Johor royal family’s Singapore ancestral property inspired ‘Crazy Rich Asian’, says report

Ben Tan
Istana Woodneuk is an abandoned two-storey palace at the former Tyersall Park bound by Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue near the Singapore Botanic Gardens. ― Picture taken from Wikipedia

JOHOR BARU, Feb 21 — The palatial property that inspired writer Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asian books is owned by the Johor royal family, Bloomberg reported today.

Known as Istana Woodneuk, it is an abandoned two-storey palace at the former Tyersall Park bound by Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue near the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Bloomberg reported that according to one estimate, the property would be valued at a whopping US$3.5 billion (RM13.85 billion) if sold for development, making it one of Singapore’s most expensive real estate plots.

The report pointed out that the property is registered under the Johor Crown Prince, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

The property, ravaged by fire and decay, are the ruins of Istana Woodneuk, the palace built by his ancestors in the late 19th century.

The plot owned by the Johor Royal Family was once larger, but has gradually reduced as the Singapore government acquired land to extend the Botanic Gardens, a Unesco World Heritage site.

In 1990, the Singapore government bought part of the land for S$25 million (RM75.3 million) and in 2009 another 98,000 sq metre for an undisclosed sum.

In Kwan’s book about Asia’s insanely rich, which became a hit movie last year, the fictitious Young family lived in a sprawling ancestral home, set within Singapore’s Tyersall Park.

Tyersall Park was first mentioned in the first novel in 2013 and the 210,875 sq metre estate later become a major plot point in Kwan's third and final novel in the trilogy, Rich People Problems in 2017.

The Bloomberg report also mentioned that Tunku Ismail, despite being the registered owner, won’t be able to cash in on his Singapore land any time soon, even if he wanted to.

“The undeveloped area is zoned for “special use of green space,” meaning development for other purposes, such as residential or commercial, is restricted.

“Were that to change — the land does sit in one of Singapore’s most desirable residential districts — it could be worth at least S$4.7 billion (RM14.1 billion) according to a calculation by Alan Cheong, a senior director at brokerage Savills Plc,” said the report, adding that the most expensive residence to change hands in Singapore over the past year was luxury landed houses also near the Botanic Gardens.

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