The next chapter in Paya Lebar’s development

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/ EdgeProp Singapore
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August 5, 2021 6:30 PM SGT
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Paya Lebar Quarter, completed in 2019 by Australian developer Lendlease, is part of URA’s plans to transform the 12ha Paya Lebar Central precinct into a sub-regional business hub..
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Paya Lebar is an estate in the eastern region of Singapore that has been populated since at least the 1830s. The name of the area comes from two Malay words — paya meaning swamp and lebar meaning wide. (See also: Paya Lebar Quarter: Breathing new life into an old precinct)
The area was first formally recorded in an 1830s survey map commissioned by the Straits Settlements, the colony government established by the British to manage Singapore and Penang, Malacca and Dinging (now known as the Manjung District in southwestern Perak) in Malaysia.
According to the National Archives, several rural settlements and agricultural areas were already established in Paya Lebar by the 1890s. The area also had an extensive squatter district and its residents engaged in cultivating market produce, as well as pig and poultry rearing.
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One of the most significant landmarks in Paya Lebar was the Singapore International Airport, which opened on Aug 20, 1955. It was built to replace Kallang Airport, which was located about 5km away near the Kallang River.
Paya Lebar Airport - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Paya Lebar Airport was the site of Singapore’s second international airport until 1981, when it was converted into a military air base. (Picture: Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore)
Paya Lebar Airport would go on to serve all commercial flights into Singapore for 26 years until 1981. When all civil air travel moved to Changi, the site was converted into Paya Lebar Air Base for use by the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the US Air Force.

Early development

Most of the early inhabitants in the Paya Lebar area were Malays. By the 1930s, several exclusively Malay enclaves had spread from neighbouring Geylang, which likely got its name from a variation of the Malay word kilang — meaning mill or factory. Mills and factories were then common in that area.
The Paya Lebar and Geylang areas also share a common development history. Today, Paya Lebar falls within the Geylang Planning Area under the URA Master Plan.
One of the earliest urban redevelopment projects initiated by the government was the Geylang Serai Housing Redevelopment Scheme in 1963. It was carried out over three phases to transform the Geylang and Paya Lebar areas into a modern housing estate.
By the 1980s, the old kampung houses in Geylang were replaced with public housing flats, industrial estates and shopping complexes. According to HDB, Geylang is home to about 87,300 residents and has more than 30,000 flats as of March 2018.
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However, the area’s distinct Malay heritage was mostly preserved at Geylang Serai, one of the oldest Malay settlements in Singapore. Sri Geylang Serai is a public housing development that was integrated with the Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre, one of the busiest wet markets in Singapore.
Wisma Geylang Serai - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Plans for Wisma Geylang Serai were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August 2011. The social and cultural heritage hub officially opened in January 2019. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Later redevelopment plans would see the industrial base of the Paya Lebar area continue to develop to keep up with Singapore’s industrialisation progress. According to the URA 1996 Development Plan, land surrounding the Paya Lebar Air Base was slated for conversion into industrial estates, with a large wafer fabrication park set aside for development along Tampines Avenue 10 by the Jurong Town Corp.

Commercial hub

Under the 2008 URA Master Plan, Paya Lebar and Geylang were earmarked for redevelopment into a sub-regional commercial hub. The intent at the time was to redirect more businesses from the dense CBD into these city-fringe commercial hubs.
Paya Lebar Central, located near the Paya Lebar MRT Interchange Station, was envisioned to be a commercial centre surrounded by a mix of commercial, retail and hotel developments. Transport connectivity was also enhanced by the opening of the MacPherson MRT Interchange Station — it is located one stop away from the Paya Lebar MRT Station on the Circle Line, thus connecting commuters to the Downtown Line.
Part of the redevelopment plan included Paya Lebar Quarter, which was completed in 2019 by Australian developer Lendlease. The $3.7 billion integrated development is part of URA’s plans to transform the 12ha Paya Lebar Central precinct into a sub-regional business hub.
THE LILIUM SCALE MODEL - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Scale model of the 80 unit The Lilium on How Sun Road. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Situated at the junction of Paya Lebar Road and Sims Avenue, the entire project consists of the PLQ Mall, three Grade-A office towers and three residential blocks at Park Place Residences. The PLQ Mall also has direct links to Paya Lebar MRT Interchange Station on the East-West and Circle Lines.
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Refreshing cultural identity

In January this year, the government announced more plans to refresh the cultural heritage of the Paya Lebar and Geylang areas. Where most of these redevelopment plans will take place is beside Paya Lebar Central and Paya Lebar Quarter, marking the next phase of the area’s wider redevelopment. This involves three existing landmark developments that will be redesigned.
The three developments are Geylang Serai Market, Joo Chiat Complex and the civic centre and community hub, Wisma Geylang Serai. A national architectural competition was called in January for proposals from architects to redesign these buildings.
The intent of the redevelopment is to turn that stretch of Geylang Serai into a vibrant cultural precinct, with the redeveloped landmarks serving as the focal point of this cultural belt. The initiative would also improve infrastructure and revitalise the district with new community spaces. The architectural designs will also include proposals and design ideas for the junction where Geylang Road, Changi Road, Geylang Serai Road and Joo Chiat Road intersect.
Other programmes to revitalise the area include a new community space called Anjung@WGS, located along Engku Aman Road, that is set to be completed next year. The space will be managed by Wisma Geylang Serai and will feature a 1,810 sq ft open courtyard for ceremonial occasions, social meetings and sports activities. It is expected to be completed by mid-2022.
At the ground-breaking ceremony of Anjung@WGS on July 16, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said that places like Geylang Serai are not just spaces where ethnic communities thrive but also where different races can interact and learn to appreciate each other’s culture.

Future plans

Further transformation around the Paya Lebar district and its surrounding neighbourhoods has already been earmarked. Most of this will centre around the relocation of the Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030 onwards.
This will free up more than 800ha of land — bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio — occupied by the airbase and the surrounding industrial developments, which will be progressively transformed into a new town. A public competition was organised by URA calling on the public to submit ideas on how the area could be redeveloped in the future.
Paya Lebar Air Base - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
With the relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030, the area and its surrounding industrial developments will be progressively transformed into a new town. (Picture: URA)
Paya Lebar’s proximity to the Bartley area also means that residents moving into the new Bidadari estate get to enjoy the conveniences that have sprung up around the new commercial hub at Paya Lebar Central. The area is served by Bartley and Tai Seng MRT Stations. Several popular schools like Maris Stella High School and Bartley Secondary School are located nearby.
All 12 HDB developments planned for Bidabari have been rolled out, with the last three projects — Bartley GreenRise, ParkEdge @ Bidadari and Alkaff Breeze — launched in the February Build-To-Order (BTO) development exercise. (See: Find HDB flats for rent or sale with our Singapore HDB directory)
Apart from public housing projects, private residential developments have also been launched to capitalise on the future growth potential of the Paya Lebar district and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Maris Stella High School - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Maris Stella High School, located at Mount Vernon Road, is one of the schools in the Bartley area. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
One such development is the 80-unit The Lilium, a freehold condominium located at How Sun Road, off Upper Paya Lebar Road. Situated close to Bartley MRT Station, the project is a redevelopment of the former How Sun Park, which was sold in a collective sale in November 2017.
The Lilium is developed by mainboard-listed real estate company SingHaiyi Group, which launched the project in May 2019. It will consist of two five-storey blocks with a mix of two- to four-bedroom units. The development is due to be completed by 3Q2021.
As the Paya Lebar area continues to grow and develop into a commercial hub and more development plans are unveiled, the area and its surrounding neighbourhoods is on the cusp of a new growth phase.

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