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Opera Estate vs. Frankel Estate: Which is better for you?

Both Opera Estate and Frankel Estate are considered prime landed enclaves in the same district – they both offer a high degree of privacy, are convenient despite the lack of heavy build-up, and are close to the lifestyle hotspots of Katong and East Coast Road.


With such close proximity, it can be hard to decide which of the two provides a better choice; so here’s a closer look for home buyers:


A brief history of Frankel and Opera Estate


Kampung Siglap dates back to the early 1800’s, and is believed to have been founded by Tok Lasam (the same individual who is also known for founding the city of Pontianak in Indonesia). The original kampung was a fishing village, but by the 1900’s Siglap was better known for plantations. These plantations were centered around the areas of Joo Chiat and Frankel Avenue.


Frankel Avenue was named after its owners – a family of Ashkenazim Jews, who owned around 400 acres of plantation land. Their holdings made up the bulk of Frankel estate, which was named after them. They were responsible for inviting Albert Einstein to Singapore on November1922, and we know for a fact that Einstein toured the general area of Siglap.


The last remnants of the original settlements were cleared and rebuilt during land reclamation works, between the 1960’s and ‘70s.


By the late 70’s, Siglap as a whole developed a reputation for being an affluent area. At one point in 1984, it was noted that Siglap had the largest concentration of white-collar workers in the whole of Singapore*.


Both Frankel and Opera estate are very accessible, despite being low density areas – this is quite rare for landed enclaves in, Singapore which are usually quite remote. There’s even a Siglap MRT station planned for 2023, on the Thomson-East coast Line.


*Fun place and home to the middle class. (1984, October 22). The Straits Times, p. 17.


About Frankel Estate


While not precisely defined, most would regard Frankel estate to be the area from Siglap View to around Fidelio Street, at which point you would enter Opera Estate:



I would consider the following to be the main pros and cons of this area:


Pros:

  • Many nearby amenities, despite being a landed area

  • Proximity to St. Stephen’s School

  • Exclusive and private area

  • Close to the Katong / East Coast Road area


1. Many nearby amenities, despite being a landed area


Most landed enclaves lack nearby amenities. This is part of the point, as landed areas are treasured for their privacy and exclusivity – most landed home owners do not want a large shopping mall or busy interchange next to them. As such, most low-density areas mean having to drive out quite far for your needs.


However, Frankel estate manages to have a good blend of convenience and exclusivity. The area around Siglap Centre, for instance, includes a 24-hour Cold Storage; and there is a stretch of eclectic eateries, from Next Door Spanish Café to a coffee shop next to the mall. Even the famous Tiong Bahru Bakery has a branch nearby. Or deeper within the estate itself, on late nights, you can look for the Springleaf Prata place for supper.


Toward the Frankel Avenue, you will find a stretch of eateries that includes Different Taste Café (if you don’t know it, your parents might – this is a famous restaurant that used to be located in Jackie’s Bowl).


Amenities also include childcare centres, like the Brighton Montessori along Frankel.

All of this makes for a very convenient location, without the noise and crowds that usually follow them.


2. Proximity to St. Stephen’s School



If you live near the Siglap Hill area, St. Stephen’s school is likely in walking distance. This is a LaSallian school that has been in operation since 1957, and is quite popular especially among Catholic families.


I would suggest, however, that you aim for units that are not directly next to the school, unless you don’t mind the road getting a bit crowded. This includes weekends: for churchgoers at nearby OLPS, St. Stephen’s opens it car park from 3pm to 6pm on Saturdays, and 8am to 1.30 pm on Sundays. At the start and end of these hours, there may be a brief “traffic rush” along the immediate surrounding roads.


Noise wise, St. Stephen’s School is very well controlled; even on weekends there are few noise complaints from the CCAs. The school is quite aware that they are in the middle of a residential area, and student groups do maintain their discipline accordingly. So overall, having this popular school nearby is a huge plus.


3. Exclusive and private area


Frankel estate has remained mostly untouched by commercialisation. There are no malls, industrial intrusions, or noisy interchanges – and families that want to escape Singapore’s glass-and-concrete spaces will find the area a good escape.


Perhaps one of the most distinct traits of Frankel is that the landed homes are all heavily tailored to individual owners; they reflect all manner of design, from traditional colonial legacies to modern minimalist styles. This makes the area less humdrum than estates with a lot of “cookie cutter” projects.


For buyers who want extensive Additions and Alterations, or who want to build from scratch, Siglap is quite likely to have the land plot you need.


4. Close to the Katong / East Coast Road area



The area around Katong (near i12 Katong and Parkway Parade) is only around an eight-minute drive from Frankel estate. This is a major lifestyle hotspot, and a bit of an expatriate enclave. It’s a foodie stretch all the way to Joo Chiat, which also includes a lot of family friendly pubs and enrichment centres.


(If there are any budding musicians in the family, note that the Katong area has become especially known for its abundance of music schools in recent years).


Frankel estate provides fast access to this area, while being free of the crowds and traffic that comes with it. For example, you may like Katong, but not appreciate the dense cluster of competing condos near Parkway Parade; or the fact that many of the residences are restrictive boutique condos. If so, Frankel estate can put you in close proximity, with none of these drawbacks.


Cons:

  • Narrow roads

  • A high quantum area with few exceptions


1. Narrow roads


Frankel estate is an old landed enclave; and like many others of its kind, that means narrower roads.


A longstanding issue in this area are religious services, during which the roads – mainly around Siglap Hill – can jam up. There is also some risk that less responsible drivers may block your driveway; But this is less likely in recent years, as there is a mandated “flow” of traffic and wardens to help (and because St. Stephen’s School opens its car park to alleviate some of the situation).


Besides religious services, Frankel estate can be a bit tough on relatives who drive, during events like Christmas, New Year, etc. You may want to tell your relatives to use Private Hire Vehicles instead, as it can get very difficult to find parking at such times. They may end up having to park quite far away, such as at Siglap Centre, and then walk in.


2. A high quantum area with few exceptions



Most of the properties in Frankel estate are large, being at least 4,510 sq. ft. or larger. There are few exceptions to this in the area. This is an advantage if you want a larger home; but if you’re looking for something a bit smaller to be in your price range, it may prove difficult to find.


There’s no getting away from the fact that in Frankel estate, the quantum will be higher just by virtue of unit size.


About Opera Estate:


Opera Estate was so named because many of its streets bear the titles of classic operas, such as Fidelio, Carmen, and Ernani. The Frankels, who developed this area along with Frankel estate, had an appreciation for the arts.


Opera estate is loosely considered to begin around the area of Fidelio Street. This large landed enclave spans a large collection of streets, of which the majority have nothing but low-rises in sight; a visual break from the usual urban density of Singapore.


Opera estate technically ends at Bedok South Road (the estate’s easternmost boundary); but in practice, most people don’t consider the handful of industrial / commercial sites along Bedok South Road to be part of Opera estate.



Opera estate has the following pros and cons:


Pros:

  • Generally more affordable than Frankel estate

  • Jalan Bangsawan is a hidden gem

  • Get to the NTUC and other nearby amenities from Terang Bulan

  • Closer to Bedok, including Bedok Mall and MRT

  • Good access to Opera Estate Primary School

Cons:

  • Kubur Kassim (burial plot) may affect buyers with taboos

  • Roads are still narrow


1. Generally more affordable than Frankel estate

Opera estate is one of the more affordable places to look for freehold landed homes. There are, for instance, some terrace units here that transact for as low as $3.2 million. In terms of size, there are units of smaller sizes than you would find in Frankel, which also helps to lower the price.


This isn’t to say that Opera Estate totally lacks its share of larger homes of course; you can still find units on par with the Frankel side. But there is a bigger range of options for size and affordability.


While the quantum will still vary based on size, age, and other factors, buyers who want affordability may find more options in Opera estate than in many parts of Frankel. I would venture that next to MacPherson and Sembawang, Opera estate may be the next best spot to hunt for well-priced, freehold landed homes.


2. Jalan Bangsawan is a hidden gem



This is a hidden foodie gem tucked away in Opera estate. The famous Saffron Indian restaurant is here, as is the Plank pizzeria; this fast-becoming landmark has appeared in a lot of Instagram photos, with its exterior made from, well, planks!


There’s also a supermarket here, and Black & Ink (artisanal coffee and draught beers!) adds another reason to swing by.


It’s nice to have such amenities in walking distance – in many landed housing enclaves, you end up having to drive out just to find a bite.


3. Get to the NTUC and other nearby amenities via Terang Bulan

Residents living close to, or along Terang Bulan Avenue, have convenient access to an NTUC FairPrice and other amenities. If you walk across New Upper Changi Road, you can get to an NTUC outlet in around 10 minutes.


Besides this, there are a host of other amenities across the road – from an Astons to even a fish farm.


4. Closer to Bedok, including Bedok Mall and MRT



Bedok South Road is the eastern boundary of Opera estate – but if you want to get to the centre of Bedok (i.e., Bedok Mall and the MRT), you would only be around a five-minute drive. Alternatively, walking is viable from some parts of this estate. Of particular note is a walking path from Aida street, which cuts out the nursery along Bedok South Road and gives foot access to the Bedok MRT station.


For buyers who prefer not to drive, or perhaps have family members who use public transport, I can help to find Opera estate homes where walking to Bedok MRT is possible.

Those who prefer access to Siglap might lean more toward Frankel estate; but for those who want access to Bedok and its range of amenities, Opera estate might be preferable.


5. Proximity to Opera Estate Primary School

It’s not common for landed enclaves to have schools so closely located. Many Opera Estate homes are in walking distance of this institution; so your children won’t have trouble getting to and from school; and they can sleep in a bit longer in the morning.

If you do get a property near the school though, try to be around 500 metres away from it. This is still a convenient distance, while the noise during the school day still won’t affect you.


Cons:


1. Kubir Kassim (burial plot) may affect buyers with taboos

The Kubir Kassim cemetery is a very small plot in the Opera estate area; and most residents probably won’t even notice. If you have taboos about living near burial plots however, you may want to look at units further away from here. It’s located at the intersection of Siglap Close and Siglap Road.


2. Roads are still narrow

What I said about Siglap also applies to Opera estate. The roads are narrow, and relatives may have issues finding parking during New Year, Christmas, etc.


Be on the lookout for some parts of Fidelio Street – a portion of it is along a very steep hill, and your friends and relatives may have a tough trek up and down to your place (in the past, children loved this hill, and often dared each other to ride their bike at full speed downhill. It’s a dangerous practice that’s ended thanks to the age of Xboxes and PlayStations!)


My take on which you should pick:



The Frankel area is quite a unique part of Singapore, characterised by rolling, undulating hills and streets. These differ from most of the angular, flat neighbourhoods we see in Singapore; and comparisons have been made to the Los Angeles suburbs.


One thing to note though: due to the shifting elevation, the view from one house can be quite different from that of a nearby unit – even if the property is just next door or across the road.


Overall, houses in Frankel are larger, and are best for home owners who prize bigger land plots. Like the Meyer / Mountbatten area, this enclave has a long-held reputation as an exclusive area – and for those who want to build their own dream home, with few restrictions, Frankel is the place to look.


For those who are just upgrading into a landed home, younger families, or retirees who are right-sizing (but still want landed living), Opera estate is more likely to fit the budget. Even though prices are almost comparable on a per square foot basis, Opera estate tends toward smaller homes, and hence more affordable overall prices.


In either case, both Frankel and Opera estate exemplify District 15 living: it’s a chance to escape from monotonous glass-and-concrete landscapes, into a quaint and more characterful neighbourhood. Reach out to us to find your next home in District 15!


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