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URA to revitalise Kallang River precinct

News of waterfront home supply, industrial estate renewals and enhanced riverside connectivity bring cheer to real estate sector
Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 05:50

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The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is looking to revitalise areas along Kallang River, and wants the public's and private sector's ideas on how the 10-kilometre stretch from Lower Peirce Reservoir to Kallang Basin can be transformed.

Singapore

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is looking to revitalise areas along Kallang River, and wants the public's and private sector's ideas on how the 10-kilometre stretch from Lower Peirce Reservoir to Kallang Basin can be transformed.

News of this on Wednesday excited property developers and consultants, who began to envisage the possibilities this can present, and the value it can unlock from the developments along the waterway.

URA's own proposals, which focus on adding new waterfront housing, renewing old industrial estates, providing seamless connectivity from Bishan to the city centre along the river, and developing the Kallang Basin as a sports and recreational venue, are displayed in an exhibition at the URA Centre Atrium from now till May 2.

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URA said: "Many of the ideas exhibited at this stage are conceptual and aspirational in nature, and not developed in great detail. The intention is to invite public feedback, so that they can be developed further."

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, at the launch of the exhibition on Wednesday, said that over the decades of rapid industrialisation, urban rivers, including Singapore's, have often been abused and under-valued.

"Fortunately, there has been a dramatic change of thinking about how rivers can play a role in our urban landscape. This happened in Singapore in the 1980s," he added.

"It stems from a fundamental human need for an emotional connection with nature. It also arises from a need to soften the harshness of the modern metropolis."

The Kallang River was cleaned up around the same time the Singapore River was, in the 1970s, by extensive river dredging works, an overhaul of the sewage system and relocation of many farms and kampung settlements along the river.

On Wednesday, the URA outlined its five broad key ideas.

Firstly, there is potential to inject another 100,000 dwelling units in the area in the next two decades, in addition to the current 800,000 residents, or 200,000 homes, living within 2km of Kallang River.

Some of these would be waterfront housing developments, with most of them likely be located in Kampong Bugis, which the government has said will be developed by a master developer approach, as opposed to carving out the precinct and putting out individual sites for sale. The master developer will be appointed by tender.

Old industrial estates such as Kallang Distripark and Kallang Industrial Estate will also potentially be renewed into mixed-use precincts with new industrial developments, as well as housing and recreational spaces.

Secondly, the URA is also planning to improve accessibility by providing an uninterrupted route along the river for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.

The river is currently divided into separate stretches, with parts of the river cut off from access by major roads or expressways as well as industrial estates.

While it is possible to travel its length, the journey is tedious, involving overhead pedestrian bridges, narrow sidewalks and walks through residential estates. The plan is thus to "stitch" the river back together using new underpasses, ramps and a cycling bridge across the Pan Island Expressway, to create a continuous pathway along the river.

Thirdly, the URA plans to enhance Kallang Basin as a sports and recreational venue, developing the area around the Sports Hub to cater to people with different interests, ages and abilities. Facilities planned include running trails, a new football hub and free-to-play courts.

The last two sugestions were to enhance the biodiversity of Kallang River and to incorporate the river's rich heritage into its development plans.

Besides the public, the URA also plans to engage architects, planners, developers and land owners. Some developers are already persuaded by the government's vision.

UOL group deputy CEO Liam Wee Sin, who was at the exhibition, said that for the en-bloc sale site of Raintree Gardens that it is currently in the midst of acquiring, the group is working on a new design prototype that will "capitalise on the river frontage and connectivity to offer a new and sought-after lifestyle option to buyers".

Knight Frank Singapore's head of consultancy and research Alice Tan believes the government's plans will invariably lift the real estate values of developments and unbuilt land along Kallang River. Waterfront, centrally-located developments close to nature would be difficult attributes to replicate and come by, so property values could increase as the precinct transforms.

JLL national director of research and consultancy Ong Teck Hui said the newly announced plans are a "sweetener" to enhance the Kampong Bugis project which has about 1km of river frontage. "Units fronting the river would be in greater demand and command higher prices. The master developer of Kampong Bugis would have an additional unique selling point to leverage," he said.

JLL's Singapore research head Tay Huey Ying said the plans to revamp the Kallang industrial areas also dovetail with the Committee on the Future Economy's recommendations for greater flexibility in land use. She believes there is potential for these industrial estates to be developed for flexible warehouse-retailing use amid the explosive growth in e-commerce.

"We envisage that these warehouse-retail spaces will move away from the 60:40 industrial space ruling (where 40 per cent of industrial space can be used for ancillary purposes). Instead, multiple functions such as warehousing, logistics, e-retailing and physical retailing could be integrated under one business space, with companies given full autonomy to manage their space usage according to their evolving business needs."

Ong Kah Seng, director of R'ST Research, also suggested for the government to put in place design criteria for developers and master developers to adhere to, so that newly built condominiums and apartments will blend in with the broader planning concept of the riverside.

This is just the first in a series of exhibitions that URA is organising. More exhibitions will come, detailing Singapore's plans to develop new areas such as the Jurong Lake District, Punggol, Woodlands, and the Rail Corridor.

READ MORE: BT Infographics: River revamp

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