Eye on Sentosa: Sun, sea and sales

As Singapore’s only island resort, Sentosa attracts millions of visitors every year.
Once a British military base and Japanese killing field, Sentosa has transformed into one of the Southeast Asia’s most popular island resorts, with plenty of luxury homes to boot. We look into its past, present and future. 
By Cheryl Marie Tay
 The Sentosa we know today may be primarily a tourist attraction and playground for the well-off, but it is also one of the only places in Singapore where locals, expats and tourists alike can enjoy a taste of resort and island life.
It’s no secret that the authorities have made it a point to ensure greenery and conservation are prevalent throughout the country, and as a result, there are several parks, reservoirs and nature reserves where active individuals and nature lovers can indulge their respective interests.
But Sentosa is unique in its appeal as Singapore’s sole island resort, where nature, entertainment and leisure combine to draw crowds of all demographics from all over the world. In fact, it sees an annual visitor tally of approximately 20 million.
Needless to say, however, it was not always the popular holiday destination it is now.
Once upon a maritime
The island was fortified in the 1880s as part of Singapore’s defence plan, with Fort Connaught, Fort Serapong, Fort Siloso and Mount Imbiah Battery constructed in accordance with the plan. The island’s Its fortification was strengthened over the next five decades, and by the 1930s, it had started serving as the Royal Artillery’s base.
It acted as the British military base during the WWII, but became a prisoner of war camp after the Japanese invasion from the north and the 15 February 1942 Allied Forces surrender. Some say it was this period in Singapore’s history that earned Sentosa the notorious name of Pulau Belakang Mati (Island of Death from Behind), as it was one of the killing fields where, under the infamous Sook Ching Operation, Chinese men suspected of involvement in anti-Japanese activities met their gruesome end.
However, British military activity resumed after the Japanese surrender in 1945, when Singapore was once again under British rule. In 1947, the island became the base of the locally enlisted First Singapore Regiment of the Royal Artillery (1st SRRA).
Other locally enlisted Singaporean men were sent there for basic military training prior to being posted to other units of the British Army in Singapore. Later, the 2/7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Gurkha Rifles and the 2/10th Princess Mary’s Gurkha Rifles replaced the coast artillery.
The latter defended Pulau Belakang Mati against Indonesian saboteurs during the Indonesian Confrontation from the early to mid-1960s, after which the Gurkha units withdrew from the island and it was returned to Singapore in 1967. It was then gradually converted into a naval base, first with the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force relocating there from its old base at Telok Ayer Basin, then with the establishment of the School of Maritime Training and the first Naval Medical Centre.
Eventually, the island became part of the Republic of Singapore Navy, before the government embarked on plans in the 1970s to develop it as a holiday resort.
Sailing ahead
Pulau Belakang Mati was renamed in 1972 based on an idea from residents of Singapore. Using the Sanskrit word santosha, which means “contentment”, the name Sentosa, which means “peace and tranquillity” in Malay, was chosen.
Subsequently, the Sentosa Development Corporation was formed to manage the island’s development, and to date, over a billion dollars in both private capital and government funds have been used for this purpose.
The development started with the Singapore Cable Car system in 1974, which connected Sentosa to Mount Faber. Attractions, such as Fort Siloso and Underwater World, opened to the public.
Nowadays, Sentosa is perhaps best known and most visited for Resorts World Sentosa, its integrated resort that boasts one of Singapore’s two casinos, as well as the world’s largest oceanarium and a Universal Studios Singapore. Other resort amenities include luxury shops, many eateries, four hotels, the Marine Life Park and Maritime Experiential Museum.
Another notable feature is the Sentosa Boardwalk, which cost $70 million to construct. There areateries, stores and gardens on the Aedas-designed boardwalk, which officially opened in late January 2011. In 2014, it was named Best Leisure Architecture in Asia Pacific and 5* Best Leisure Architecture in Singapore at the Asia Pacific Property Awards.
Isle be living it up
But beyond the museums, shops, eateries, casino and beaches, Sentosa is also a favourite among the wealthy, having earned a reputation as Singapore’s very own Monte Carlo. Luxurious yachts and boats are often seen docked in special berths, and flashy cars, from Lamborghinis to Bentleys, seem to be the standard mode of road transport for residents in these parts.
Wong Xian Yang, Senior Manager of Research and Consultancy at Orangetee.com, says: “The lure of Sentosa is tailored particularly to accommodate the lifestyle needs of the wealthy, exemplified by the provision of amenities such as berths. Living in Sentosa indicates a certain level of prestige, and it provides the seclusion and exclusivity some ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) may seek.”
Indeed, there is an abundance of luxury residential property in Sentosa Cove: condos like The Residences at W, The Oceanfront @ Sentosa Cove, Cape Royale and The Azure offer residents ocean views and respite from the city’s crowds and noise. Sprawling Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) are also common here.
And as it is the only place in Singapore where foreigners are legally allowed to own landed homes, moneyed individuals from places like China, India, the US and Europe have flocked to Sentosa to splash their cash on the stately residences for which the island has become internationally renowned.
According to the World Wealth Report 2015 by Capgemini, Singapore is home to one of the largest high net worth individual (HNWI) populations in the world. Wong says, “The HNWI population in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow, and is poised to be a major driver of global HNWI wealth over the next few years.
“With Singapore’s attractive tax rates, high standards of living and transparent housing regulations, a part of this wealth will find its home in Singapore, and may drive demand for luxury properties in Singapore.”
Tempestuous times
Still, in recent years, the residential property market in Sentosa has not been performing too well. Prices have fallen significantly since their 2011 peak. Resale units at condos like Turquoise and The Coast incurred losses in the millions, and overall property investment has seen a noticeable decrease. Unsurprisingly, the government’s property cooling measures have been pinpointed as the main culprit.
Wong observes: “The high-end luxury market remains bogged down by current cooling measures. A robust recovery is not expected to materialise in the near term. Deep price cuts were observed in several resale transactions over the last few years, presenting opportunities for long-term investors or self-occupiers.”
Despite all this, however, homes in Sentosa are still considered good assets to have, thanks to their location. But potential buyers who are considering Sentosa now that home prices there have fallen would need to be in it for the long haul, as the cooling measures that have affected the property market are unlikely to be relaxed any time in the near future.

Published: http://www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-management-news/2016/5/126282/eye-on-sentosa-sun-sea-and-sales



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