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Rail corridor plans a good balance of greenery, development, say analysts

SINGAPORE — Keeping as much greenery intact as possible for the housing concept at a Choa Chu Kang site along the Rail Corridor is a winning idea, said heritage experts and property analysts.

Rail corridor plans a good balance of greenery, development, say analysts

A stretch of the Rail Corridor at Buona Vista. After three and half years of gathering feedback from the public, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 24-km Rail Corridor, which apart from seeing improved accessibility to the entire stretch, will also feature four “activity nodes” and two special areas for community activities. The four key activity nodes are: Buona Vista, Bukit Timah Railway Station area, former Bukit Timah Fire Station, and the Kranji area Photo: Ernest Chua.

SINGAPORE — Keeping as much greenery intact as possible for the housing concept at a Choa Chu Kang site along the Rail Corridor is a winning idea, said heritage experts and property analysts.

The green theme would be a major draw, regardless of the housing type for the 16ha site, but convenience, in the form of amenities such as schools, will also be important for prospective buyers, property analysts added.

The winning idea for the Rail Corridor Request for Proposal for the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station — a multifunctional community building for the next 20 years — was also hailed as a “pleasant surprise” by heritage experts.

Commenting on the plans for the Choa Chu Kang site, Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua, who teaches architectural history, theory and criticism at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, felt such a development would introduce a “catchment” population that would “enliven that particular stretch of the corridor” by using it as a recreation area.

“Of course, this doesn’t mean that we need to intensify every spot of the corridor and introduce ‘catchment’ populations,” he added. “The key word is to be selective. Intensify at selective areas and leave the remaining rustic.”

Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, felt that with some groups wanting to conserve the land and others wanting to develop it, the current concept proposal strikes a good balance between the two.

Despite the land’s appeal as a green neighbourhood, Mr Mak described the living environment as “a bit of a sweetener”, emphasising that location and accessibility would be among home buyers’ top considerations.

Heritage experts were also mostly pleased with the winning concept for the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, which includes integrating the old station with the new Cantonment MRT Station — part of the Circle Line extension — to be built underneath. The additional exit to the MRT station will connect the two stations via an escalator.

The concept design includes plans to transform the railway station into a multifunctional community use building, which would include suggested options such as art clubs, a railway gallery, and cafes.

Singapore Heritage Society and Rail Corridor Partnership member Ho Weng Hin felt that, from a historical point of view, the concept brings back the original use of the railway station as a transit hub for the community to use.

He added that it is important for developers to consider the “design language” of the iconic site in order to ensure that the new designs “respect the scale of the old architecture”.

Asked about the Nature Society Singapore wanting the Rail Corridor to be a continuous green corridor, society president and evaluation panel member Shawn Lum noted that some stretches, such as Buona Vista, will be more developed.

“But none of these then intrude on the sensitive parts of the (nature) reserve and there is still a corridor for certain kinds of wildlife to move, in addition to people and so on,” said Dr Lum. “That balance was struck, I think, because of the long engagement process.”

The Rail Corridor Partnership that included the nature community was part of the engagement process early on, and protection of nature and the need to link nature areas formed part of the design brief, he said.

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