Uncertain future for lifestyle hub at Serangoon Gardens

SINGAPORE - Barely two years after it was open for business, the future of a popular leisure hub in Serangoon Gardens is now in the balance.

Built as a buffer between a foreign dormitory and residential homes in Serangoon Gardens, the tenancy for Lifestyle Hub @ Burghley - which sits on state-owned land - will expire in July next year.

This means the centre's nine sub-tenants - which include cafes, activity centres for children and art workshops - may have to move out in less than a year.

They are now appealing for the lease to be extended, citing huge difficulties which delayed the centre's opening. These included electricity brown-outs, an inadequate sewerage system, leaky roofs and even termites.

"It was like a desert back then, there was no one here," said Mr William Lee, 41, the owner of My Art Studio.

Mr Lee sunk in $35,000 to renovate his studio and was the first tenant to move in back in November 2010. "Slowly, we built up our customer base. It would be a pity to lose them," he said.

All the sub-tenants have appealed to Hean Nerng Facilities Management, the 6,880 sq m site's master tenant, for an extension. In turn, the company wrote to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on Thursday and is awaiting a response.

Apart from the infrastructure issues, there were other problems plaguing the centre at first.

"It was difficult to attract tenants and customers initially as we were sited next to the workers' dormitory which the residents had major concerns over," Mr Kelvin Lim, the managing director of LHN Group, Hean Nerng's parent company.

Hean Nerng won the tender for the site in 2010, but full tenancy was achieved only in June last year.

His company pumped in $1 million to redevelop the site, which is 15m away from the dormitory, from which it is separated by a 2m-high fence.

The site was carved out after more than 1,400 residents petitioned against building the dormitory there in 2008.

Mr Lim said his firm has not yet decided to re-submit a bid if the site is put up for tender again. There is also the possibility that the Government will redevelop the plot.

Mr Thurairajasingam Vijeyasingam, 31, who owns Sky Fitness, is worried rent will go up should the site change hands.

"We are just a small business. If a new fellow comes in, they will want to make money and won't hold the same rental," he said, adding that his yoga centre and gym has 200 members now.

When contacted, a spokesman for SLA said open tenders enable interested parties to have an equal opportunity to bid. "Should the site be available for further interim use, we will put it up for tender," she said.

The centre's uncertain future has been greeted with dismay by customers like Mr John Dasson, 28, a wealth manager who is a member of Sky Fitness.

"The location is perfect, it is so close to home," he said. "It's like an exclusive oasis. I don't want it to change."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.