Buying property in Singapore? Why Rochor is a district to watch

House hunters have to cast their net wide to take in Singapore’s post-pandemic property boom. Not long ago, the search for a luxury address tended to lead prospective buyers towards expat-favoured Robertson Quay, Orchard, Sentosa, Holland Village or Bukit Timah.

Now you’re equally likely to find that dream home in suburban pockets like Marine Parade, Jurong, Bedok or Yishun.

The uptick in the citywide property market, despite COVID-19 restrictions, has resulted from a surge in private-home sales and prices, as well as the effects of the HDB resale market. But this rosy outlook isn’t just misplaced pandemic-era optimism; house prices have been rising steadily for four years now, cresting at 4 pet cent in early 2021. And while central condo units performed best later in the year, the suburbs hit a new high in Q2.

The south-central cultural district of Rochor is a case in point: A melting-pot area that straddles Little India, Kampong Glam, Bugis and Beach Road, and is now witnessing an upsurge of luxury condos in the wake of recent gentrification in the area.

While current prices rocket skywards for ultra-luxe condos or detached properties around Farrer Park, the cost of purchasing a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in Rochor averages S$1.5 million as the midtown area’s diversity, convenience and relative affordability become apparent to a wider market.

New, mixed-use condominiums in development in and around Beach Road embody this newfound emphasis on luxurious living, deploying a “work/live/play” concept – accommodation that’s designed for a holistic lifestyle experience in the heart of a metropolitan setting, similar to that showcased in earlier projects such as South Beach Residence.

To that end, apartment sizes range in size from one to three bedrooms, and include adaptable duplex units featuring moveable parts such as doors, kitchen fittings and partitions that help to maximise space.

Meanwhile the integrated developments also offer utilities such as social clubhouses, office suites, networking lounges and meeting rooms; sporting facilities like tennis courts, gyms and running tracks; and abundant leisure spaces including rain gardens, pools, gaming rooms and children’s playgrounds. Some newer apartment towers are also decorated with modern artworks and, for added convenience, incorporate separate areas for retail stores.

Considering its location and wide variety of cosmopolitan community attractions, it’s no great surprise that Rochor’s moment as a housing hotspot has arrived. The district doesn’t just encompass the bases for Singapore’s Indian and Malay minorities, but also some of the city-state’s most notable architecture.

The National Library, a performance venue as well as a study centre, is situated on Victoria Street; the golden-domed Masjid Sultan (1932)  a building originally inspired by the influx of Muslim migrants from Malaysia and Indonesia – stands at the gateway to Kampong Glam; and the angular design of LASALLE College of the Arts enlivens the area just south of Little India. Mount Emily Park, a desirable green lung, lies minutes away, and award-winning F&B establishments showcase fine food, drink and design around Bugis Street.

Three prominent contenders for Singapore’s best after-hours hangout are Atlas, Maison Ikkoku and Ginett Restaurant & Wine Bar, all located within Rochor’s boundaries.

For years prior to its latest incarnation, Atlas was an eccentric, little-frequented drinks establishment in Parkview Square known as the Divine Wine Bar, featuring a “flying” assistant dressed in a tutu known as the “wine fairy” who collected housepours from the elevated drinks cabinet. That same cabinet now houses the world’s largest gin collection, while the Jazz Age-evoking, European-style art-deco parlour itself shot to renewed fame in 2017 when it was rebranded as Atlas, garnering multiple awards such as fourth place on Asia’s Best Bars in 2018.

At the opposite end of the social-drinking spectrum, next to Masjid Sultan, lies Maison Ikkoku, a decade-long fixture on Singapore’s social scene known for its experimental way with bespoke cocktails and cosy-attic architecture; it also now serves as a Japanese fine-dining destination. It’s one of several bars now gracing the once-sleepy Kampong Glam enclave, which over the 2010s transformed into one of the island’s buzziest, fashionable quarters.

There’s excellent food in the neighbourhood, too, exemplified by the perennially popular bistro Ginett Restaurant & Wine Bar, a hyper-stylised F&B mainstay with culinary chops to match its appearance. Even in its fifth year, carnivore’s paradise Ginett maintains a Top 20 presence on TripAdvisor’s Best Restaurants in Singapore list.

Rochor’s emergence as a catchment area began in earnest after the demolition of Rochor Centre in 2018, a symbolic passing of the torch to the modern, upscale properties that now predominate in the area. Rochor Centre, with its uniquely colourful facades painted in 1994, was an unmissable, iconic edifice that came to epitomise the Housing Development Board’s reliance on large-scale, detached-tower mass housing in the 1970s, and became a catch-all building for traditional businesses that sold religious items in its many shophouses.

While Rochor’s latest integrated condos are at the forefront of luxury and forward-thinking design, residents are also attracted by several malls, the proximity of Bugis and Rochor MRT stations, high-quality schools, hospitals and sporting facilities.

Retail havens are aplenty, highlighted by the 50-year-old mall complex Mustafa Centre – an institution that set out stall in 1971 as a humble clothes store on Little India’s Campbell Lane. By its third decade in business, Mustafa had become so successful that it relocated to a row of shophouses on Syed Alwi Road, where it has remained ever since, eventually becoming a 24-hour superstore. These days it draws crowds of up to 15,000 at weekends, employs thousands of staff and operates a rooftop restaurant, sealing its long-term status as one of Singapore’s most beloved shopping paradises.

Shopping destinations of a different stripe are a short distance away, such as the buzzing hipster hub Haji Lane on the outskirts of Kampong Glam, arcade-style Bugis Junction and the many shops adjoining convention centre Suntec City.

Omega International College, Elite International College and LaSalle College of the Arts underline the area’s prowess in academia, respectively offering business and accounting courses, private schooling for 8- to 18-year-olds, and creative arts and design.

Rounding off Rochor’s comprehensive range of facilities, the area also provides a well-rounded spread of healthcare services, housing KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (Singapore’s largest such institution); the towering, 13-storey Raffles Hospital in Bugis; 220-bed Farrer Park Hospital; and Rochor Centre Clinic. Meanwhile for sports fans of all ages, Bintan Resorts’ Golf Clubs & Courses and Singapore Senior Golfers’ Society are right on the doorstep.

With impressive new residences available for grabs, and featuring arguably Singapore’s most eclectic, cosmopolitan district within its vicinity, there’s never been a better time for a long-term investment in Rochor.

This article was first published on PropertyGuru.

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