Edmund Tie’s CEO on putting people first

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Not only is real estate industry veteran Ong Choon Fah the CEO and head of research and consulting at property consulting firm Edmund Tie, she has also been active in championing the responsible use of land over the years. In July, she was appointed the Singapore Chair for the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
The global, independent non-profit has the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. “The mission of ULI is to provide leadership for the responsible use of land and to create thriving and sustainable communities worldwide. So that really resonates with me,” Ong says.
Ong: Ultimately, real estate is about people and we are in an amazing industry where we can make a difference, one step at a time (Credit: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
With a real estate career spanning more than 25 years, she has advised on the master planning of land parcels in Medini, Iskandar Malaysia (930ha); Vientiane, Laos (44ha) and Mauritius Airport City (17ha). At home, she was involved in the Gardens by the Bay project (101ha).
Recalling her experience, Ong says in the early 2000s when Gardens by the Bay was still just an idea, there were not many places in the Central Area where Singaporeans could be close to nature besides the Singapore Botanic Gardens. “We want our children to not just go to malls, but also to have places that let them run about and be close to nature,” she says.
In land-scarce Singapore, Ong notes, it can be difficult to justify allocating land use to a park versus selling it off in the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme. She says: “At the end of the day, sustainability is also about economic sustainability. You can’t just build a park that is not economically sustainable. This means you have to come up with taxpayers’ money.”
To ensure economic sustainability, the planning committee decided to price admission to Gardens by the Bay at $12 for Singaporeans or “roughly around the same price as a movie ticket”, she says. This ensures that the attraction remains accessible to the public.

Focus on wellness

Central to her ethos, Ong believes that when thinking about real estate, one should first consider the people they are catering for....