Tucked away in a cosy little corner close to the bustling Sengkang Town Centre is a luxurious condominium surrounded by lush greenery. The amenities are plentiful: Olympic-sized swimming pool, children's playground, an aqua gym, a tennis court, a candle-lit dining pavilion, tea garden, outdoor fitness park among others. More than just "another development", La Fiesta is a sanctuary of wellness and relaxation.
"We are still far from being as big as some of the larger local property development organisations," says Lim Yew Soon, founder and managing director of local firm EL Development (ELD). "So, what we aim to do is to differentiate ourselves through innovation and adding value."
ELD's creative approach was evident from one of its earlier development in 2009 - Illuminaire on Devonshire. Expensive property prices in the city led to the introduction of the "shoebox unit", which was slightly smaller but far more affordable. Many buyers were instantly attracted to this concept. The popularity of the concept then influenced ELD's subsequent developments in the prime district - its next few projects were characterised by offering 'value-for-money' solutions to its customers.
At present, ELD has developed an impressive portfolio of residential and industrial sites. The developments include: Trivelis, to date the largest Design Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) in Singapore; Skysuites 17, a mid- to high-end residential development in Balestier; Eldix, a multi-user ramp-up industrial development in Woodlands; and most prominently, La Fiesta, a condominium in Sengkang.
When asked on how he manages to continuously integrate new and innovative ideas, Mr Lim declines to take all the credit. "We also get our staff to give comments on the design and suggestions for improvement," he says with a laugh. "One person cannot have so many ideas!"
Mr Lim's engineering background also gave him an edge when it came to innovation. This was evident in Illuminaire on Devonshire - the mechanical car park, where residents' cars would be lifted up vertically in a car lift and parked in a complex. Providing conveniences like this turned out to be the key in making ELD stand out from its competitors, as the development sold out within days.
Space-saving measures were also another of ELD's hallmarks. The interior design of each unit was cleverly thought through so as to maximise each square unit of space. For example the bomb shelter was re-designed to co-function as a walk-in wardrobe, while the kitchenette was integrated into the living room by the ingenious use of a worktop, which could double up as a dining table. Occupants enjoy a sense of spaciousness despite the flat's relatively small area.
The space-saving strategies were applied to the industrial sector as well. Nordix, one of ELD's earliest industrial developments, was home to the very first workers' dormitory with shower facilities in a standard three-storey terrace factory development. Although the third storey of a typical factory traditionally fetches lower prices due to accessibility issues, ELD's reconfiguration of the floor plan to include workers' dormitories has enhanced its value.
ELD also adapts to provide what the property market demands. In an increasingly stressful society, wellness and relaxation are highly sought after. Spas, reflexology paths, fitness parks are all part of the package.
Mr Lim, however, refused to settle for status quo. He says: "I want something different, yet adding value." He created an authentic Spanish atmosphere at La Fiesta by setting aside space for tea gardens and outdoor dining pavilions. The defining masterstroke was the imposing presence of a magnificent thousand-year-old olive tree specially imported from Spain. After all, Mr Lim quipped: "How many thousand-year-old olive trees are there in the world?"
However, its many successful projects in the past were by no means a definite guarantee of a bright future ahead. In response to soaring property prices, the government began to implement cooling measures in recent years.
One of the hardest-hitting cooling measures coincided with the launch of La Fiesta in January 2013. The sudden announcement caused Mr Lim to make the decision of bringing forward the launch by four days - to the very same night that the measures were announced.
"That day was really very stressful," Mr Lim recalls. "We had a quick meeting, I called up my sales team and we decided to go ahead with the launch that night. Luckily, we managed to get it done."
ELD's private ownership and small team allowed them a lot of flexibility in making decisions. Regarding future plans for expansion, Mr Lim has a conservative approach.
"I believe the current 'flavour' is the commercial sector," he explains. "We might be looking into taking on a few commercial properties in the future. But for the public listing, I think we will still stay with the small team for its advantages in quick decision-making."
The down-to-earth approach taken by Mr Lim has served ELD well for the past six years, as the company grew from a small department in a construction firm to a formidable player in the property development industry.
When asked about what we could expect to see in ELD for the next five years, Mr Lim replies, "We will continue to value add by innovation, while maintaining sales efficiency."