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Business park near Singapore airport rapidly emptying out, hurting its regional hub ambitions

Just 14km (nine miles) from the gleaming skyscrapers that crowd the country’s central business district sits a 71-hectare (175-acre), billion-dollar example of the city state’s push to create alternative business hubs. Changi Business Park, dubbed the “CBD of the East” was a big draw for tech giants including International Business Machines Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Global banks from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to Citigroup Inc. have also situated their back-end staff there.

The business park is now rapidly emptying out, dealing a blow to the Singapore government’s meticulous urban planning and efforts to get foreign businesses to expand their regional operations in the Southeast Asian island nation. Overall vacancy rates across 10 commercial properties there tracked by property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield have more than doubled in the past three years to nearly 40 per cent.

The development’s woes show how global tech and finance lay-offs, together with the push to work from home since the pandemic, are even overpowering a project with powerful government support in one of the world’s most desirable financial hubs. Changi’s struggles contrast with Singapore’s packed downtown, where prime office rents soared to a 15-year high earlier this year and buildings are almost full.

IBM, which occupied two namesake buildings with a total of 12 floors at Changi, has reduced its presence to two floors, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. UBS Group AG has cut the more than 110,000 square feet (10,220 square metres) of space it occupied by more than half. Standard Chartered Plc, which owns two buildings in the park, has been seeking to lease out two floors