Finding Space for Business

Singapore has grown in recent decades to become one of the key business and financial hubs in Asia. Many international firms have chosen to site their regional headquarters here, attracted by the open economy, educated workforce, solid infrastructure and ease of doing business. Besides its inherent strengths, foreign investors can also count on the support of the Singapore government, especially through public agencies such as the Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) and SPRING Singapore.  

While Singapore is relatively land scarce, it has been strategically optimising the available space to ensure that industries – especially high value add sectors such as finance, technology and biomedicine – are able to find the right locations for their businesses to grow and expand. With Singapore’s economy rapidly developing in recent years, let us review how commercial and industrial spaces have evolved in tandem. 

Where Space is at a Premium 

Singapore’s Grade A office space is predominantly found in the Central Business District (CBD), consisting of the major areas such as Tanjong Pagar, Raffles Place, Shenton Way, Marina Bay, as well as parts of City Hall, Orchard Road and Beach Road. In recent years, the CBD has seen a strong supply of Grade A office space hitting the market. These include Asia Square and Marina Bay Financial city and in the waterfront business district of Marina Bay, CapitaGreen in bustling Raffles Place, as well as South Beach Tower in Beach Road. 
While banks and financial institutions were traditionally the main tenants at Grade A office spaces, this has been changing in recent years with technology firms also taking up such spaces. Internet giant Google has been occupying four levels at Asia Square Tower 1 totalling around 120,000 square feet, while social media giant Facebook is similarly occupying four floors at South Beach Tower in Beach Road. 

Business as Usual in the Suburban

With commercial space in the CBD coming at a premium, many businesses have relocated to suburban business spaces in recent years. While many of these locations such as Pasir Panjang, Paya Lebar, Tampines and Jurong may not boast the prestige of a CBD address, the rental cost savings – sometimes at about half that of a Grade A CBD office – more than make up for it. 
A number of public agencies have followed suit in shifting to these suburban centres. These include the Ministry of National Development, which has taken up a 30-year lease for 11 levels of office space at the office tower component of Jem, a mixed-use development in Jurong East Central. Meanwhile, the Central Provident Board (CPF) has shifted its corporate operations to Novena Square Towers A and B since November 2015, and putting up its previous office address the CPF Building at 79 Robinson Road up for sale. 

Providing Industries with Room to Grow 

To further meet the unique needs of specific industries, Singapore has developed many business parks across the island in recent years. The two earliest successes are the 37 hectare International Business Park in Jurong (launched in 1992) and the 71 hectare Changi Business Park (launched in 1997). These two developments provide high value add companies the necessary space to build facilities customised to their specific needs. 
Recognising the need to create optimum conditions for important growth sectors, Singapore has also developed specialised business parks to house these industry clusters. Perhaps, the most successful example of this is one-north at Buona Vista, a 200 hectare business park developed to house Research & Development (R&D) and high technology industries, such as biomedical sciences, infocomm technology (ICT) and media industries. Developed by the JTC Corporation, the sprawling one-north is further broken up into Biopolis (for biomedical R&D) and Fusionopolis (for IT, infocomm, engineer R&D), as well as Block 71, an incubation space for tech start-ups. 
JTC Corporation – which is the lead government agency in Singapore to spearhead the planning and development of a dynamic industrial landscape – has also developed other specialised business parks, such as the Seletar Aerospace Park, Tuas Biomedical Park and Jurong Island to support the growth and development of key manufacturing sectors for Singapore. Such hubs offer industries the benefits of supporting infrastructure, as well as opportunities for collaboration.  

Retail and Lifestyle Developments 

Moving away from the office and industrial space sector, we can see that Singapore’s retail space sector has been evolving with the influx of new retail and lifestyle concepts locally and abroad. When it comes it prime retail space, the Orchard and Somerset Road shopping belt is still the place to be. This is especially so for international tourists. 
In recent years, the prestigious retail district has seen new developments such as Orchard ION, Knightsbridge, 313@Somerset, Orchard Central and more. Existing retail destinations such as Wisma Atria, Paragon and Mandarin Gallery have also undergone refurbishments to keep pace with the increasing competition on the scene. 
When it comes to luxury retail and dining, one major development has been the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Part of the Marina Bay Sands integrated resorts, the Shoppes offers close to 800,000 square feet of retail space and 270 boutiques and restaurants. Luxury brands will feel at home here with an unprecedented assembly of 15 duplex and triplex stores, offering the right touch of class to match their status.

Shopping in Suburbia 

For the retail sector, the shift towards spaces in suburban townships has been evident too. Whereas most suburban shopping centres used to be simple affairs allowing residents to shop for daily goods and essentials, today’s suburban malls are altogether different affairs. Nowadays, the sight of high street fashion brands such as H&M and Topshop would not be amiss at many of these developments. 
In particular, Tampines and Jurong East – in the east and west of suburban Singapore respectively – have emerged as credible retail destinations in their own right. Tampines is home to three shopping malls – Tampines Mall, Century Square and Tampines 1 – offering different retail tenant mixes. Jurong East is home to four shopping malls – Jem, Westgate, JCube and outlet mall IMM – to cater to the growing resident population in the western part of Singapore. 

Ideal Spaces for the Right Businesses  

The breadth and diversity of commercial, industrial and retail spaces in Singapore is testament to the foresight of its urban planners. The development of land and business spaces is tightly integrated with the economic development strategy of the nation, ensuring that the right businesses are supported with spaces ideal for them. 
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