Known for its sprawling array of eateries and retail establishments offering a plethora of goods and services, Little India numbers among Singapore’s liveliest ethnic enclaves.
While the district – bounded by Serangoon Road, Sungei Road and Jalan Besar – is home to cultural, architectural and social landmarks like the bustling Tekka Market, Mustafa Centre, Indian Heritage Centre and the House of Tan Ten Niah with its bright rainbow hues, Little India is also home to a splendid line-up of shophouses in which merchants of all kinds ply their trades.
Constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s, shophouses are usually two- to three-storey high terraced houses built in contiguous blocks with common party walls, and feature a sheltered “five foot” pedestrian walkway at the front.
While they are an integral part of Singapore’s rich cultural heritage, shophouses are today increasingly regarded as viable investment assets with good commercial value, both in terms of stable rental yield and capital appreciation.
In addition to a per-square-foot value that has increased substantially over the years, the total amount transacted for shophouses increased to $3.4bn in 2017 – 2019, up 74% from $2.0bn in 2014 – 2016. Over the same periods, transaction volume increased by 39% from 319 to 442.
This historical building type, however, is not just confined to Little India, but are dispersed across various parts of Singapore, including Chinatown and the River Valley neighbourhood.
Located in prime District 9, as a mixed-use area in the proximity of Orchard Road and Singapore River, River Valley exudes a cosmopolitan feel that is in contrast to the ethnic ambience of Little India. Yet, much unlike the typical metropolitan landscape, this precinct enjoys a delightful dose of culture and heritage that makes it a unique blend of new and old.
A variety of bars, cafes and restaurants offering international cuisine and traditional fare operate out of quaint, colourful shophouses at Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay, as do numerous health and beauty establishments. All are easily accessible from the nearby Fort Canning and Clarke Quay MRT stations.
Adding to the charm of the place are green lungs like Fort Canning Park and Kim Seng Park, and various cultural landmarks including the Chesed-El Synagogue, Hong San See Temple, Singapore Repertory Theatre and the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, a dynamic creative workshop and contemporary art gallery. These are great alternatives for the avid sightseer who has already gratified himself with retail therapy at Great World and other bustling malls along the nearby Orchard shopping belt.
Over the decades, the humble shophouse that once served as a simple abode for the working and middle classes has now evolved into a much cherished part of our history, and attracts landlords and tenants seeking its premises for retail and office use.
With limited supply combined with a relatively affordable price quantum, shophouses are anticipated to continue attracting keen interest from investors with a long-term time horizon seeking a source of stable income.