One scheme encourages mixed-use projects in CBD; the other promotes joint redevelopment to transform precincts in strategic areas. Bonus Plot Ratio scheme to go. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has unveiled two incentives: one seeks to liven up the central business district (CBD) with a broader mix of uses including residential; the other aims to encourage owners of existing commercial buildings in strategic areas including Orchard Road to team up with neighbors for comprehensive redevelopment with bold proposals that will transform the street or precinct.

The URA also announced on Wednesday in conjunction with the release of its Draft Master Plan 2019 that it is doing away with the Bonus Plot Ratio scheme. The scheme was introduced in 1989 to allow for the intensification of commercial developments in close proximity to five designated MRT Stations in the Downtown Core, Museum and Orchard planning areas as well as developments in these areas which met minimum plot-size requirements. (The MRT stations are: Orchard, Somerset, Dhoby Ghaut, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar.)

The scheme has already been tapped by most eligible projects to optimize their development potential. Master Plan 2019 will be adjusted to factor the bonus plot ratio applicable within 200 meters of the designated MRT stations. The newly-minted CBD Incentive Scheme, which applies to exist predominantly office developments in selected areas, aims to encourage the conversion of older office developments into mixed-use projects by offering an increase in gross plot ratio. This allows for more gross floor area to be built.

Singapore's CBD is dominated by offices, which means things quieten down significantly at night and on weekends. The incentive addresses this issue by encouraging a wider diversity of uses, including more residences, hotels and creative lifestyle possibilities - to inject a bigger live-in population into the CBD.

imageOver Masterplan 2019 Gross Plot Ratio (GPR) or approved GPR, whichever is higher

That said, URA is calibrating the incentives to encourage: The creation of mixed-used neighborhoods in the CBD-fringe areas of Cecil Street and Anson, with greater extent of residential uses supported by a variety of social/community amenities.

A blend of mixed uses within Robinson Road, Shenton Way and Tanjong Pagar, while retaining the predominantly commercial character of the traditional Raffles Place financial district. The scheme applies only to selected parts of Anson; Cecil Street; and Robinson Road/Shenton Way/Tanjong Pagar. (See table). Minimum site areas have also been stipulated. The allowable increase in plot ratios is capped at 25 percent for most proposed land uses and at a higher 30 percent for residential with commercial use at first storey in the Anson and Cecil Street locales.

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The CBD Incentive Scheme will take effect from the date of gazette for Master Plan 2019. On the same date, the Bonus Plot Ratio scheme will be rescinded. The Strategic Development Incentive Scheme, which took effect from Wednesday, is aimed at encouraging owners of adjacent commercial or mixed-use developments with predominantly commercial uses in strategic areas to join forces and comprehensively redevelop innovative projects that transform the surrounding urban environment. In particular applications for Orchard Road, CBD and Marina Centre locales are encouraged in line with plans to rejuvenate these areas.

Eligible building owners and developers may submit proposals to the URA, seeking higher plot ratios as well as flexibility on land use and use quantum, and building height. Proposals will be evaluated case by case, based on the following criteria: urban design and architectural design concept; environmental improvement/contribution to the community; and use mix. For both schemes, any additional plot ratio granted is subject to payment of development charge (DC) or differential premium (DP) where relevant.

CBRE's head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia, Desmond Sim, said the CBD Incentive Scheme will offer a lifeline to owners of older buildings that are becoming more functionally obsolete and who are toying with redevelopment or asset enhancement works.

"The scheme may also positively influence investment sales deals, adding the notion of value to value-added funds because of the higher plot ratio. The scheme will also widen the spectrum of uses in the CBD, thus optimizing land utilization." UOL Group chief executive Liam Wee Sin welcomed both incentives.

"That said, developers will have to study carefully whether the enhanced plot ratio is compelling enough in terms of financial feasibility of embarking on a redevelopment project - after factoring in the DC/DP payment, the downtime and loss of income while the property is being redeveloped, and not forgetting the construction cost of the new project."

Colliers International research head for Singapore, Tricia Song, said that both incentives will spark some impetus for owners of older and smaller developments within the CBD to think about redevelopment, including through amalgamation with neighboring plots. Separately, URA revealed during the launch of its Draft Master Plan 2019 that government agencies will be calling for proposals in the coming months to generate ideas on short-term uses for vacant state lands and buildings in certain parts of Singapore.

"Separately, in line with our vision for Marina Bay to be a vibrant precinct with a variety of public spaces, we are exploring opportunities to introduce short-term uses at selected vacant plots to testbed new ideas and add diversity to the offerings there.

"The uses could range from lifestyle to recreational amenities, and even innovative business concepts. These are envisioned as a means to increase street vibrancy while serving the existing working and residential communities," said a URA spokesman.

A possible candidate is a vacant plot between Marina One and Marina Bay Financial Centre. URA also plans to roll out new housing options in Downtown. Marina South alone has the potential for about 9,000 homes.

At nearby Rochor, "we will cater for residential developments were suitable and inject more live-in population within the city", added the URA spokesman.

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