Friday, June 25, 2010

The Straits Times : Film stars of Tiong Bahru

The Straits Times
By lisabel ting
Jun 23, 2010

Civic Life: Tiong Bahru comprises three linked stories about residents in the housing estate

Screen debut: (From left) Mrs Christine Chia, daughters Kimberly and Cherylin, and husband Chia Tee Kit will play a family whose grandmother is going to live with them in one segment. -- ST PHOTO: AIDAH RAUF

Abdul Hadi Indra Jasni, 16, has landed a role in an upcoming movie.

He has not seen the script yet and does not even know what role he will be playing. But he is still rehearsing diligently.

'It's my first time in a movie, so I'm quite nervous. I practise speaking in front of the mirror sometimes, saying out loud to myself, 'Be cool, be cool, go with the flow',' says the Outram Secondary School student.

The movie he will be in is Civic Life: Tiong Bahru, a short film by London-based film-makers Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.

It is the 10th in a series of Civic Life films, which focus on local communities, exploring the relationships between residents and the environment in which they live and work. The film is a collaboration between the British Council and the National Museum of Singapore with support from the Singapore International Foundation.

Speaking to Life! over the telephone from London, Molloy says: 'The script will be finalised only in the last minute, as it has to be spontaneous.

'So far, we only have a rough idea of the movie's structure. It's going to be a triptych, divided into three stories.'

Previous Civic Life films, all under 20 minutes long, include Civic Life: Leisure Centre, which was shot in Dublin, Ireland, and Civic Life: Tyneside, which was shot in England.

The Singapore film is the first to be shot outside the United Kingdom.

While Lawlor and Molloy are both experienced film-makers, they say filming Civic Life: Tiong Bahru will present unique challenges.

'Filming in Tiong Bahru market will be technically difficult,' says Molloy, who was in Singapore with Lawlor in April to cast actors.

'There will be a lot of noise and numerous distractions such as people getting their food.'

They will shoot the film from Friday to Sunday at the market as well as at a nearby multi-storey carpark and several streets in the neighbourhood.

Molloy also says she and Lawlor will be more ambitious with the Singapore film, as compared to their previous films.

'Civic Life: Tiong Bahru will contain more close-up shots,' she explains.

'Close-ups are difficult to shoot as they require the actors to be intimate with the camera and it can be hard to draw this out from people.'

Each of the three interconnected stories in the film deals with a different aspect of life in Tiong Bahru. All three happen over one day and will involve between 50 and 70 Tiong Bahru residents in total.

The first story, which stars Abdul Hadi, is about a recently married young man who works at his parents' coffee stall in Tiong Bahru market and is talking to them about taking it over.

The second story explores the relationship between an old Tiong Bahru resident and her granddaughter, while the final tale is about an elderly resident who is leaving Tiong Bahru to live with her son, his wife and their two children.

Logistics operator Chia Tee Kit's family play the characters in the third story.

The 48-year-old says: 'I've lived in Tiong Bahru my whole life. I remember running around these streets when I was young. I feel quite attached to this place, and I'm really glad I have the opportunity to take part in the film.'

His two children, Cherylin, nine, and Kimberly, 14, will also appear in the film.

Although he agreed immediately to participate in the film when the Tiong Bahru Residents' Committee approached him, his wife, Mrs Christine Chia, was harder to convince.

Says the 49-year-old housewife: 'At first, I told my husband that I didn't want to appear on film, but he said that by doing this we would be contributing to the community.'

Civic Life: Tiong Bahru will be screened at the National Museum of Singapore every Tuesday in October.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Business Times : 60% of lease top-up bids approved since 2007

Business Times
21 June 2010

More owners expected to seek lease top-ups as stock of buildings on earlier govt sales sites gets older

(SINGAPORE) As the stock of buildings developed on 99-year leasehold sites sold by the government since the late 1960s gets older, more building owners are expected to apply to the authorities for lease top-ups.

Two such cases are currently under evaluation. But since 2007, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has processed 56 applications for lease extensions of which only about 60 per cent were approved. The other 40 per cent were rejected.

SLA's spokesperson said in a written response to queries from The Business Times that in land-scarce Singapore, leases are generally allowed to expire without extension. Such a policy makes it possible for the government to recover land upon lease expiry, and reallocate it to meet fast changing socio-economic needs.

'Nevertheless, lease extensions can be considered on a case-by-case basis,' she said.

In evaluating requests for lease extensions, the government takes into account several factors including the long-term planning intention for the site and surrounding land, and whether the proposed use would optimise land.

SLA said that lease extensions granted since 2007 involved various uses such as commercial, residential, industrial and conservation properties. The period of the lease top-up depended on specific circumstances, but any top-ups together with the unexpired term of existing leases will not exceed 99 years.

'This is in line with our current policy that all new state leases (for sites which are capable of independent development) should not exceed 99 years,' said SLA.

Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng sees a lot of soundness in the government's approach.

'To extend or not to extend? The answer lies in whether it fits into the long-term planning for the area. The government does not have to reveal its plans, so it has adopted a case by case approach,' he says.

He cites the example of the government selling land for recreational use in Marina South on short-term leases of 20 years. 'The government did not extend the leases when they expired and took the sites back because it had bigger plans for the area,' Mr Tan said.

'It's a similar situation with the government's plan for a new Central Business District on reclaimed land in the Marina area which can accommodate modern, big floor-plate office developments. What happens to ageing, pencil buildings on small plots in the old CBD? Should the government agree to reset their leases so that they can be redeveloped into new tiny office blocks for which there may not be much demand? The State may prefer to take back the sites when their leases expire and amalgamate them for a bigger development.'

In the meantime, leaving these buildings as they are may introduce urban blight. But if these owners propose to redevelop their buildings into apartments, thus furthering the government's plan to increase inner-city housing, they may get their lease extensions. The first such case was Natwest Centre, which is currently being developed into The Clift.

Market watchers say building owners who apply for lease top-ups often do have redevelopment proposals, or plans to sell the property on the assumption of redevelopment.

DTZ executive director (consulting) Ong Choon Fah says many leasehold buildings are becoming physically obsolete. Some are also drawing undesirable occupier profiles. 'If government is willing to top up leases, that will give these property owners an incentive to redevelop,' she said.

The properties for which lease top-ups have been granted since 2007 are said to include the former Ong Building site, which is being redeveloped into the 76 Shenton project comprising 202 apartments, and the former Overseas Union House site, which is making way for a new 18-storey office project, 50 Collyer Quay.

But not all successful applications have their leases topped up to 99 years.

Lease upgrades approved in connection with CBD office redevelopments have sometimes been for less than 99 years to try and synchronise future lease expiries of all the sites on the same street block. The idea is to have all sites on that stretch revert to the state around the same time to accommodate more comprehensive planning and redevelopment for the area.

Analysts recall the case of 71 Robinson Road, whose lease was topped up in April 2007 not to the usual 99 years but 85 years and 10 months to match the remaining lease term for SIA Building next door. The latter's lease was reset to 99 years in 1994. Leases for both sites will now expire in 2093.

SLA's spokesperson said that for commercial uses, lease extensions may be granted if they help to achieve a certain planning intention - such as substantial intensification in land use - significantly earlier.

Analysts say that may explain why a few office building owners in the CBD reportedly had lease top-up applications turned down when they planned only retrofitting works, which are deemed as additions and alterations. On the other hand, those who supported their applications with planning approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority to redevelop the site into a bigger office block have succeeded at lease top-ups.

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