News: Land set aside for terminated HSR project can house more commercial, housing projects

Apr 1, 2021

Suggestions to use the large tracts of land in Jurong include building more homes, community facilities and a retirement village. 

The large tracts of land in Jurong that were previously earmarked for the terminated Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project can be used to build more homes, community facilities and a retirement village, reported Channel News Asia (CNA) citing property analysts.

The analysts believe that such developments would still be in line with the transformation plans for Singapore’s western region – notably to turn Jurong Lake District into a second central business district.

Touted as a game changer that would have slashed travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to just 90 minutes, the HSR project came to a halt on 1 January after an agreement lapsed on 31 December 2020.

Malaysia has paid Singapore over $102 million in compensation for the terminated project, authorities said on Monday (29 March).

The Singapore government had acquired two parcels of land for the HSR project. One of which was the 67ha former Jurong Country Club site, with 12ha earmarked for the HSR terminus.

The second is the 143ha former Raffles Country Club site, of which a portion was set aside for the Integrated Train Testing Centre that recently broke ground.

“These land parcels continue to be needed to realise our overall vision for Jurong Lake District, which is not affected by the termination of the HSR project,” said the National Development Ministry in a parliamentary reply in February as quoted by CNA.

“We will study the appropriate mix of uses for the parts of the land parcels initially set aside for the HSR to ensure that they tie in with the surroundings.”

The 360ha Jurong Lake District, which consists of Jurong Lake and the surrounding area of Jurong East MRT station, has been positioned to be Singapore’s biggest mixed-use business district outside the city centre.

Plans for the district, which is set to be fully developed in 20 to 30 years, include a commercial precinct, expanded gardens and housing. The government also announced plans for a 7ha integrated tourism development in 2019.

When ready, the district will create over 100,000 new jobs within the infrastructure, maritime and technology sectors as well as 20,000 homes.

However, planners will not only contend with the scrapped HSR project, but also with the uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggested read: Will The High Speed Railway Project Termination Affect Property Prices in Jurong?

In January, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) invited developers, investors and businesses to provide ideas for the Jurong Lake District in light of the changes caused by COVID-19.

Experts such as Wong Xian Yang, Head of Research for Singapore at Cushman & Wakefield, raised the possibility of adjusting the scale and timing of the planned tourism and hospitality projects.

However, the residential and commercial developments within the area will remain relevant even without the HSR, Wong told CNA.

He noted that the district has several merits such as “strong accessibility” and is near several tertiary institutions as well as major industrial and commercial zones.

According to him, the extra space may be used for residential and community facilities.

“Given that more companies are pursuing a hybrid work approach, perhaps we could see a higher proportion of residential and community facilities as companies do not need as much office space as before,” Wong said as quoted by CNA.

To ensure a well-curated vision for the precinct, a portion of the land parcel may also be tendered out to a master developer, he said.

OrangeTee & Tie’s Senior Vice-President of Research and Analytics Christine Sun said more private homes can also be built considering that it “has been a while” when the Jurong East area had a new residential project.

She believes that it is “good to offer new private homes” since the HDB homeowners within the area have “upgrading needs”.

And with the new Tengah estate beginning to take shape, she expects the population within the area to grow.

“These people may go to Jurong to use the amenities. There will be an increase in footfall for retail shops and shopping malls in Jurong, and more people may choose to work in Jurong or Tuas,” said Sun as quoted by CNA.

“Therefore, it is necessary for them to build more commercial, residential properties and amenities in Jurong Lake District to cater to the expansion in needs.”

Property analyst Ong Kah Seng, on the other hand, suggested the possibility of building a retirement village, given the lush greenery around the former Raffles Country Club site.

He said the village could feature a mix of small private condominiums as well as new HDB two-room Flexi flats for seniors, with integrated medical care facilities and lifestyle amenities.

“Retirement homes need short leases (of up to 35 years). Hence, when the lease is up, these sites could be used for (the) HSR project should it get re-activated,” he said as quoted by CNA.

Knight Frank Singapore Research Head Leonard Tay said the absence of the HSR project means prior strategies to grow Jurong Lake District’s commercial and tourism sector will have to be recalibrated for a post-COVID-19 future.

“The objectives of expanding new tourist target markets, exploring modes of connectivity and enhancing alternative modes of partnerships with Malaysia and other countries would have to be reassessed,” he said as quoted by CNA.

Once regional economies have recovered from the pandemic, Tay believes that some new cross-border infrastructure initiatives will be on the cards again.

Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this story, email: victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

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