Pinnacle@Duxton: Singapore’s public housing rises to new heights

Pinnacle@DuxtonIf you are in Chinatown or the Tanjong Pagar business district you can’t help but notice the Pinnacle@Duxton’s imposing structure dominating the skyline.

A public housing project, the 50-storey chain of 7 buildings linked by 2 skybridges contains a total of 1848 apartments. Housing over 7000 residents, this is more than 3 times the density of other public housing projects.

The massive development also comes with amenities such as a childcare centre, food court, convenience store, basketball court and even an 800 metre jogging track spanning the length of the skybridge, so this is clearly not your garden-variety public housing project.

THE LOWDOWN

Singapore’s public housing has come a long way. The Housing Development Board (HDB) was set up in 1960 to provide “quality, affordable housing” for Singapore’s burgeoning population. The first HDB high-rise mass housing projects were speedily built and were generally vanilla rectangular buildings, each about 12 stories high.

Some 50 odd years and well over one million apartments later, HDB housing has leapt light years ahead in its design and quality. The head-turning Pinnacle@Duxton is the HDB’s current jewel in the crown, the tallest and grandest project by the government housing board yet.

Early HDB flats circa 1960

Early HDB flats circa 1960 – courtesy of My Queenstown

The idea for an out-of-the-ordinary housing project was mooted over 10 years ago. In 2001 Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) held an international design contest seeking entries for a state-of-the-art public housing project. The design brief was long and the requirements complex, calling for spacious living in a high density project yet with plentiful open communal spaces and maximum views, all on a small odd-shaped plot of land only 2.5 hectares large. This being a public housing project the budget needless to say was pretty tight.

An entry from a local architectural firm formed by a young husband and wife team was picked from over 200 entries submitted from 32 countries, without the judges knowing who the entries were from. The Pinnacle@Duxton was completed in December 2009 to high acclaim, and went on to win a slew of architectural and urban design awards including one for “Best Housing Development” at the World Architectural Festival Awards in Barcelona in November 2010.

Pinnacle@Duxton is clearly a “statement” project by the HDB. The flagship project is even located in Singapore’s downtown instead of the usual “heartland” towns in the outlying areas, and sports a hip, posh sounding name after the very British sounding “Duxton Plain” neighbourhood it is in. The well-designed building boasts stunning looks and could easily be mistaken for any of the many private condominiums crowding Singapore’s upscale property areas.

Pinnacle @ Duxton

Aerial View – Photo by Darren Soh

When the apartments, or flats as they are called, were first offered for sale to eligible Singaporeans in 2004 (among other stipulations buyers must not earn above a specified income ceiling as HDB flats are subsidized), they were sold from about S$290K (approx. US$230K) for a 4 room (2 bedroom) unit, to about S$400K+ for a larger 5 room (3 bedroom) unit.

Come 2014, Pinnacle@Duxton flat owners would have satisfied the HDB’s 5 year minimum occupation period before they are able to sell their property, and many will become instant millionaires should they decide to sell their flats given Singapore’s red hot property market. The HDB public housing scheme has in fact made many Singaporeans rich from their initial HDB property purchase, and has resulted in a unique Robin Hood style Singaporean method of enriching working class citizens.

By the looks of it though many Pinnacle@Duxton home owners think their flats are priceless and no amount of millions will coax them to part with their prized homes.

[Jan-2015 Update: 2 Pinnacle flat owners have sold their flats for S$900,000 and S$918,000 in this tepid property market. That is a profit of at least a half a million dollars for the owners, and a more than 150% return on investment over the short span of 5 years].

VISITING

The 50th storey skybridge is open to the public and offers great views of the business district, southern waterfront and Mount Faber in the west. The other skybridge on the 26th floor which has the jogging track is open only to residents. For architectural buffs or anyone interested in urban planning, a visit to Pinnacle@Duxton is also a study in effective public housing and offers a glimpse into how Singaporeans live.

View from Pinnacle@Duxton

To enter the skybridge you will need to pay a S$5 entrance fee using an EZ-Link card, Singapore’s stored value payments card usually used on public transportation. If you don’t have an EZ-Link card you can buy one at the 7-Eleven store at Block 1G or at any MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station.

There is a self service payment kiosk at Block 1G on Level 1. Follow the instructions to deduct the entrance charge from your EZ-Link card. You can then take the lift to the 50th storey skybridge, where you’ll need to tap your EZ-Link card at the reader to be able to go through the turnstile at the entrance. To exit you’ll need to tap the same card again at the turnstile. You can enter and exit at any of the 7 blocks.

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 LOCATION

1 Cantonment Road
7 Buildings: Blocks 1A – 1G
Public Skybridge: 50th floor
Open from 9am – 10pm daily (except during public holidays or special events where crowds are expected and access will then be by balloting)

The self service kiosk for payment of the admission charge is at Block 1G on Level 1.

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HOW MUCH TIME

You can go up to the skybridge from Block 1G after making payment for the admission charge and walk along to Block 1A on the other end. Allocate about 45 minutes to stroll along the gardens on the skybridge, soak in the views from all angles and for multiple stops for photo ops.

TIDBITS

  • The Pinnacle@Duxton has over 1000 car park lots in a 3-level car park.
  • Pre-fabricated concrete building components were used to build the towering complex.
  • One of the requirements in the design brief for the project was that the mature trees around the site, including the jambu ayer (water apple) and nutmeg trees planted by founding father and then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew in 1984 be retained as part of the landscape.
  • More than 80% of Singapore residents live in HDB flats, of which an overwhelming majority (close to 90%) own their flats. 

 TAKE NOTE

Pinnacle@Duxton

  • Entrance to the skybridge is valid for 1 hour from the time you make the payment on your card, so you won’t be able to pre-pay the entrance fee ahead of time.
  • Each EZ-Link card can only be used to deduct the entrance fee for a single person, meaning you won’t be able to share EZ-Link cards.
  • EZ-Link cards sold at 7-Elevens cost $10 and contain a stored value of $5 (there is a $5 non-refundable charge for purchase of the card itself). EZ-Link cards sold at the MRT stations cost $12 and contain $7 in stored value. At the end of the use of your card you can get a refund of the balance of the stored value amount on your card at any MRT station.
  • Entrance to the skybridge is limited to 200 visitors a day, and you can check the Pinnacle@Duxton’s website to see if the quota for the day has been reached. The park is pretty quiet nowadays however and does not see anywhere close to 200 visitors a day unlike when it first opened in 2009. Do check however if you are going on a weekend or a public holiday, especially if it’s any occasion where there will be a fireworks display over the Marina (Chinese New Year, National Day, F1 etc where access will be balloted).

USEFUL LINKS

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