The real life estate situated in the heart of Singapore — which inspired the fictional setting of Nick Young’s ancestral mansion, where his Ah Ma lives in “Crazy Rich Asian” — may soon be up for a luxury rebuild for a residential development worth billions of dollars.
The vacant estate is located not far away from UNESCO World Heritage site Botanic Gardens and currently has a dilapidated Istana Woodneuk — it’s structure ravaged by fire and decay — sitting on it. Istana Woodneuk is an abandoned two-story palace at the former Tyersall Park whose registered owner is the Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
Bloomberg reported that according to people with knowledge of the plans, representatives for Tunku Ismail (popularly known as TMJ) are in confidential discussion to reach agreements with authorities for permission to develop the empty land into high-end homes for the wealthy. The land is currently reserved for “special use of green space”, indicating that it is not meant for residential or commercial use and development is restricted.
In order for the development to happen, the area needs to be recategorised. If TMJ’s party succeeds in convincing the authorities to re-categorise the land, the development is estimated to be one of Singapore’s most expensive, possibly costing as much as S$4.5 billion (RM23.8 billion), Bloomberg mentioned, quoting Savills Plc estimate.
The 210,875 square-meter (2.3 million square feet) area is said to be 30 times the size of The White House and is located near Orchard Road. The plot of land was a lot larger before the Singapore government obtained some of it for expansion of the Botanic Gardens.
A Fortune article in 2019 describes the area, “Just down the road from the U.S. embassy and bordering condos worth S$4.5 million each, the swathe of untended jungle hides the remains of two abandoned palaces and would be worth a cool US$3.5 billion if sold for development, according to one estimate.”
At present, Bloomberg notes that there are about 2,500 of the so-called “good class bungalows” — local term for a mansion — typically located in prime districts. Some of the bungalows close to TMJ’s property are worth S$20 million to S$30 million, the business news agency reported.
Land ownership is a privilege in Singapore with the government owning about 90% of the country. Neither the representatives of the Johor royal family, nor the Urban Redevelopment Authority, have made a statement to address the plans for development, and declined to comment on the matter.