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Old 25-06-2007, 01:41 PM   #8
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Fights common. A man slashed wife in 1998 Paint peeling from walls, pee in lifts Record $4m en bloc hope for one-time dump Hangout for gamblers, call girls
RATS once roamed freely in this condominium.

By Joyce Lim
25 June 2007

RATS once roamed freely in this condominium.

It was also home to gamblers and prostitutes, and even construction workers who had to squeeze like sardines into each unit.

Other transient residents included budget travellers, karaoke lounge hostesses and China study mamas.

To top it all, the estate also got bad press when a gruesome suicide happened in 1998, and when its management started imposing parking fees on its visitors.

Some residents at Pacific Mansion at River Valley were even embarrassed to tell casual friends or colleagues where they lived.

Yet they stayed on, even as many other families have come and gone in the last decade.

Today these 'stayers' are having the last laugh because all of them now stand a chance to become instant millionaires as they put their homes up for collective sale.

They are now gunning for a record en bloc price for their 45-year-old freehold development.

If they get what they wish for when the tender exercise closes next month, Pacific Mansions could fetch around $1.18 billion, or $2,400 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr)

That's above the record $2,338psf ppr set by The Ardmore exactly a week ago on Sunday.

At $2,400 psf ppr, Pacific Mansions' 290 owners stand to get between $3.9m and $4.2m each. With such a huge carrot, getting the majority of residents to say 'yes' was a breeze.

Before en bloc fever gripped the residents last year, each unit fetched only about $800,000 on the open market.

Retiree Cheng Geok Chor, 74, said in Mandarin: 'It's such an attractive price. It's silly not to sell. I've stayed here long enough, in good times and in bad. Finally I will be rewarded for staying so long.'

His wife Madam Goh Quee Yong, 70, piped in: 'The market is so good now and the price is attractive. It's only at collective sale that we can get such a good price. Of course we want to sell. I want to buy landed property!'

Another resident, Mr Lim Siah Khin, 62, who moved into Pacific Mansion 18 years ago, was glad that he no longer has to live in an estate with a dubious history.

He said: 'This place was so old and dirty before we upgraded it a few years ago. The location is very good. It's a stone's throw away from Orchard Road. But if we can get a good price for it, we will be more than happy to let it go.'

Mr Dick Tay, who heads the sales committee, agrees.

'Now is the right time and the price is right. With about $4m, residents here can find another property around the area and still have about $2m left in their bank.'

Mr Tay, a 35-year-old businessman, proudly said that his sales committee managed to get 80per cent consensus from the homeowners in just two months.

Mr Tay said that those who have not signed are generally those from bigger families who worry about relocation.

He explained: 'Some of these families own more than one unit here and the parents live close to their children, who have their own families.'

'These people are afraid that they may not find apartments next to each other after they move out of Pacific Mansion. The sales committee is doing whatever it can to help them.'

Mr Tay added that things have been smooth sailing for his sales committee because he did not treat the collective sale effort as a business transaction. Instead, he discussed the idea with every resident.

'When some of the residents said 'no' to us, we left them alone. We didn't pester them. That's why we don't have problems which sales committees in other developments faced, like residents hurling abuse at each other,' Mr Tay said.

'Over at Pacific Mansion, anyone can be part of the sales committee. We don't have closed-door meetings.'

Asked if he is giving residents false hope that they can each pocket about $4m for the sale, his reply was 'no'.

He said: 'It is not out of greed that we have asked for $4m per household. We came up with the figure based on the current market trends.'

'We have to safeguard the interests of our residents. I want to avoid the same situation as at Horizon Towers. I don't want residents to blame me later for asking for too little. I believe we have priced ourselves reasonably.'

Pacific Mansion is one of the oldest developments in the area.

Formerly occupied by British families, vacant units were sold to Singaporeans after independence and the British moved out.

Madam Lucy Lim, 74, who moved into Pacific Mansion in 1969, recalled: 'In the begining I rented a three-bedroom apartment at Block 16, subletting the other two bedrooms and providing meals to the tenants to earn my living.

'Later when my landlord wanted to sell her apartment, I rented units in other blocks and ended up at Block 16 when I finally saved enough to buy my own unit.'

It cost her about $100,000 in total, including $30,000 on renovations and $35,000 on upgrading fees.

She said: 'In the past it was easy to rent out our apartments here. But after we got our sleazy image and bad reputation, the price of our property dropped. It only shot up again in recent years.'

Mr Cheng added: 'We had tenants with unsophisticated backgrounds living here. They peed in the lifts and the nightclub women created a lot of noise when they returned home after their work in the wee hours of the morning.'

'My wife and I regretted moving in here back then. When friends asked me where do I live, I would tell them 'somewhere in River Valley'. I was embarassed to tell them that I live in Pacific Mansion.'

Mr Tay said that the management had put in a lot of effort to try to change the reputation of the place.

Over the years, the residents' profile has changed, with families moving in.

'Today, young professionals, foreign students, Japanese and Indonesian expats make up about 40 per cent of the tenants at Pacific Mansion,' MrTay said.

When the spanking new condominium comes up, it will probably dominate the River Valley skyline once more, sans the estate's colourful past, he said.
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