Efforts to inject vibrancy into CBD good for diversity and anticipate changes to working culture in future, says expert. It is hard to take a casual stroll around the Central Business District (CBD) during peak hours.
The trains are packed, restaurants and hawker centers are full, and one has to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the tens of thousands of people trying to cross the street to their next meeting under the blazing sun. But after office hours, the heart of the city beats a lot more slowly. Stripped of most workers who funnel into this financial hub, fewer cars hog the road, parking charges plummet, and some professionals unwind by jogging on the empty streets.
On weekends, especially Sundays, it is almost desolate. The occasional micro-influencer can be spotted posing for photos in the middle of Robinson Road, without fear of a car whizzing by.
As writer Zatiman Astha, 35, who works in a co-working space in the city, puts it: "I come down here to shop at H&M on Sundays because all the clothes are here and the people are not."
"NO CROWDS: I come down here to shop at H&M on Sundays because all the clothes are here and the people are not.
WRITER ZATIMAN ASTHA, who works in a co-working space in the city.
AIDING SHORTER COMMUTES: We need to get over the way of thinking that separates residential areas from offices. The distance between residences and offices necessitates commute, which could be reduced if people reside near workplaces."
SINGAPORE UNIVERSITY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES SENIOR LECTURER RITA PADAWANGI
In the last decade, 5,000 homes have been injected into the CBD and nearby Marina Bay in a bid to liven up the downtown areas said an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) spokesman. The latest is the 1,042-unit Marina One integrated development in Marina Bay.
Besides, Marina View Residences in CBD areas is a mixed development lease to apply under the Land Sale Government (GLS), the reserve list will be carefully considered by developers, Marina View is located in the Central Region, limited by Union Street and Shenton Road.
With a ground area of 7,817.6 m2 (parcel of land), including 905 residential units and 540 hotel rooms surrounded by retail, food, and beverages. The development is located near Shenton Way subway station serving the Thomson East-Coast Line (TEL). It can be seen that this is a potential project for many future residents, who can develop life in a worthwhile project.
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Shenton Way yesterday at 12.56am, and Satay Club (above) in Boon Tat Street at 12.17am. Over the years, the authorities have tried to work with the private sector to make the financial district more vibrant by encouraging mixed-use developments.
"If you look at other Asian cities, like Tokyo and Bangkok, they are not as dead as Singapore," says National University of Singapore urban sociologist Ho Kong Chong. The latest attempt to rejuvenate the city came last Wednesday, with the URA rolling out a host of measures at the launch of its Draft Master Plan 2019.
Of particular interest are two new incentive schemes to nudge private developers to jazz up their buildings by converting them into hotels and homes or creating spaces to encourage public interaction. One is the CBD Incentive Scheme, which zooms into the particularly quiet zones of Anson, Tanjong Pagar, and three parallel paths: Cecil Street, Robinson Road and Shenton Way. The authorities are offering a plot ratio increase of 25 to 30 percent, to turn older office buildings into hotels and homes.
The other is the Strategic Development Incentive Scheme, under which developments islandwide may be able to increase their gross plot ratio or attain flexibility on other development controls if they have innovative proposals that transform the precinct. Such ideas include car-lite measures and conservation efforts.
Over the years, the authorities have tried to work with the private sector to make the financial district more vibrant by encouraging mixed-use developments with amenities and restaurants on the ground floor. Other methods include public spaces that are better utilized, like wider footpaths or outdoor dining spaces.
Success has been varied. Some stretches, like Telok Ayer, Club Street, and Duxton Hill, which ring-fence the main city, boast a host of award-winning restaurants, bars and boutique gyms.
At Tanjong Pagar Centre, the mixed-use skyscraper completed in 2016, restaurants flanks a sheltered public space where passers-by can tickle the ivories on two pianos outside restaurant Blue Lotus, or sit down on one of the many benches to chat with friends.
But cross two streets into the Anson sub-district, which is bound by the Ayer Rajah Expressway, and one enters an eerie stretch after dusk. Despite six hotels and mixed-use condominiums in the area, it is possible for not a single individual to pass by Gopeng Street in 15 minutes, as this reporter observed last Thursday night.
Shenton Way, which opens up to the Marina Bay area near the Gardens by the Bay, can boast of only marginally more life: A handful of taxis waiting for the stragglers to emerge from SGX 2 and other office buildings.
Ms. Shirlynn Eng, 28, co-owner of Lunar Coffee Brewers at OUE Downtown on Shenton Way, says the cafe was initially supposed to be open till 8 pm daily and on weekends. While business is brisk at lunchtime, they now close at 7 pm on weekday nights and operate only till 3 pm on Saturdays. "We let only our full-timers do the coffee, and it didn't make sense to waste one of their shifts on a day nobody is around," she said.
There is a pocket of buzz from Satay Club that sits on Boon Tat Street in between Lau Pau Sat and Sofitel which closes off to traffic from 7 pm. The people who gather there are mostly tourists. What's so important about bringing life into the city after dark?
Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong notes that having more people living in the CBD brings a population diversity that could increase business resilience. "You don't see a lot of activity in the CBD compared to neighborhood malls past 7 pm. It affects how sustainable these businesses can be given that their realistic operating hours are much shorter," he says. Another upside to more homes in the city center is that it anticipates changes to working culture one to two decades down the road.
"Maybe in the next 20 years, we won't need the kind of centrality that defines the CBD," suggests NUS' Professor Ho. "If you look at the way the information and communication tech sector is going, all the backend offices are heading to the suburbs."
JLL's Singapore head of research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying said converting CBD offices into other uses such as homes will decrease office supply there, and could potentially channel unmet demand for commercial spaces to other regional centers, such as Jurong East.
Singapore University of Social Sciences senior lecturer Rita Padawangi adds: "We need to get over the way of thinking that separates residential areas from offices. The distance between residences and offices necessitates commute, which could be reduced if people reside near workplaces."
Madam Chow Lai Peng who is a resident of Emerald Gardens in Club Street says it is a nice place to live because of the proximity of hawker centers and MRT.
Madam Chow Lai Peng, a 64-year-old retired administrative assistant who lives in Emerald Gardens in Club Street, said it would be nice to see families in the expat-heavy CBD. "This is a nice place... near hawker centers, (the) MRT and work for the young people."
While the URA and developers grapple with making CBD homes accessible to people from all walks of life, Dr. Leong says urban planners are heading in the right direction. "It's an aspiration on two levels: For the city to have a dynamic center, and for the next generation to work towards the kind of lifestyle near the buzz."
Adapted from straitstimes.com, 2019