The Straits Times
June 8, 2009
By Jessica Cheam
A new hotel being built by budget accommodation chain Hotel 81, in Eng Hoon Street in Tiong Bahru, has raised eyebrows of residents who are worried that it will leader to vice and other social problems. It is still unclear if the hotel will offer full-day or hourly rates. -- ST PHOTO: ALBERT SIMTiong Bahru residents worry that Hotel 81's presence might give area a sleazy image
AN ALMOST completed, nondescript building in one corner of Singapore's bustling Tiong Bahru estate is raising eyebrows within the community.
Several residents are concerned about the latest addition to their estate - a new hotel built by budget accommodation chain Hotel 81.
The prospect of an hourly-rate budget hotel in their estate has got them worried that the development might give a sleazy image to the neighbourhood, and depress the values of their properties.
When contacted, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which approves the use of buildings as hotels, confirmed it had 'granted approval for a hotel development at 1-9 Eng Hoon Street' on Sept 12 last year.'
The proposed hotel development on the subject site is acceptable from the planning point of view as it is located in a mixed-use area where there are existing hotel developments in the vicinity,' it said.
Although a sign proclaims the name of the hotel to be 'Hotel 81 Osaka', it is unclear if the hotel will be an hourly-rate one or one that charges only a full-day rate.
Hotel 81 declined to comment when contacted.
The budget hotel chain has aggressively expanded in the past few years to a network of 30 hotels islandwide.
Most are located in the red light district of Geylang and other areas such as Joo Chiat and Balestier.
The chain has one hotel in a residential area - Hotel 81 Kovan.
Residents said they are hoping the hotel will at least be one that offers a full-day rate.
'Short-term stays lead to other social problems,' said resident Eugene Yip, 38, an advertising executive.
Another resident who declined to be named pointed out that there are already a growing number of female hostesses from China living in Tiong Bahru, due to the estate's proximity to bars - such as the Tiananmen karaoke lounge - in the Havelock Road area.
'At the moment, they live here and solicit their business elsewhere.We don't want them to start touting for business here too.We don't want it to go the way of Joo Chiat,' he said, referring to the district in the east which in the past saw an influx of bars, massage parlours and prostitutes together with hourly-rate budget hotels.
Recently, The Straits Times also reported the rise of illegal dorm use in the estate, where landlords have been cashing in on the demand for cheap housing by converting conserved pre-war flats into dormitory-style housing for foreign workers, leading to concerns over noise, littering and overcrowding.
The laidback, historic charm of Tiong Bahru has in recent years attracted a growing number of young professionals and expatriates.
It is gradually being gentrified.
'Many owners have invested heavily into rejuvenating their flats, and want to keep the estate clean,' said Knight Frank realtor Alvin Yeo.
So while mid-tier hotels, such as Link Hotel Singapore, have sprung up, residents want to know how chains like Hotel 81 get approval to set up hourly-rate hotels in residential areas.
The Singapore Tourism Board's hospitality arm, which gives the approval for the type of hotel licence, refused to comment when contacted.
The estate, which was designed in the 1930s in the Art Deco style, was gazetted in 2003, where 20 blocks of pre-World War II flats as well as 36 units of shophouses have been conserved to keep the charm and identity of the estate.
It has even been suggested, among Singaporeans, as a nominee for Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site.