A premium operator of co-working The Great Room has opened an additional location in the vicinity of South Bridge Road in the Chinatown district. It covers four floors and covering 22,000 square feet, it is located in the old Eu Yan Sang Building -an array of four shophouses in conservation that are dating back to 1910. The historical property is located at 265-271, South Bridge Road, was constructed by the famous Chinese medicinal name Eu Yan Sang as a medicine hall, and was the first location in Singapore.
In December of this year the shophouses were transferred by property investments and growth company 8M Real Estate for $54 million. The company bought the 3 storeys of shophouses Eu Realty (Singapore), one of the Eu Yan Sang International subsidiary with a lease of 199 years. After completing addition and alteration work, 8M Real Estate brought The Great Room on board to oversee and manage the whole property in the form of The Great Room, South Bridge.
The location marks the hotel-focused co-working business’s sixth office in Singapore and the first it operates in a historic shophouse. Jaelle The Great Room’s co-founder, Ang, who is also The Great Room’s CEO The Great Room, recalls the moment when the decision to collaborate in the project with 8M Real Estate on the project was made quickly. Ang states: “When I spoke with Ashish Manchharam [founder and chief executive officer for 8M Real Estate], we both saw the project taking shape. We share a lot of values that we share.”
This isn’t this is the only time The Great Room has undertaken the task of acquiring a property with a rich preservation heritage. In July The Great Room officially opened its space in Raffles Arcade, which is the retail space of the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. In a coincidence, the architect for Raffles Hotel Raffles Hotel British designer Alfred Bidwell of Swan & Maclaren, also created for the Eu Yan Sang Building.
The shophouse’s historic importance, The Great Room and 8M Real Estate sought views from various parties involved in the project that included URA and its Building and Construction Authority (BCA) as well as Richard Eu, a member of the Eu family and currently the director of Eu Yan Sang International. “We were looking to design an excellent space that is modern but respectful of the property’s history, conservation status, and the location within Chinatown,” says Ang.
A new lease on life
As 8M Real Estate took over the property in January 2020, the company began on restoration work to restore its exterior structure back to its former splendor. Additionally, whenever feasible, it focused on improving internal floor efficiency, which included moving the positions of certain staircases, and creating a roof space. The cooling systems were upgraded. put in place in addition to other features that are sustainable that contributed to the property receiving the Green Mark Platinum rating, the BCA’s top award for the sustainability of a structure.
The property was given the property to The Great Room in 4Q2022 and the operator given the task to complete the installation and then deliver an end product. The Great Room was able to approach this space with the aim to minimize any other major work. Instead, it focused to give the property an opportunity to breathe new life via adaptive reusecreating a lively space for the workforce of today and preserving the majority of the building’s original heritage features as it is.
Ang says the method is aligned with the overall goal of sustainability within our built environments. “Our recent projects have been really doubling the effort on this issue,” she adds.
To create The Great Room, South Bridge The co-working operator collaborated together with the local design firm Kulor Group to preserve and integrate existing fixtures and fittings in the new layout including lighting fixtures and window frames. Additionally local suppliers were enlisted to procure materials, such as tiles, furniture and fabrics to reduce the overall carbon footprint.
To pay homage to its rich heritage it is designed with different features that reflect its rich history, including an art gallery with black and white photos of Chinatown in the past as well as apothecary-style, decorative drawers that resemble those found inside traditional Chinese medicine halls, as well as murals of the Eu Yan Sang construction as well as the shophouses that surround it. The quirky furniture and décor pieces including an abacus-themed chair and a custom-designed piece of chess, complete the chic interior.
Creating high-value workspaces
When visiting The Great Room’s other five locations in Singapore including Raffles Arcade, One George Street, Centennial Tower, Ngee Ann City and Afro-Asia The first impressions for visitors are typically of the drawing room. A huge, warm area for gathering at the main entrance that is typically full of couches, cozy corners, a cafe and other decorative items.
The South Bridge location, given the floorplate limitations, Ang and her team needed to think outside the box. “We required us to organize the various functions vertically instead of horizontally,” she says. The various spaces in the location are distributed over four levels. The upper and lower floors contain the communal facilities and services. For instance reception, the reception area as well as an open work space are located in the top floor and the fourth floor is home to bars for restaurants as well as an outdoor seating area, as well as the meeting room. In addition, the third and second floors have separate offices and meeting spaces with a boardroom-style meeting room that can accommodate 12 persons.
There are 11 offices which can house between five and 70 people. The space, according to Ang she is fully filled. “We started [last month] with around eighty% occupancy, which is the highest we’ve seen for a brand new space,” she says. “Now after our 2nd month we’re nearly fully booked. It’s an excellent opportunity for our company.”
Ang believes that the fervent response to the event is proof of The Great Room’s knowledge of what the modern workforce wants. “Our goal has always been to create efficient workspaces, however we’re striving to build productive workspaces that are worth the investment,” she says, which refers to spaces that provide for meaningful interaction and collaboration. The demand for these places has grown exponentially since the outbreak in the pandemic. “Today when people step to work and work, they’re hoping that their time in the office to be more productive whether it’s to meetings, or building social capital or any other goal that they can’t achieve at your home.” She explains.
Knowing this, The Great Room, South Bridge was outfitted with more meeting rooms in comparison to other venues. Additionally, it’s the first place to feature an entire bar and restaurant that is open to members as well as guests. It is a cafe during the daytime, the restaurant transforms into a bar in the evenings, with an outside seating area providing a panoramic view of the shops in Chinatown as well as the green trees that are part of Pearls Hill city park.
Delivering best-in-class asset management
Ang describes the business model behind The Great Room as akin to capital and asset managers of capital and asset. “We believe that when we plan and manage our assets effectively it is more likely to find the type of partners that enable us to grow our business in the future. In the case of The Great Room, good design includes incorporating the latest in hospitality services sustainable practices, as well as taking into consideration the ever-changing requirements of the workplace,” she says.
She says the business’s history is backed by a strong financial performance across their real estate holdings within the region. “Ultimately we have to be the top of the line. We like to believe we will consistently provide best quality performance in this industry”.
This can be seen in the consistently high levels of occupancy throughout its properties. For instance the properties located in Singapore are able to achieve an average occupancy greater than 90%%. Additionally, the company has demonstrated its capability to manage and operate various kinds properties in real estate including retail, hotels traditional office space, and even heritage assets.
“Our experiences in Singapore has demonstrated that the model of partnership, whether it’s a management contract or a revenue share will be something on which we are determined to build our growth on,” she says, noting: “We are focused on managing the asset and providing the results that owners want”.
The debut of The Great Room South Bridge is the fourth of four new launches announced by the co-working company. In November of last year the company launched its brand new 21,000 square feet flagship space located in Hong Kong, on the 45th floor of Cheung Kong Center. It is the second top workspace for coworking located in Hong Kong after One Taikoo Place.
This calendar year The Great Room is planning to open a coworking space in Bangkok within the brand newly constructed Park Silom mixed-use development, that is scheduled to be completed in June. The co-working space will be the second location in Bangkok following its 30,000 square feet co-working area on the 26th and 25th floor at Gaysorn Tower.
In the meantime, The Great Room is scheduled to launch into in the Australian market later in the year, with a yet-to-be-announced coworking site within Sydney, New South Wales.
acquisitions, and Asia Pacific expansions
The solid foundations of the company have been noticed by US flexible workspace service provider Industrious. The company based in New York announced the deal to acquire The Great Room in May the year before. In the same month, it also bought European co-working company Welkin & Meraki.
According to reports from that time Industrious was able to pay around US$100m ($133 millions) with cash as well as shares for the acquisition of the two firms. CBRE, a global real estate consulting firm CBRE has a 40% part of Industrious and invested US$200 million in the company during February of 2021.
Ang believes that its acquisition by Industrious directly enhances The Great Rooms’ position on the international market which will allow it to grow with regard to new location deals as well as an international membership network. “Industrious has a track record of executing partnerships within the US and more than 70% of the portfolio they have is built on partnerships models. In the end, we’ve been able to draw lessons from their experiences but also build on their US connections and transform into potential partners in the global market.”
She says this has opened the door to The Great Room to engage in discussions with international institutional real estate funds and landlords within Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific region.
In addition that, thanks to CBRE as the largest stakeholder in Industrious The Great Room has been capable of leveraging the vast marketing and leasing network across the region. “It is about having a strong marketing presence and a connection with international customers, which helps us connect with customers from different places. The synergies are immediately apparent,” says Ang.
She explains that when the announcements of the acquisition partnership made public last year, the existing participants from The Great Room were excited to discover that they’d be able to access Industrious and Welkin & Meraki locations in the US as well as around the world. The network is now expanded to over 180 locations, and is part of their current membership, according to Ang.
Looking to the future, Ang says that this puts The Great Room in a better position for organic growth and possible acquisitions on its own in the near future. “In the context of organic growth We always think of (our collection) as a collection of pearls. Each location should perform well on its own but it should also be a part of your portfolio” the director says.
“We are planning to expand our existing markets such as Bangkok as well as Hong Kong because we strongly believe in the markets. However, we are also looking at new market entry points such as Sydney,” says Ang. She also mentions that other market firsts are Melbourne, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
Ang believes that one possible option to boost their future growth is through mergers and acquisitions. “We are looking for deals and acquisitions that is logical in our eyes”.
But, due to the dispersed nature of the coworking and flexible workplace market across the globe. It can be difficult to locate an appropriate company with the right products, assets suitability, financial performance and expectations of the valuation of the portfolio before proceeding by acquiring the company the company, she adds.
All in all, Ang says that her positive outlook for the future of co-working and flexible workplace sector across the globe is “quite optimistic” however she’s also cognizant of global headwinds, such as macroeconomic volatility as well as relatively high interest rates.