Urban regeneration: Improving infrastructure and bringing back the ‘kampung spirit’

By Tony Lombardo / Lendlease | June 1, 2018 7:02 PM SGT
The year 2017 was an excellent one for the property investment market. We saw several large residential sites, such as Rio Casa, Shunfu Ville, Eunos Ville and Serangoon Ville sold en bloc. A large residential site on- Stirling Road was also sold under the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme.
This year, a couple of large sites could be launched for sale under the GLS programme, including Kampong Bugis — once home to Kallang Gas Works and left mostly vacant for years.
Kampong Bugis will be the first urban regeneration district to be sold under the private sector master developer scheme announced by the government in 2017. Under this scheme, the master developer has the flexibility to plan and develop the entire district in phases.
ADVERTISEMENT
Kampong Bugis will be the first urban regeneration district to be sold under the private sector master developer scheme (Credit: URA)
At his speech during the topping- out ceremony at Paya Lebar Quarter, Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong explained why the government has the constant desire to change and improve the city. He said, “With an attractive city, we will have a competitive business centre that can create good jobs and opportunities for our people. We can then provide the best possible living environment and a good home for Singaporean families.”
As the country progresses, the city will grow and the need for economic renewal and enhancement through urban regeneration will be key. It gives unused and underutilised spaces a new lease of life, by repurposing them to stay relevant with the times and make them liveable places. It is about improving the infrastructure, economy and social needs of that area.
For example, if it is next to a housing estate, then the need for childcare, community space, amenities and supermarkets takes precedence over gallery space, boutiques and artisanal coffee shops. Such systemised and planned action would mean injecting new vigour into an area. According to a research paper by Professor Hans Skifter Andersen titled “Can Deprived Housing Areas Be Revitalised?” in 2003, urban regeneration would transform, strengthen and recreate places to act as a catalyst for further investments to benefit the local community.
According to the World Bank, amenities such as town squares, waterfronts and well-designed public spaces are critical to the well-being and development of communities, which often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to. (Credit: URA)
It is crucial that the developer understands and incorporates the needs of investors, homeowners, tenants and workers who will invest, work, live and play there. The developer must keep in mind two key questions: “What is the intended result?” and “For whom?”
ADVERTISEMENT
The primary beneficiary must be the community living and working in the area. The incorporationof communal spaces to promote social cohesion is essential in a metropolitan city.
According to the World Bank, amenities such as town squares, waterfronts and well-designed public spaces are critical to the well-being and development of communities, which often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to.
Living in a confined home without ample space and sunlight increases the likelihood of health problems and restricts interaction and other productive activities. Public spaces are the living rooms, gardens and corridors of highly built-up urban areas. They serve to extend small living spaces and provide areas for social interaction and economic activities, which improve the development and desirability of a community.
ADVERTISEMENT
The government is also taking a holistic view of the rejuvenation of older neighbourhoods through urban regeneration. Integrated development Paya Lebar Quarter (pictured) by Lendlease is designed to rejuvenate the city fringe neighbourhood (Credit: Lendlease)
A recent survey by Institute of Policy Studies showed a divide between those living in private and public housing. The divide could be due to the side effect of Singapore’s rapid modern-isation and growing affluence, which may have caused the erosion of the “kampung spirit”.
The government recognises the value of this spirit and has sought to preserve it through various infrastructural means. It has started integrating public and private residential developments, building new community centres, sports facilities, malls, parks and hawker centres to encourage social interaction between neighbours living in public housing and with those in nearby private housing estates.
The government is also taking a holistic view of the rejuvenation of older neighbourhoods through urban regeneration. It has sold several large land parcels, which have been or are being redeveloped into mixeduse developments that will include well-designed public spaces such as street markets, retail malls, F&B outlets, community centres, parks and playgrounds.
Paya Lebar Quarter will have retail malls, F&B outlets, community spaces, parks and playgrounds (Credit: Lendlease)
These public spaces play a vital role in providing opportunities for people of all age groups and backgrounds to socialise, work, live and play or just hang out with each other. The trend is moving towards enlivening public spaces to seamlessly integrate work with other lifestyle activities, connecting people beyond their workspace and in cultural, recreational and nature spots. These public spaces could be used to host social and cultural activities that will further encourage social bonding and bring back this spirit.
Urban regeneration will take this process a step further by engaging the community throughout the redevelopment process. During the planning and design phase, conversations can be held to understand the community’s needs and wants, address their concerns and learn about the community’s history and cultural roots. All these findings can then be incorporated into the redevelopment plans. By refashioning an underutilised area into an avenue conducive for community bonding, this “kampung spirit” will return. Urban regeneration holds the key to promoting an inclusive society and creating a sense of purpose and belonging. At its core, urban regeneration puts communities at the centre of decision-making when it comes to place-making.
Lendlease has played an integral part in the shaping of the city state since 1973, when we first responded to and won an international tender to design and build blocks of HDB flats in Ghim Moh (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
The goal is to create an authentic place that meets the needs and aspirations of the community. The emotive approach to making places is to reimagine spaces in the city while maintaining the character, culture and diverse fabric of the communities living in them. When done successfully, urban regeneration revitalises and creates vibrant spaces that people want to live and work in.
A place is not just about buildings. It is its intangible qualities, such as the life, warmth, vibrancy and energy of the place that draws people to it.
Singaporeans may not realise this, but Lendlease has played an integral part in the shaping of the city state since 1973, when we first responded to and won an international tender to design and build blocks of HDB flats in Ghim Moh. We are committed to continuing to deliver infrastructure as well as designing places and spaces for generations to enjoy and thrive, and we look forward to playing a part in the transformation of Singapore.
Tony Lombardo is CEO of Lendlease Asia. Lendlease celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.