Novelty of Pullman
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – EL Development’s Lim Yew Soon to launch Pullman Residences Newton and open the flagship, five-star Pullman Singapore hotel on Hill Street
In recent years, EL Development, the privately-held property development arm of construction firm Evan Lim & Co, has been associated with large-scale, suburban private condo projects built on Government Land Sales (GLS) sites such as the 752-unit Parc Riviera at West Coast Vale, the 660-unit Symphony Suites in Yishun and the 810-unit La Fiesta at Sengkang Square.
Now, Lim Yew Soon, managing director of EL Development, plans to change that perception through the firm’s upcoming projects, namely a five-star hotel and a high-end condo in the prime districts. “With EL Development’s background, we’re not known as an upmarket developer,” he concedes. “We thought we should bring in a [hotel] brand. But we had little experience as to which brand to bring in.”
In January last year, EL Development made its first foray into the hotel sector with the purchase of the former Telephone House on Hill Street from SingTel for $118 million. When it came to shortlisting hotel management groups for the hotel site, Lim had narrowed it down to just one: Accor, the largest hotel operator in Singapore. He was betting on Pullman, the group’s fastest-growing upscale brand in the Asia-Pacific that had yet to establish a presence in Singapore.
Before making the decision though, Lim had stayed at several of the hotels around the region: The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman hotel; Pullman Auckland in New Zealand; the Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit and Pullman Bangkok King Power. “The properties were all a bit different from each other as Pullman is targeted at the global nomad, and, therefore, more free-spirited in terms of its brand expression,” he observes.
In June 2018, EL Development announced that it would be developing the first Pullman Singapore, to be managed by Accor. It will feature 350 rooms, a rooftop bar, executive lounge and amenities such as swimming pool, health and fitness centre. From the rooftop, the property will have views of Fort Canning, the Singapore River and St Andrew’s Cathedral. Total development cost of the hotel is estimated at $1.1 million to $1.2 million per key, says Lim.
The hotel is designed by DP Architects, one of Singapore’s oldest architectural practices, and is scheduled for completion sometime at the end of 2021 or early 2022.
After securing Accor’s Pullman brand for the hotel site on Hill Street, EL Development turned its attention to the Dunearn Gardens site, which it purchased en bloc for $468 million in April last year. It was EL Development’s biggest en bloc purchase to date.
The 95,442 sq ft freehold site is located just 150m from Newton MRT Station, which is an interchange station for both the North-South and Downtown Lines. It is also within the sought-after Dunearn Road-Bukit Timah residential enclave in prime District 11, which is near top schools such as Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Primary School and Singapore Chinese Girls’ School.
Perks of branded residences
“There are many high-end condos in the area and we were wondering how we could differentiate our project and make it stand out from the rest,” says Lim. “We asked Accor if we could brand the project ‘Pullman Residences’ and they agreed.”
This led to the inception of the maiden Pullman Residences Newton in Singapore. Hospitality services that EL Development intends to provide under its Pullman brand of residences include a doorman, concierge service and an attendant at the club lounge. Additional frills such as housekeeping, vacation planning, booking of personal trainers or breakfast service will be provided on an “ad hoc basis” through the concierge, says Lim.
Another benefit of buying a unit at Pullman Residences Newton is that those who exercise their option to purchase will automatically be accorded “platinum status” under the LeClub AccorHotels membership. Benefits of the membership include free breakfast in whichever Accor property one stays in the Asia-Pacific region – either at the executive lounge or in a designated hotel restaurant; VIP service; early check-in, late checkout; and LeClub AccorHotels customer care.
The platinum status will be guaranteed for three years from the date of purchase until the completion of the project. At the end of the three-year period, owners of Pullman Residences Newton will have the option to pay the annual fee in order to continue enjoying the benefits of the platinum status. This gives them an advantage over most LeClub members who need to stay a minimum of 60 room-nights a year and accumulate 14,000 points in order to have their platinum membership renewed annually.
As the Pullman Singapore is also owned by EL Development, the developer intends to offer other perks at the hotel for the buyers of Pullman Residences Newton in the future. These could come in the form of discounted room rates for staycations, discounts for those dining at the F&B outlets within the hotel premises and use of some of the facilities there, reckons Lim.
Finishings and features
Designed by ADDP Architects, Pullman Residences Newton will have a 30-storey apartment block raised five storeys above the street level when completed sometime in 2023. Units will be a mix of one- to four-bedroom apartments. They will come with high-end finishes and materials such as marble flooring in the living-dining area, engineered timber flooring for the bedrooms, Gaggenau and Bosch kitchen appliances as well as Duravit and Grohe bathroom fittings and sanitaryware. Units on the penthouse level will feature 4m ceiling height.
Smart home features incorporated into the residences include biometric digital door lock and a mobile app where the homeowner can control all the air-conditioning units in the apartment via a smartphone. All three- and four-bedroom units within Pullman Residences Newton will also come with private lift access.
“The Pullman brand is flexible enough to accommodate a mix of unit types, from one- and two-bedroom apartments to three- and four-bedroom apartments,” says EL Development’s Lim.
Within the Pullman Residences Newton, units range from 43 sq m (463 sq ft) for a one-bedroom unit; 667 sq ft for a two-bedroom unit; 1,163 sq ft for a three-bedder; and 1,378 sq ft for a four-bedroom apartment. Prices will start from $1.33 million for a one-bedroom unit or from $2,800 psf. “This means that even the biggest unit will be priced under $5 million,” says Lim. “We want to keep prices attractive in terms of absolute amount.”
Amenities in the upscale, branded residences will include a 50m lap pool, a children’s pool, club lounge with an attendant, outdoor dining pavilion, wellness gym, changing room, tennis court, and a small playground.
The entrance of the Pullman Residences Newton will have a sculptural feature inspired by the brand’s railway origin, says Lim. The name was said to have been inspired by George Pullman, the founder of the Chicago-based Pullman Car Co that manufactured railway cars in the mid- 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.
The Pullman Car Co was famous for launching the first sleeping trains in the US and developing upscale services for railroad travellers. In fact, Belgian engineer Georges Nagelmackers, who travelled to the US in 1867–68, was inspired to build his own version of luxury coaches in Europe, and founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) in 1872. The luxury coaches of CIWL multiplied across Europe from 1876, while the Orient Express took off in 1883.
The fast-growing railway networks spawned the growth of hotels alongside railway tracks. In 1894, CIWL created the Compagnie Internationale des Grands Hotels to manage its growing collection of hotels worldwide, which included the Hôtel Terminus in Bordeaux and Marseille, the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, the Hôtel de la Plage in Ostend, and the Grand Hôtel des Wagons-Lits in Beijing.
The Pullman brand became so popular that CIWL’s top hotels were turned into Pullman Hotels. In June 1990, the Accor hospitality group bought a minority stake in CIWL, and then fully acquired it the following year. CIWL’s hotel portfolio contained more than 350 hotels at the point of Accor’s acquisition. In 1993, the brand disappeared from the market after all Pullman Hotels were rebranded Sofitel Hotels. It was only in 2007 that Accor revived the upscale Pullman hotel brand to cater to business travellers.
There are 131 Pullman hotels across 39 countries with a total of 38,563 rooms today, according to an Accor Global Development presentation on the Pullman brand dated February 2019. The Asia-Pacific accounts for 77 of the hotels, or 59% market share as at end-2018. A pipeline of 53 hotels with 15,335 rooms are expected to open by 2023. Of the 53, more than 73% (39 hotels) with a pipeline of 11,412 rooms are located in the Asia-Pacific. The biggest market for Pullman in the region is China.
Prestige and proximity
As EL Development prepares to roll out Pullman Residences Newton on the market in the coming months, Lim considers it “a prequel” to the flagship Pullman Singapore hotel.
Although the Pullman Residences is not collocated with the Pullman Singapore, Lim doesn’t see it as a drawback. “The concept is different from the usual hospitality-branded residences where investors want to put their units back into the hotel rental pool for rental income, and in return, they get to enjoy a certain number of room-nights a year,” he says.
“Even Ritz-Carlton Residences in Singapore is in a separate location from the hotel,” he points out. “What Accor is more concerned about is the prestige of the location. They like the proximity of the Pullman Residences Newton to amenities and the fact that it’s in a prime district.”
Pullman Residences Newton will be jointly marketed by ERA Realty Network, Huttons Asia and PropNex Realty. According to Eugene Lim, ERA Realty’s key executive officer, the five-star hotel branding will differentiate the project from the typical high-end, condo developments in the neighbourhood.
“Prices from $2,800 psf is reasonable given the location, the quality of the product and the freehold tenure,” notes ERA’s Lim. “The project should attract both investors and those buying for their own use.”
EL Development’s Lim agrees. “The branding also offers better value to a would-be purchaser in the long run,” he adds.