Rail Mall up for sale

This article is more than 12 months old

Rail Mall, a stretch of shopping and dining outlets in a rustic part of Upper Bukit Timah Road, has been put on the market.

Besides 43 road-fronting units, the 105,561 sq ft site also comes with 95 carpark spaces.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive of International Property Advisor, said the development could be worth $30 million, or about $300 per sq ft of land area.

According to newspaper advertisements put up last week, it has a lettable floor area of 49,766 sq ft and comes with 28 years left on its lease. The property is held by Pulau Properties, which is in turn owned by the Lee Foundation and members of the Lee family that controls OCBC Bank.

CBRE and Savills, the marketing agents listed in the ads, declined to comment. An agent listed in the ad said the owners did not want publicity and also declined to comment.

Experts said the development is unlikely to be redeveloped even if a new owner steps in.

"This property may attract property funds interested in... rental income," said ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak. As its 99-year lease will expire in 2046, he said, it would not make sense for a new owner to redevelop it.

Mr Ku said another barrier to redevelopment is that the land is zoned for residential use.

But he noted that there are cases in which old shophouses are used in a different way from the land use stipulated in the masterplan. In such cases, he said, the authorities would allow the owners and tenants to continue with the same use even if zoning changed during recent revisions to the masterplan.

He added that even if the authorities were to allow a lease top-up, it would be costly.

Given the short lease left, a new owner would want a high enough cash flow to break even.

"If you were to tear it down and redevelop it for residential use, you would get lower-value use, lower-rental returns," Mr Ku said.

Mr Mak said that while main-road frontage can be a plus for shops and restaurants, the development potential of the land is limited because of the narrow shape.

The expression of interest exercise for the property is till March 8. - THE STRAITS TIMES