My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Monday, May 01, 2006

OTGV #55 - New DownTown

Broadcast Date: 03/05/04

The future may be more different than you think. First, there may no longer be something as clear-cut as a Central Business District or CBD anymore.

People will live and play near the very place where they work in the New Downtown.

But can you afford this luxury?

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

The government means business when it says it wants the Marina Bay to develop from nothingness to a district of an ilk that Singapore has never seen before.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

"The Downtown at Marina Bay is slated to become a unique business and financial hub, integrated with quality housing, recreational and leisure facilities, providing a total live-work-play environment. The development of the Downtown at Marina Bay will require the coordinated efforts of all agencies. The Government has tasked the URA to be the development agency to champion and focus efforts on the development."

He also revealed plans to pump some 300 million dollars through the building of infrastructures and facilities to kick start the new Downtown at Marina Bay project.

"The opening up of the bay through the proposed infrastructural and low-intensity uses will complement the development of the BFC. So that in around 10 to 15 years, besides prime office place, it will offer a variety of housing options in the heart of the city, with magnificent views out across the waterfront and parks and the city's attractions."

Mr Mah says the old CBD must also change or face a decline.

"Many buildings in the existing CBD actually have not realised their full development potential. Developers have always looked at commercial offices, not even retail for the CBD areas because of the relative pricing. But I think with the nature of the area changing, I expect some of them may be viable for conversion to residential. And as more people get used to the idea of inner city living, that may be one viable alternative."

This inner city is gradually being coaxed into transforming into a place of residence.

What impact will it have on the society?

First of all, land will be so expensive that only the very rich can afford making their homes at the new or old Downtown.

Managing Director of Colliers International Dennis Yeo expects to see a neighbourhood where there may be less Singaporeans than expatriates.

"Yes there will be a higher population coming from overseas. In fact it will be attractive to expatriates that is working in Singapore that might have might have a few years contract working in Singapore. It is quite possible that some of these foreign expatriates would purchase a property if they feel the location is right and if they feel that this is really an investment especially a downtown, Manhattan style of living."

One wonders if that the New Downtown if it arrives will become such an elitist neighbourhood where only the well-heeled can saunter.

Mr Mah hopes not.

"It is not a placed designed for well-heeled Singaporeans or visitors alone. I mean, everybody can come and enjoy themselves. In fact I would go further and say if it is just catering for the well-heeled alone, I don't think you are going to get a critical mass. So that place must be for everybody."

In a best case scenario, and the one most hoped for by the public planners, the New Downtown is for everyone, rich and poor.

For the heartlanders, or your average Singaporeans in the HDB suburbs , the new Downtown will still be a source of pride and a place where there are shops to browse, parks to relax in and bayside spots for their family to enjoy.

President of the Singapore Institute of Architects John Ting suggest a way to bring the posh city dwellers and the heartlanders together.

"One is to integrate the two slowly at the fringes where they interface. You can never merge the two into one. There will be a lot of them who will be uncomfortable if they are totally thrown into the deep end so to speak. To mix with the Cosmos. Now what you do is you develop certain interface areas where it is up tot he cosmos and the heartlanders to mix and then you allow that activities to eventually organically over time. You don't force them. The idea is to create a nexus for their activities to change and to happen rather than forcing one to become the other."

But will the private and public housing types in the HDB heartlands see a drastic drop in their values and their locales transformed into second-class neighbourhoods.

Mr Yeo doesn't think so and here's the reason why.

"When you look at the population that have a family of two, three children, in the middle income, they may not be able to afford the New Downtown. There may be some competition for 99 years in say the Orchard, District 9 and 15 areas. But suburban areas say in Woodlands or even Tiong Bahru, the prices will generally be quite well maintained because they do have their catchment buyer. People pick certain location because maybe they were brought up there, maybe their families is still there. In that sense, they still have their own attractions for the buyers. And in any case, suburban areas tend to be freehold whereas what you get in the New DownTown will all be 99 years."

But one things for sure, the majority of native born Singaporeans will be on the outside looking in at the marvels and convenience of inner city living.

What the social impact this will have will perhaps sustain many an interesting studies by sociologists and other social scientists.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Ministry of National Development Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


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