What should Singaporeans expect from URA's Draft Master Plan?

Will the dream of a 'more liveable' Singapore come true?

URA unveiled the Draft Master Plan 2013 last week, in which they discussed the future uses of Singapore's lands. According to PropNex, the URA Master Plan is a statutory land use plan, which guides Singapore’s development in the medium term by showing the permissible land use and density for every parcel of land here.

Reviewed every five years, the plan also sketches out the authority’s vision to develop scarce land and meet residential, industry, transport and recreational needs.

Here are some benefits analysts think Singaporeans must anticipate in the coming years.

Chia Siew Chuin, Director of Research & Advisory, Colliers International:

Since the conceptualisation of Regional Centres, about two decades ago, Woodlands has yet to realize its potential as a decentralised commercial area compared to the development of Tampines and Jurong East.

As a result of recent events, there are now two major drivers that have substantially increased the potential of the Woodlands area. Firstly, the new Thomson Line MRT station at Woodlands will join with the existing Woodlands station from the North-South Line to become an interchange. This linking of transport nodes would serve as a catalyst that would spur development of Woodlands as a regional centre in the north. Secondly, more Singaporeans are investing in second homes across the Causeway in Johor Bahru - private apartments in the city centre just across from Woodlands to landed homes in the newly developing areas of the Iskandar growth region such as Nusajaya. As such, the entire Woodlands area would be primed as a conduit for increased economic and human activity that is as yet untapped. This potential will become more significant when plans to extend the mass transit system into parts of Johor become more certain.

These twin drivers of growth will drive the development of new mixed commercial complexes and mixed commercial-residential development in Woodlands Regional Centre, especially the land parcels around Woodlands MRT station.

In the 2008 Master Plan, several reserve sites without any land use planning details such as zoning and plot ratios have now been designated for commercial, mixed-commercial and residential, as well as high-rise residential uses in the 2013 Draft Master Plan. With plot ratios ranging from 3.5 to 4.2, the entire cluster around Woodlands MRT station is set to accelerate with developments in the next five years, housing a variety of commercial activities and jobs that are close to homes.

Bringing Quality Jobs Closer to Home – New Industrial Hubs and Business Parks
The 2013 Draft Master Plan has also included the development of new industrial hubs and business parks, namely, the Seletar Aerospace Park, Defu Industrial Estate, Lorong Halus Industrial Park, an integrated Industrial Township housing the CleanTech Park, NTU, Wenya Industrial Park and part of future Tengah Town.

While all these plans seek to generate jobs, maintain Singapore’s position as a high-value knowledge base for the future, the critical focus will be to ensure that real estate hardware caters to the fast evolving characteristics of the manufacturing sector in Singapore. It is imperative that detailed planning parameters and controls would have to be updated and modernised to encompass the interaction of hardware and software in the new economy. Should there be a mismatch between the shiny new industrial buildings of the near future and the real needs of industrialists, all these exciting and bold planning efforts will become an exercise in futility.

In the manufacturing sector, specialisation and outsourcing have blurred the lines between manufacturing and product-related services. Manufacturing today involves a myriad of functions, more so than a generation ago. It is critical that the planners and authorities understand the modernity of doing business in a fast evolving modern economy, know what is required of real estate to support this dynamism and bring clarity to what is allowed and what should not be allowed in our industrial, office, retail and other types of business premises.

The Government has shown their willingness to modify existing real estate templates to update the housing environment for the current needs of the population, through the introduction of public housing flats for singles and multi-generation housing units. This addresses different demographic groups in a more incisive and targeted manner. Therefore, the Government needs to adopt a similar strategy to ensure that manufacturing-related companies still have a place in Singapore’s factories and are not disqualified out-of-turn as commercial entities in today’s evolving economy.

In addition, if the Government wishes promote all spheres of business with an entrepreneurial spirit, there should also be affordable “no-frills” commercial premises made available for businesses, including small-and-medium enterprises.

Planning For A Quality Living Environment - Marina South

The subterranean Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) will open on December 29, spanning a 5 km stretch comprising a part undersea 10-lane road, linking the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP). Once the MCE becomes operational, that will free up land for development in the new Central Business District (CBD).

Once this stretch of the present ECP is decommission, more land parcels with a variety of different uses can be made available for development. It is expected that the CBD in its existing form will grow in a south-east fashion, extending from Bayfront Avenue towards Shares Avenue, spreading through Straits Boulevard, Central Boulevard and Marina Boulevard, to eventually enfold Marina Gardens Drive.

And it would not only be Grade A office buildings that will dominate this transformation. High-rise CBD homes will also become a permanent feature of this modern financial district, forming part of the city skyline. Supporting amenities within walking or cycling distance, including shops, offices, hotels, restaurants, arts and entertainment venues, and greens spaces will accompany the overall metamorphosis of an area currently devoid of vibrancy, serving the office crowd during the day and resident population after-hours and on weekends.

Planning For A Quality Living Environment – Kampong Bugis

Kampong Bugis is located near Kallang Riverside, which was identified as a growth area in the 2008 Master Plan. Kallang Riverside comprises 64 ha of prime development land, and the plans then included approximately 300,000 sq m of new office space, 700 housing units incorporated into the mixed-use developments, as well as 3,000 hotel rooms. However, to this day, little of these have materialised.

This time round in the 2013 Draft Master Plan, the concept ideas for Kampong Bugis will combine with the completion of the Sports Hub at Kallang to provide the drivers needed to pioneer and sustain the development at Kallang Riverside. The convergence of two major waterways (Rochor Canal and the Kallang River), leading to the Kallang Basin would allow the development of Kampong Bugis as a high-density water sustainable project. Not only will an additional water storage and management system be created for the country, but green living and recreational areas would also sprout up in tandem.

The completion of the Sports Hub in 2014 provides the catalyst to introduce all manner of sporting and recreational events into the locality, bringing in much needed human activity. Once such activities gain a consistent foothold in the area, the Government and private developers will be incentivised to initiate other projects at the Kallang Riverside as well as the neighbouring Kampong Bugis.

Again, this is an intentional and resourceful effort on the part of the Government to maximise available land through a symbiotic and inventive combination of different land uses. 

Ismail Gafoor, CEO, PropNex Realty:

Both Marina South and Kampong Bugis are envisioned as a “non-gated” residential precinct, and will feature green housing developments to encourage greater interaction between neighbours and community.

“Interestingly, for Marina South and Kampong Bugis to be a “non-gated” community will set the stage for future developments in Singapore to stay connected and remain strong in community interaction and spirit with people of different races and income groups,” predicted Mr Mohd Ismail.

More job opportunities near homes

Singaporeans will also be able to work closer to home as the government will continue to grow regional employment centres such as Jurong Lake District, Tampines Regional Centre and Paya Lebar Central. New growth areas across the entire stretch of the North Coast Innovation Corridor will begin to take shape with the Woodlands Regional Centre and the Punggol Learning Corridor and Creative Cluster.

New industrial sites at CleanTech Park, Wenya, Jurong West and Tuas in the west, and Seletar West and Lorong Halus in the north-east, will offer new job opportunities.

“Integrating more commercial clusters and industrial parks in different regions of the island will improve work life balance by having opportunities to work near their homes. This will reduce commuting time and ease congestion during peak hours, resulting in a more comfortable travelling experience for all commuters and better work life balance for residents,” explains Mr Mohd Ismail.

Keeping the neighbourhood charm

Holland Village, Jalan Kayu and Serangoon Garden have been added to Singapore's list of "identity nodes" in recognition of their unique, historical charm. Over 70 buildings will be conserved including Alexandra Hospital; Commonwealth Avenue wet market and former military buildings in Seletar.

“The continuous effort to preserve such sites of historical heritage and charisma is a positive move. Jalan Kayu, being the smallest of the newly identified areas will add greater value to the landed properties and residential homes located there,” concludes Mr Mohd Ismail. 

Terence Khi, Analyst, UOB Kay Hian:

A step in the right direction, in our view, balancing the economic priorities of housing, commercial and industrial developments with greater emphasis on decentralisation, eco-friendly initiatives and better public accessibility.

Greater priority on integrated and mixed-use developments could benefit larger developers with relevant experience such as CapitaLand, Frasers Centrepoint (F&N), Keppel Land, and City Developments. Southern Waterfront development with the relocation of the Pasir Panjang and Tanjong Pagar terminals will benefit Mapletree Commercial Trust with its substantial retail and commercial exposure in the area.

Land earmarked for 500,000 new homes, with greater emphasis on HDB estates, will provide new opportunities for HDB construction companies such as United Engineers, Chip Eng Seng, Hock Lian Seng and Tiong Seng, together with HDB estate managers such as Isoteam, and material suppliers such as Hafary.

Opportunities for underground development (eg. 800m pedestrianised street with underground mall at Marina Bay) to benefit specialised underground construction players such as Kori Holdings.

Marina Bay and Marina South to offer new opportunities for office, retail and entertainment amenities that will complement REITs with existing developments in the area, such as Keppel REIT and Suntec REIT. Further development in the Jurong Lake District will be advantageous to CapitaMalls Trust and CapitaMalls Asia.

Development of Woodlands North Coast and Woodlands Central, together with the rail linkage to Malaysia, will generate greater demand for malls and upcoming developments owned by Frasers Centrepoint Trust (eg Causeway Point and Northpoint) and Frasers Centrepoint/F&N. 

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