...and jazzed up as well
As published in The Straits Times
20 Aug 2007
An elaborate plan to turn Punggol into a vibrant residential town is finally taking off, some years after shrinking demand for new homes stalled the project.
The plan, first launched as the Punggol 21 vision in the late 1990s, has also been jazzed up, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.
‘So this is Punggol 21-plus,’ said Mr Lee to chuckles from the audience.
Among other things, the north-eastern coastal suburb will have water sports facilities for kayaking and canoeing, gardens and parks with jogging and cycling tracks, and al-fresco dining.
The sprucing up of Punggol is part of the Housing Board’s bid to keep public housing estates relevant to new generations of Singaporeans, said Mr Lee.
‘Most Singaporeans live in public housing… so we are continually finding ways to improve our public housing and meet new needs and expectations.
‘Each new estate has been an improvement on the previous one,’ he said.
The transformation of Punggol, once known for pig farms and seafood restaurants serving chilli crab, was derailed by the Asian economic crisis of 1997.
Plans for around 80,000 private and HDB homes with parks and seaside villages housing shops and food stalls, had been announced a year earlier.
Construction began in 1998 but the brakes were jammed when demand for new flats nosedived. As a result, only some 16,000 flats, home to around 42,000 residents, dot the landscape there now.
But with Singapore’s sparkling economy of the past few years, demand for new homes is on the rise. Punggol will be the site of many of these.
Zooming in on high-resolution images on a screen, Mr Lee gave a blow-by-blow account of the area’s transformation.
For a start, the Punggol and Serangoon rivers will be dammed up to create a freshwater lake. A waterway will run through the estate, linking both rivers. Blocks of flats will dot its banks, starting from the town centre, which will have malls, retail outlets and outdoor dining.
‘If you look outside, it’ll be blue and green in lots of places. We’ll have trees, plants, shrubbery by the water… make it cool, make it eco-friendly. A good place to live,’ said Mr Lee, as the crowd ooh-ed and ah-ed.
The project will take some time to be completed, he said, as it involves some 18,000 HDB and private flats.
Logistics executive Chen Hui Zhen, 28, said she cannot wait to try out water sports. She has lived in the Punggol area for six years and recently bought a new flat there with her fiance.
‘It’s good news for us. All this development means the value of our flat will go up if we do think of selling it,’ she said.
Mr Lee also took the opportunity to highlight a development upstream of Punggol - in Sengkang.
There, a new community club with four swimming pools, an indoor sports hall and a football field is being built. There will also be a waterway for people to enjoy water sports and activities.
Going back to the Punggol 21-plus vision, Mr Lee said it will add to Singapore’s reputation as a city with ‘fun and buzz’.
But even as Singapore reinvents itself, it will need to retain the qualities the country is known for: being clean, green and safe, said Mr Lee.
‘It’s quite important that we keep that brand recognition, even as we acquire new attributes and new lifestyles.’