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NEWS ANALYSIS

Changes to parking provisions will be shot in the arm for car-lite vision

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Singapore is making yet another stride in going car-lite, this time with proposed bill amendments that will give the Land Transport Authority (LTA) more flexibility in calibrating parking provisions in private developments.

Singapore

SINGAPORE is making yet another stride in going car-lite, this time with proposed bill amendments that will give the Land Transport Authority (LTA) more flexibility in calibrating parking provisions in private developments.

This will pave the way for fewer carpark spaces in upcoming housing precincts such as Kampong Bugis, Holland Plain and Bayshore as well as Jurong Lake District.

While details are scant for now as the LTA consults industry players on specific provisions, one prevailing view is that this could also usher in future reductions in carpark spaces in new developments near train stations.

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Currently, the LTA stipulates the minimum number of parking spaces for various uses. For instance, residential projects have to provide one car space per residential unit.

For office developments, they have to provide one car space per 450 sqm of gross floor area (GFA) in Zone 1 spanning the CBD restricted zone and Marina Bay; parking provision ratios are different in Zone 2 (outside Zone 1 and within 400m radius from train stations) and Zone 3 (outside Zone 1 and 2).

Since 2005, developers are given the flexibility to provide up to 20 per cent less than the stipulated standards for non-residential uses islandwide and for residential use within Zone 1 and 2.

But such flexibility is still insufficient to support the bold car-lite vision the government has for new precincts. For instance, Kampong Bugis is slated to be the first of its kind here to have one parking space for every two residential units. This is 50 per cent below current minimum standards for residential developments. For that to materialise, existing rules need tweaking.

Under the proposed amendments to the Parking Places Act, LTA will be able to specify the number of parking lots in private developments in terms of a range with a lower and upper bound. LTA said last Monday that the new provisions will allow developers to test new concepts of space and land planning and new parking concepts such as hub carparks - one that is shared by a few buildings.

Developers are not too concerned for now. Augustine Tan, president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) said that for projects that do not enjoy proximity to train stations, the LTA is unlikely to slash the number of carpark lots substantially.

Some observers feel, however, that there is still a need to provide sufficient lots to retain the marketability of certain developments.

This is particularly so for high-end residential projects and commercial projects with many multinational tenants or are not near transport nodes, said Savills Singapore senior director Alan Cheong.

He noted that developers may be able to save on construction costs if they build fewer carparks underground. Such cost savings could, however, be offset if they end up having to build underground walkways to a nearby hub carpark.

But the trend towards fewer carpark spaces in new buildings has been gaining traction even under existing rules.

Singapore's CBD lost some 704 carpark spaces in 2011 when CapitaLand Commercial Trust (CCT) decided to turn Market Street Car Park, then Singapore's oldest multi-storey carpark, into a 40-storey Grade A office tower called CapitaGreen, with just 180 car park lots.

The next to go was Golden Shoe Car Park at 88 Market Street that had around 1,000 carpark spaces. The upcoming integrated development on the site by the CapitaLand consortium will have only 350 car lots and 17 motorcycle lots.

The government has also started to impose caps on carpark spaces for land sites sold. The Central Boulevard white site, which was sold to Malaysia's IOI Properties Group in November 2016, has its car parking provision capped at 80 per cent of the mininum standards - the first time a cap was imposed.

Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li said: "Such restrictions could make the development less attractive to office tenants who expect generous car parking allocation. Some developments will have to set aside space for complementary facilities such as showers, lockers and changing rooms for the convenience of cyclists."

Such end-of-trip facilities and bicycle parks are computed as part of GFA but The Business Times understands that the authorities have granted GFA exemption for these to promote car-lite initiatives. An LTA grant can also fund 80 per cent of the cost of building end-of-trip facilities, up to a maximum of S$80,000 per development.

Among developers riding the green wave, CapitaLand has made available more than 500 bicycle bays in 15 properties in Singapore. About 180 of these are in properties in the Civic District and CBD. At Capital Tower and CapitaGreen, shower facilities are available for those who cycle to work, its spokesman said.

Its new project on the former Golden Shoe Car Park site will incorporate a cycling track in its perimeter, 165 bicycle lots, secure bicycle storage areas and end-of-trip facilities. Similarly at Funan, there will be 151 bicycle bays and a full range of cycling facilities, complementing the 400 carpark lots when it opens in 2019.

CBRE executive director for office services Michael Tay noted that office tenants who have moved from older buildings to newer ones "are bringing themselves to terms with the reduced car parking allocations". But there has been more buy-in in the past three to four years.

"The reduced car-parking ratios have not, in a large way, been a stumbling block to major leasing deals done," he said. "For buildings connected to the MRT station, some tenants may decide to take the train rather than drive as car-parking costs in new buildings are also a lot higher."

Roxy-Pacific Holdings executive chairman and CEO Teo Hong Lim noted that some property owners or occupiers may not like the idea of having fewer car parking lots.

On the other hand, there are instances when the need for ample parking spaces to meet minimum standards means having basement carparks, which add to costs and construction time. Having fewer parking lots may allow developers to come up with better building designs, Mr Teo said.

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