SINGAPORE: Residents in the city-state, particularly in Jurong, can look forward to enjoying the 70-hectare Jurong Lake Gardens "as early as 2017", said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blogpost on Monday (Aug 18).
He wrote that heritage elements at the Chinese and Japanese Gardens will be retained, but refreshed as part of Jurong Lake Gardens. The Gardens will be developed in phases, with Jurong Lake Park being the first to be completed in 2017, and implementation plans will dovetail with the greater plans for Jurong Lake District.
Mr Khaw also called on the public to share their ideas with NParks on how it can develop the area. NParks will invite ideas from planning and landscape design professionals and the local community next year for the development of the Gardens, he said.
The Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden were both built in the 1970s, and visitors comprise residents in surrounding neighbourhoods and the occasional tourist. Dr Harvey Neo of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Geography department said he believes redevelopment would elevate the gardens' standing and create greater national interest in them.
"We're talking about a fairly radical imagination of the gardens, so I won't be surprised if (the gardens) look completely different. But that's almost inevitable because we're really trying to create new space, we're trying to incorporate new ideas," he said. And while he does not feel that the Japanese Garden had any iconic features, Prof Neo said the Chinese Garden's pagoda deserved to be retained. Still, "if they do not want to retain that, I think it's understandable as well because we're really talking about a major shift in how we use the space there," he said.
"JEWEL OF JURONG"
Mr Khaw also reiterated Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech, which highlighted the new Science Centre as the "jewel" in Jurong when completed around 2020. The new Centre will be located at the eastern bank of Jurong Lake, next to the Chinese Garden MRT station.
"We will make it fun, educational and spectacular, in keeping with changing times and our achievements over the decades. Its location will enable NParks to integrate the future Science Centre with the new Gardens, combining themes such as science, technology and horticulture in a uniquely Singaporean way," Mr Khaw wrote.
Dr Neo said the site of the future Science Centre next to Jurong Lake presents new opportunities. "I hope they will make full use of the location and think of educational activities that involve the lake," he said. "The sky's the limit here. They can really push the boundaries of scientific learning. This is a unique opportunity for them to think big about the kinds of experiences we want to give to the visitors.
(Artist impressions: NParks)
NEW HOUSING POSSIBILITIES
The Ministry of National Development (MND) also provided more details on developing the Jurong Gateway, as indicated by Mr Lee.
One idea being considered is to realign the stretch of the AYE from Yuan Ching Road to Jurong Town Hall Road to free up land south of Jurong Lake for residential development, and to integrate the Pandan Reservoir area with the district to form a larger and more cohesive development area, it said.
"Environmental improvements can be made to the surrounding parks and water bodies such as Jurong River, Pandan River, Pandan Reservoir and Teban Gardens to create an attractive waterfront residential district with good quality living environment amidst lush greenery, similar to those found in Punggol and around Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park," MND said.
But Dr Neo urged caution when it comes to moving the AYE southwards, saying it should be studied further. "Of all the initiatives that were announced, that strikes me as a little bit hard to understand because I cannot see its relative advantage. I don't know how much southwards they want to move," he said. "I assume it is to free up a certain amount of space, so that the entire area can be bigger and development can be more seamless but this freeing up of extra space has to be weighed against the extra cost and the inconvenience."
The cost of the endeavour is hard to estimate without knowing what the freed-up land would be used for, he noted, pointing out that shifting entire expressways is not common abroad due to high costs. "I'm very sceptical. It was mentioned that (the land) will be used for housing in the plan, but how much extra housing are we talking about here? The details are not (furnished) yet."
MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS TO TRANSPORT NETWORKS
Mr Khaw added in his blogpost that there are many other "exciting plans" in store for Jurong, including major improvements to the transportation networks. "All these will take years to realise. We shall stage the implementation," the minister said.
For instance, as part of the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) Land Transport Master Plan 2013, the current East-West and North-South MRT lines serving the region are currently being upgraded. Two new lines - the Cross-Island Line and Jurong Region Line - are expected to be completed by around 2030 and 2025, respectively, MND stated.
It added that agencies will explore building more dedicated cycling paths and park connectors to strengthen connectivity and accessibility between Jurong Lake District and the surrounding residential and business nodes such as Pandan and Teban gardens estates, Tengah New Town, JTC’s proposed integrated R&D and industrial township centred around Clean Tech Park, NTU, and Bulim and Tengah industrial estates.
"This will reduce the need to drive within the district and help promote a healthier lifestyle," MND said.
As for plans to site the future Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail terminus in Jurong East, MND said the Government is currently studying possible locations. These plans will undergo detailed planning and technical studies and will be progressively implemented in the next 20 to 30 years, it added.
LAKE-SIDE LIVING? Once the Jurong Lake District development is complete, property experts believe there will be high demand for houses near the lake or coastal area, and they expect authorities to continue focusing on infrastructure development in Jurong.
Professor Sing Tien Foo of NUS' Department of Real Estate noted that the the plans for the Cross Island and Jurong Regional lines go hand in hand with the land use plan. "You cannot wait for the area to be developed then you put in all the infrastructure and roads. So some of these developments may have to take place earlier to support the future expansion of the area and land use intensification of the area," he said. "With more businesses and residents moving into the area, I think the demand for infrastructure capacity is also expected to increase. Early planning will actually minimise some of these interruptions in the long term and also allow for smoother transition into more integrated land use." - CNA/kk/xy
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