land space, but yet with some facilities like a pool.

While the development will probably have to go en bloc at some point, it could still take a while because of the current market condition, and the available GLS spots in the immediate area. With such a big land size, it is a negative rather than a positive in this market. But even if it doesn’t, it poses no problem to Helen.

And so, we asked her how long they were planning to stay at Pine Grove or if they had any future plans. Helen answered confidently.

“We are quite content to stay here as even if a collective sale does happen, it will be hard to find something like this at the same price. We’d likely have to fork out more money for the same space and lifestyle.”

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.

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