Stretching Our Land Options – Going Upward, Downward and Seaward

June 26, 2019

Land is a critical factor in any country’s development, more so for a little red dot like Singapore.  Hence, we are always looking at different ways to stretch our land options.

One strategy is to go upward. We are used to high-rise living in Singapore. But there are other vertical applications. For example, we are deploying solar panels on HDB rooftops and going for vertical farms.

In the new Tengah town, we are doing centralised cooling systems, with the chillers on the rooftops.  This is more energy efficient than split-unit air-conditioning systems in every home, and will also help to reduce the urban heat island effect that comes with existing air-conditioning usage.

The vertical strategy is also about optimising existing spaces, especially where we have yet to maximise the full development potential.

Paya Lebar Airbase is one such example. The Airbase is located near urbanised areas and imposes height restrictions on the buildings.

Imagine the potential once the Airbase is relocated. We can have new and higher developments, not just in Paya Lebar, but also in the surrounding areas.

Another strategy is to go downward or underground.  We already have underground utility systems, including our power grid, telco lines and a district cooling system in Marina Bay.

We are doing more to exploit our underground space.  Soon we will have our first underground 230 kV substation in Pasir Panjang, and more underground district cooling systems in new areas like Punggol.

We are also going deeper underground (more than 150 m below ground) to develop caverns. We already have the rock caverns in Jurong for oil storage. We are now identifying and safeguarding suitable locations for future cavern uses.

For the first time this year, we have put together a comprehensive 3D Underground Space Plan.  We’ve completed the underground plans for Marina Bay, Jurong Innovation District and Punggol Digital District, and will include other areas in the Plan over time.

Finally, we can create more space by extending seaward through reclamation.

For example, we have reclaimed land in Tuas for a new terminal.  We will move our existing ports in the southern part of Singapore to Tuas, and free up about 1000 ha of prime waterfront space. This will enable us to extend our downtown area, beyond Marina Bay to a new Southern Waterfront City.

Reclamation is costly and requires a lot of sand. That is why we have embarked on a new method of reclamation in Pulau Tekong using polders and dikes. This method requires about 40 per cent less sand compared to traditional reclamation.

Reclamation is important for another reason – it is a strategy to protect Singapore against the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change.  We have already raised reclamation levels by an additional 1m.  But more will need to be done.

So we are studying the need for other infrastructure, including sea walls and pumping stations to protect against rising sea levels.  These are long-term investments but we are planning well ahead so that we can put them in place in a timely manner.

Land will always be a constraint in our little island.

But through human ingenuity, we can come up with innovative ways to stretch our land options – upward, downward and seaward. That’s how we can overcome our natural constraints, and continue to succeed over the long-term.

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Car-Free Sunday SG is back!

October 25, 2016

Eight months ago, we made an unprecedented decision to close a number of roads in the heart of CBD to vehicles on the last Sunday of each month and transform the precinct into a huge car-free activity space.

We ran this Car-Free Sunday SG pilot over six months, with tens of thousands of Singaporeans joining in the experience.

They enjoyed the car-free road space and participated in the wide range of activities organised in the adjacent public spaces.

Many also organised their own walks or cycling rides, bringing together individuals with like-minded interests.

We’ve received lots of positive feedback. Many asked us to continue the event, and to expand the car-free route.

So I am happy to announce that Car-Free Sunday SG will be back this Sunday, 30 October!

This new run of Car-Free Sunday SG will be even bigger and better!

The route will extend beyond the Civic District into the Telok Ayer conservation area, providing a longer stretch of full road closures.

Combined with longer road closure hours, from 8am to 11am, this means that there will be more options for people to jog, walk or cycle, and explore our city.

We have more community groups contributing their ideas and activities to make the event more fun-filled and meaningful.

More cycling groups are also organising guided cycling trips from the heartlands to the Civic District.

For example, a “bike train”, a special creation by a Bishan resident – Mr Lee Tang Teng, to ferry his friends around their neighbourhood, will be making its debut this weekend and will offer free rides around the Padang.

Car-Free Sunday SG is a step towards our broader vision of a car-lite and people-friendly society.

So do join us and experience the event with your family, friends and fellow Singaporeans – your Sunday mornings will never be the same again!

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Making Public Spaces Fun

August 18, 2016

Making Public Spaces Fun

What do you usually do when waiting at the bus-stop?

Soon it could be a more enjoyable experience.

DP.pngA group of young architects from DP Architects approached URA with a novel idea to design a bus stop to “make waiting fun”.

They re-imagined the bus-stop as a social space where people not only transit, but also discover new experiences, interact with one another and have some fun along the way.

Working closely with various Government agencies, they have now implemented their ideas in a bus-stop along Jurong East Central behind JCube.

This experiential bus stop incorporates several features:

  • Vertical greenery and solar panels
  • Free wifi coverage (available from Sep) and mobile phone charging points
  • Interactive smart boards to access information like bus timings, weather and the street directory
  • Books to browse and read, as well as e-books to download
  • Art panels depicting the evolving landscape of Jurong
  • Bicycle parking

featuresWe plan to try this out for a year and gather feedback from the community.

Thereafter, we will review the public response to the features and services to see if they should continue to be operational.

I’m very encouraged to see these young architects come forward with their ideas to make our public spaces more vibrant.

We hope to have more Singaporeans play an active role in shaping the use of our public spaces.

This is why URA has an initiative called “Our Favourite Place” to provide funding support to individuals and groups with ideas to activate and enliven our public spaces.

Planning our future city is not just a job for our urban planners.

We all can play a role in shaping our streets and public spaces.

The more we do so, the more we strengthen our sense of ownership, identity and emotional connection to Singapore our home.

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Service at Your Fingertips

June 2, 2016

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We live in exciting times. Technology has opened up new and boundless opportunities in the way we live, learn, work and play.

The Government is also leveraging technology to improve our services and enhance our engagement with Singaporeans.

This is a key priority for us at MND.

For example, you may be familiar with the Municipal Services Office (MSO)’s OneService app, which allows the public to provide feedback on municipal issues while on the go.

The OneService Web Portal to be launched later this year will enable the public to access useful information on their neighbourhood, including HDB block-cleaning schedules, the location of dengue clusters and even traffic incidents.

HDB, too, has recently revamped its Mobile@HDB app. The improved app has new features which allow home-buyers to check resale flat prices (by scanning their surroundings with their mobile device’s camera) and to track sales and resale appointments with HDB.

URA is now joining this effort to put more information online in an easily searchable way. And it’s free-of-charge too. 🙂

Every year, more than 33,000 people write in to URA to ask for information on land matters.

In the past, URA would have to spend a few days to search its records. Due to the time and effort involved, it would charge a fee for the information.

Now URA will place some of the planning information online in an easily searchable way, and in a new online portal called URA SPACE (Service Portal and Community e-Services). Check it out at: https://www.ura.gov.sg/maps/

URA SPACE will consolidate detailed information such as land use plans, urban design guidelines, property use and approval, car park locations and availability, private residential property transactions, and conservation areas and buildings.

The data is presented on a map in GIS (Geographical Information System) format, with a 3D map feature, so that the search for information becomes more intuitive and convenient.

I understand that the majority of the queries received by URA pertain to allowable uses for a shophouse – for instance, whether a shophouse can be used to operate a restaurant, a spa, a pub, an office; or whether it can be leased or owned for other uses. The uses of shophouses are regulated to safeguard the character and amenities in different localities.

angsiangURA SPACE now allows businessmen, investors and shophouse owners to access this information at the click of a mouse, without having to pay, or wait a week for the information. We may well be one of the few cities in the world to offer such a service.

This new service will be piloted for six months to find out whether there is a need to further improve it. The experience gained will allow URA to work on further enhancements of URA SPACE to better serve the public.

There is still much more we can do in the MND family to tap on the power of digital technology. For example, the use of big data and data analytics can be a game-changer in the way we design, plan and develop our future urban landscape and HDB housing estates.

We will continue to innovate and strive to make information more accessible and user-friendly, and bring better service to your fingertips!

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Our First Car-Free Sunday SG

February 16, 2016

Our First Car-Free Sunday SG

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met and spoken to many Singaporeans who support the vision of a car-lite and people-friendly city.

It will take tremendous effort and time to make our vision a reality.

Car-Free Sunday SG_2But if we want a future city that’s cleaner and greener, and provides an even better quality of life for all, we must start to make changes now.

Think of how we transformed Singapore over the last 50 years.

Likewise, the small steps we take today, accumulated over several years and even decades, can result in another wave of transformational change.

That’s why we’re working hard to improve our public transport and infrastructure for active mobility options like walking and cycling.

We’ve also been facilitating weekend road closures – initiated by local communities – around Singapore.

Later this month, we will take this a step further with our first Car-Free Sunday SG in the heart of the CBD and Civic District.

This will be done as a six-month pilot to be held on the last Sunday of each month from February to July. From 7am to 9am, the roads around the Padang – St Andrew’s Road, Stamford Road and Connaught Drive – and Fullerton Road will be fully closed to vehicles, while Shenton Way and Robinson Road will be partially closed for you to cycle, jog or walk.

On 28 Feb, come and experience for yourself what a car-free city is like. We’ve lined up an exciting series of family-friendly activities that morning. The museums will be opened earlier that day from 9am. So bring your family and friends to check out the re-furbished Asian Civilisations Museum and the newly-opened National Gallery of Singapore.

For those who prefer to simply relax and soak in the atmosphere, there’s a breakfast picnic area at the lawn in front of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, where you can enjoy roti prata, nasi lemak and other local delights.

Car-Free Sunday SG

We will be sharing more details on the programming very soon, but here’s a preview of the event logo for Car-Free Sunday SG.  Let’s all do our part towards a car-lite and people-friendly city. 🙂

Car-Free Sunday SG

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Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015

ContinueTheTradition_header

I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Restoring the Capitol

August 30, 2015

Restoring the Capitol

Many Singaporeans have fond memories of Capitol Theatre.  Some would remember their first date there, to catch a movie, most probably 007 or Bruce Lee. There is also the Capitol Building and Stamford Building. Who can forget the old Magnolia Snack Bar at Capitol Building?

That is why we decided to conserve and restore the three buildings, and have them re-invented into a mixed use integrated development. The site was sold on this basis, for re-development in 2010.

Five years later, the Capitol Theatre has re-opened its doors to the public! And what a wonderful transformation!

An exhibition was organised there by ZB, WB and Perennial Real Estate Holdings for the readers to showcase their collection of old photos and their recollection of the Capitol. It was a nostalgic journey for many.

We also enjoyed the “Seven Letters” by our local producers, their individual SG50 gifts to the nation.

The Capitol Theatre has fully regained its past neo-classical glory – the domed ceiling ringed with the zodiac signs; Capitol Theatre the stage flanked by handsome Pegasus sculptures; and the iconic neon theatre sign. Clearly, our conservation experts had put in a lot of hard work to preserve the past and ensure accuracy. And more: new technology has been tapped to make the theatre a flexible space for hosting movies, theatre performances and corporate events.

The restoration of the Capitol, tucked within the Civic District, is another lovely SG50 gift to Singaporeans. It will be enjoyed by generations of Singaporeans for a long, long time.

Do you know that the Capitol Theatre was built in 1929, for live shows? And that it used to be known as the Namazies Building? (The Namazies were businessmen and lawyers of Persian origin. During the War, the building was sold to the Shaw Organisation and the theatre converted to a cinema.) You can read more about the theatre and share your own memories of the place at URA’s Conservation Portal.

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Less cars, more street life

July 2, 2015

Car-free Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill during weekends have been a great success. As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore. People stroll freely and safely. Closed to cars, the streets come alive.

These initiatives were started as pilot projects in 2013 by local stakeholders with the support of the URA. Progressively, we have seen more communities coming forward to initiate similar projects.

More recently at Everton Park, the local community came together to convert a quiet back lane to support a vibrant street festival. Many residents were pleasantly surprised to discover the community space and enjoyed many of the activities such as free haircuts, face-painting and kampung games.

We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for community to enjoy. Today, the Urban Redevelopment Authority launched their “Streets for People” programme, to facilitate this.

This programme will help support new community-initiated car-free zones aimed at transforming streets and back lanes into temporary public spaces.  The programme offers varying levels of support, including providing road closure essentials such as safety barriers and signage, and up to $5,000 of seed funding. URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.

For more information, visit http://ura.sg/streetsforpeople. Let’s participate in the Streets for People programme, and enjoy our streets.

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A Jubilee Bridge Tribute to Mr Lee

March 31, 2015

A new pedestrian bridge at Marina Bay now links Merlion Park to the waterfront promenade in front of Esplanade Theatres by the Bay. We had intended to open it for public access next month. But it was brought forward to facilitate the many Singaporeans who lined the Esplanade Bridge to bid farewell to our founding Prime Minister on 29 March 2015.

It was Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself who suggested the construction of a bridge, during a 2004 visit to Marina Bay. He had observed that the walkway along Esplanade Bridge was too narrow, and he thought that a friendlier connection should be provided.

This simple but elegant curved 220-metre long pedestrian bridge forms part of the 3.5km waterfront promenade around the bay. Its design allows visitors to enjoy a panoramic view of Marina Bay. The bridge is a beautiful complement to Marina Bay, especially when lit at night.

The bridge will remain open and will be officially launched in November as the Jubilee Bridge, to commemorate 50 years of nation building. As we use this new pedestrian bridge to enjoy Marina Bay, let’s reflect on the vision and the hard work of Mr Lee and our founding generation.

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Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

March 23, 2015

Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

Our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew has passed on. My Ministry has lost its greatest mentor and inspiration.

Mr Lee devoted his whole life to Singapore. Singaporeans owe much of what we have in Singapore today to Mr Lee. He was a rare talent and few people could see further ahead than he did. He used his tremendous foresight to position Singapore well and created an endearing home for all.

My Ministry has especially benefited from Mr Lee’s immense foresight and strategic insights. He inspired many policies in MND: HDB, Garden City, Clean & Green, urban planning, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, heritage conservation, Marina Bay, etc.

Homeownership

It was not too long ago, in the early 60s, that Singapore was filthy, disorderly, with slums and squatters and high homelessness. Mr Lee set up the HDB and started on the ambitious task to house a nation. Through the Home Ownership for the People Scheme”, he encouraged families to own their HDB flats, to have a stake in Singapore and its future.

Key handover50 years on, Singapore has achieved one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. Our endearing HDB towns are a lasting imprint of Mr Lee. Today, a third generation of Singaporeans is embarking on their own homeownership journey. The hugely successful story of home ownership in Singapore mirrors the successful story of Singapore as a nation.

The pervasive greenery around us which transforms Singapore into a City in a Garden is another lasting legacy of Mr Lee. In 1963, he planted the first Mempat Tree at Farrer Circus, kickstarting the annual nation-wide tree planting campaign which continues till this day. Even after he retired from the Cabinet, Mr Lee asked to be updated on the work done by the Garden City Action Committee. And whenever Mr Lee was free, he would visit the Botanic Gardens with the late Mrs Lee, and later to Gardens by the Bay after it was completed in 2012.

Tree planting

Mr Lee clearly took pride in what Singapore has achieved as a clean and green city. To him, greenery is not just sound policy that makes sense, but also a personal passion and lifelong commitment. In 2013, in celebration of our 50 years of greening, we invited Mr Lee to plant a rain tree at Holland Village Park. We were so glad that Mr Lee could join us on that momentous occasion.

I know many of you feel a deep sense of loss with Mr Lee’s passing. We all share in this loss. Celebrating 50 years of greening

As we mourn the loss of our Founding PM, let’s reflect on his achievements and be grateful to Mr Lee for starting Singapore on the right footing and building Singapore into what it is today. Mr Lee and his vision put Singapore on the global map of world-class cities. His life and work have touched the lives of generations of Singaporeans. Let us build on his legacy and make Singapore even better for future generations of Singaporeans.

At this time, our prayers and thoughts are with PM Lee and his family. We wish them strength and peace in this time of sorrow.

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