Live, work, play: Life by the water calls

With Singapore’s two cruise facilities – Marina Bay Cruise Centre (pictured) and the Singapore Cruise Centre in HarbourFront – located in the south, there is potential too for the Republic to draw more visitors by sea as it positions itself as a regional cruise hub. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Hi-tech city among ideas offered for upcoming southern district

A lush island with housing complexes, served by driverless electric vehicles only. Linked to it, an island for play and a high-tech waterfront city that is both an extension to the central business district and a link for Singapore’s green pathways.

These are among the ideas urban planners have for a future area that the Government hopes to brand as the Southern Gateway of Asia.

The upcoming Greater Southern Waterfront district is back in the spotlight, after it was announced last Wednesday that plans are being drawn up to integrate Sentosa with the precinct and develop the adjacent island of Pulau Brani.

About 1,000 ha of land (about the size of 30 Singapore Sports Hubs) will be freed up for the development of a new waterfront city after 2030, when port terminals including those in Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang will be consolidated in Tuas.

Extending the city to the Greater Southern Waterfront, creating differentiated districts and an uninterrupted 30km-long waterfront promenade are among the possibilities that have been raised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, after it identified the area for development in its 2013 Draft Master Plan.

Urban planning experts The Sunday Times spoke to said the waterfront precinct will likely include mixed-use developments with residential, office and retail components, and a master developer may be appointed for the entire district.

National University of Singapore’s Institute of Real Estate Studies director Sing Tien Foo said Pulau Brani can be made a zero-carbon footprint island, with autonomous electric vehicles used for transport instead of private cars, and ungated homes nestled among the greenery.

The strait between the 120-ha island and the mainland can also be sealed and converted into a reservoir, while the waterfront stretch can be integrated with the central business district to form a “seamless extension of the commercial hubs and business activities that spill over into the new Southern Gateway of Asia”, said Associate Professor Sing.

A high-tech hub between Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang for firms in innovative, digital and creative businesses can build on the presence of Google in Mapletree Business City, while the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) hot spot can be expanded beyond the Marina Bay Sands and Suntec City corridor, he said.

Professor Thomas Schroepfer of the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s architecture and sustainable design pillar said Tanjong Pagar will play an important strategic role in connecting green pathways across the city, and in linking the CBD and Jurong business district.

DP Architects director Seah Chee Huang said park and public spaces can be expanded, “perhaps even finding a way to fuse the two large bodies of park spaces – the Southern Ridges and Gardens by the Bay – all the way to East Coast Park, forming a continuous strip of public space from the east to west coast”.

Pulau Brani can expand on Sentosa’s offerings, and keep some of its port infrastructure as architecture to retain the former naval base’s sea-faring identity, he said.

St James Power Station, which sits at the mouth of Sentosa, stopped being a nightlife complex after 12 years when its lease expired in August.

A spokesman for landlord Mapletree said the firm has plans to restore and refurbish the national monument for office use, and looks forward to participating in other transformation ideas in the precinct.

Ms Christine Li, senior director and head of research at Cushman & Wakefield, said that with the tight CBD supply over the next three years, demand for city fringe offices in the HarbourFront and Alexandra submarket is expected to increase.

“Together with the commercial building which will be built on top of an underground electrical substation in Labrador Park, this will attract more businesses to the future Greater Southern Waterfront area.”

The reshaping of Sentosa and development of Pulau Brani will create more available space to develop new attractions, such as a “theme park of the future” that uses virtual reality technology to create interactive and ever-changing rides, said Ms Li.

With Singapore’s two cruise facilities – Marina Bay Cruise Centre and the Singapore Cruise Centre in HarbourFront – located in the south, there is potential too for the Republic to draw more visitors by sea as it positions itself as a regional cruise hub.

Cruise passenger traffic grew 17 per cent last year to 1.38 million, a record high for the third year running.

The Straits Times reported last month that there are plans to expand the Marina Bay cruise terminal, which now has two berths, so that it can handle more ships at any one time.

Singapore Cruise Centre’s chief executive Christina Siaw said that amid increasing demand, cruise lines are “deploying significant capacity in the region and building larger cruise ships purpose-built for Asian consumers”.

More than 50 new ships by major cruise lines are expected to start operating by 2027, she said.

But due to height restrictions from the cable car line running between Mount Faber and Sentosa, the HarbourFront terminal cannot accommodate cruise ships taller than 50m, said Ms Siaw.

Despite this limitation, the Singapore Cruise Centre has taken steps to upgrade its terminal and is working on further developing Singapore’s cruise and ferry industry, she added.

Ultimately, planning for the precinct should take into account Singapore’s changing demographic and avoid causing excessive strain on the government’s reserves, said Associate Professor Sing.

“The tallest and the largest may not be ideal planning strategies for Singapore. Instead, Singapore should leverage the tropic feature and create architecture that will be suitable for the hot and humid climate,” he said.

“Source:[Live, work, play: Life by the water calls] © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction”