Any BID For Singapore?

I touched base with Singapore River One (SRO) recently when I took a walk with their leadership, to see for myself the work they are doing.

SRO was formed by the major business operators active in Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. These three precincts are all linked by the Singapore River. SRO sees the business potential behind these precincts and got together to help maximise the potential. It is a private sector driven initiative, with URA cheering them on.

SRO plans to position the Singapore River precinct as a premier waterfront destination, riding on its rich history, beautiful water body and diverse attractions. One of their key projects over the next few years is to enhance the pedestrian experience along the river. Public spaces will become more attractive with more play areas, photo vantage points, arts installations and street furniture along the river promenade. Earlier, SRO had initiated a successful campaign to reduce touting among fellow restaurant operators along Boat Quay.

The SRO concept was inspired by the success of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the US and UK. BIDs are ground-up initiatives by businesses and other stakeholders including local residents, which vote to invest as a group to improve their local environment. Where there is a majority support, stakeholders contribute to pay for initiatives to improve the place. Businesses in these districts have seen higher revenue as a result, while property owners enjoy greater capital value.

BIDs are taking off in many cities. They are useful references for us, as we enter the next stage of city development in Singapore.

SRO is currently made up of 22 stakeholders. Though they are only a small fraction of the 700 businesses along the Singapore River, they have boldly stepped forward to get things going. They are hopeful that more members will come on board when they see the benefits of such collaboration. To support them in the first few years, the URA is providing a matching grant over 3 years for the membership fees and cash sponsorships that they can raise. We would like to see the SRO succeed. If the Singapore River Precinct succeeds, it is good for Singapore.

I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and the voluntarism of the SRO members to place-manage and improve their own business environment. I will be closely watching their progress, with a view to see how similar place-management initiatives can be replicated elsewhere. Perhaps Marina Bay to be next? Or Kampong Glam?

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