[SINGAPORE] The Jurong Lake gardens and a new Science Centre will be the focal points of a makeover for the Jurong Lakeside district, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday during his National Day Rally Speech.
"There should be more to Jurong than shopping malls and industries," PM Lee said.
The plan is to make the parks and attractions in the neighbourhood integrated into residents' living spaces. The National Parks Board will seek design ideas in 2015.
"Make it a people's garden," PM Lee said.
More Housing Board flats will be built in the north of the lake, and industrial land around the Pandan Reservoir in the south could be converted to residences as their leases run out over the next 20 to 30 years.
A new Science Centre will be built on the north of the lake near the Chinese Garden MRT station to replace the 37-year-old attraction now standing at the south shore of the lake. The new centre is targeted for completion around 2020.
"It will be the jewel in Jurong," PM Lee said.
To improve traffic in the area, the Ayer-Rajah Expressway could be moved southwards to create more space next to the lake for lakeside housing.
The Jurong Lake District has also been proposed as a possible site for the terminus of the proposed high-speed rail line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore had earlier considered Jurong East, Tuas West and the city centre as possible locations for the terminus and all three are still up for consideration; PM Lee's speech narrowed the Jurong East option to the Jurong Lake district.
The focus on the lake area of the district comes after the Jurong Gateway neighbourhood around the Jurong East MRT station had already experienced significant growth in the past few years with the opening of a number of malls.
Singapore-listed CapitaMalls Asia operates the Westgate and JCube malls in the Gateway area, while Australia's Lend Lease runs JEM.
But the gardens and parks have not kept up with the shopping centres.
PM Lee recalled that when he visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens in June, they looked the same as when he previously visited 30 years ago.
The number of visitors to those attractions also pale in comparison to other community parks such as the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
"I felt we could do so much more with the gardens," PM Lee added.
Terence Wong, head of research at DMG & Partners, said the speech "puts the area under the spotlight".
"Plans for improvement have been spoken of, but now it makes the details a little more concrete. It puts interest in the western part of Singapore," Mr Wong noted.
He said developers might now take a closer look at the area and be willing to pay more for sites, but prices in the short term are unlikely to change much, especially with improvement projects also expected elsewhere in Singapore.
"Many parts also have catalysts," Mr Wong added. "Whether it's the north and closer ties with Malaysia, Tanjong Pagar with the waterways, or the east ... just about everywhere there's something going on."