Court battle over handover of Turf City

Court battle over handover of Turf City
The Grandstand mall at Turf Club Road, which was formerly known as Turf City.

Sharp differences over how the former Turf City operators handed over the premises to the new managers led to a two-week-long High Court hearing for damages that ended last friday.

SH Cogent Logistics and its subsidiary Cogent Land Capital, which manage The Grandstand, as the place is now called, alleged that previous operators Singapore Agro Agricultural (SAA) of the then Turf City had left the multi- storey area in a state of disrepair before it left.

Cogent, which became master tenant of the former Bukit Timah Turf Club site in 2012, had outbid SAA with a monthly rent of $1,065,678 compared to $718,888 tendered by the latter for the three-year lease from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The Grandstand is today a popular hub offering a mix of food outlets, pre-school and child-related activities and services such as the Giant supermarket.

It also houses Singapore's first permanent multi-vendor, gourmet farmers market known as the PasarBella, with more than 35 shops offering goodies for food lovers.

Previously, the area consisted of second-hand car sale yards and sporting areas, among other things. The High Court proceedings are set to settle the spat that occurred when Cogent took over.

Cogent alleged in court documents that SAA conspired to hurt its business out of unhappiness at losing the lease tender. It claimed that SAA carried out removal and rectification works that were not required by the SLA, like removing a metal deck floor, and took steps to evict sub-tenants and licensees before the handover.

Cogent also claimed SAA representatives demanded a $3 million payout to stop the works and evictions at a December 2011 meeting.

Cogent's lawyers, Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and Ms Koh Swee Yen, pointed to letters from SLA telling SAA that extensive rectification works would not be required, to minimise the disruption to existing sub-tenants.

Cogent even obtained a High Court order in January 2012 to stop SAA from doing further rectification works.

SAA, which had been master tenant of the 178,000 sq m area since 2001, denied the claims, arguing that reinstatement works were needed before the handover.

Its lawyers, Senior Counsel Andre Yeap and Mr Adrian Wong, countered that it had removed temporary structures in keeping with its obligations as a master tenant and to ensure that no potential safety issues remained once it vacated its lease.

SAA was also successful in applying to have the court order lifted to stop its reinstatement works. It argued that the injunction was wrongfully obtained and wanted damages for losses suffered, claiming Cogent gave the wrong impression that SAA had evicted tenants without lawful basis.

Justice Woo Bih Li adjourned the case last friday for parties to make their final written submissions to wrap up the case by next month.

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