Garden City inspires project planners

The Vernonia elliptica plant, colloquially named after former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, adorns the Phoenix hotel in the Forest City development. Singapore-style greenery is evident in the design of the township.
The Vernonia elliptica plant, colloquially named after former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, adorns the Phoenix hotel in the Forest City development. Singapore-style greenery is evident in the design of the township.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Chinese developer Country Garden makes no secret that its planners took a leaf or two out of the Garden City's book when they drew up plans for its US$100 billion (S$139 billion) Forest City township.

One of the clearest signs is the lush Singapore-style greenery evident in the design of the project, including a plant so common here that it is colloquially named after former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

On a tour of the growing Forest City, which boasts a newly opened hotel, serviced apartments and mall, the firm's chief strategy officer Yu Runze pointed out the hardy vines that will be the main hanging plants in the development.

The choice of the plant is appropriate, given its local history. Mr Lee launched the Garden City programme in 1967 to green Singapore. Among the most commonly used plants in the initiative was the Vernonia elliptica, now colloquially named after him.

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The late Mr Lee was probably not far from the mind of Country Garden Holdings chairman Yeung Kwok Keung when he envisioned Forest City, which is being built next to the Tuas Second Link.

Mr Yeung, an admirer of Mr Lee, wanted a leafy facade for the project and asked for "green curtains" - created by having plants swaying from balconies of buildings, said Dr Yu.

 
 
 
 

Country Garden has spent RM10 million (S$3.2 million) to build a 202ha nursery nearby to ensure it has an adequate supply of plants.

While its greening efforts were inspired by Singapore, the firm said its sales agents' uniforms, reminiscent of the famous Singapore Airlines kebaya, were inspired by Malaysia.

"Country Garden chose batik for the sales uniform as part of its overall effort to showcase Malaysian culture to its potential clients, who come from many other countries," said a spokesman. "It also made sure that its shops sell well-known local products, such as pewter, white coffee and durian snacks."

Forest City may have run into controversy for its ambitious plans, which are likely to affect both Singapore and Malaysia, given its size, but its development is in full swing.

The Phoenix hotel has been operational since December, with 132 attached serviced apartments fully sold and handed over to owners early this month. A two-storey mall next to the sales gallery has eateries like PappaRich and Marrybrown, and has been open since October.

When The Straits Times visited on two weekdays, PappaRich was busy at lunchtime, though the rest of the mall was empty. There were tourists from China and Indonesia and plenty of folk at the beach - free for visitors. The carpark was also full.

Construction of a 16-storey office tower will begin later this year, while building has started for the first school in the project. The Shattuck-St Mary's is expected to receive its first batch of students, estimated at 150, in August next year.

More schools are expected to be announced. Dr Yu estimated that 40 per cent of buyers at the project bought their property for "reasons related to education".

He added that the 16,000 units sold last year will be delivered in the next three years.

Lee Xin En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Garden City inspires project planners'. Print Edition | Subscribe