Upgrading for 14 more neighbourhood centres

Retiree Lawrence Lee (far left) tending to plants in the community herb garden in Bukit Batok - the first such garden in a neighbourhood centre. The centre, which reopened last October, also boasts a revamped fitness corner and the first community pa
Retiree Lawrence Lee tending to plants in the community herb garden in Bukit Batok - the first such garden in a neighbourhood centre. The centre, which reopened last October, also boasts a revamped fitness corner and the first community pavilion in a Singapore neighbourhood centre to feature a self-irrigated greenery system on the roof.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Retiree Lawrence Lee (far left) tending to plants in the community herb garden in Bukit Batok - the first such garden in a neighbourhood centre. The centre, which reopened last October, also boasts a revamped fitness corner and the first community pa
Retiree Lawrence Lee (above) tending to plants in the community herb garden in Bukit Batok - the first such garden in a neighbourhood centre. The centre, which reopened last October, also boasts a revamped fitness corner and the first community pavilion in a Singapore neighbourhood centre to feature a self-irrigated greenery system on the roof.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

More than 500,000 residents in Pasir Ris, Toa Payoh and Woodlands to benefit

Estate upgrading plans are afoot in 14 neighbourhood centres (NCs) across Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris, potentially featuring new works such as playgrounds and shelters built under a Housing Board scheme in towns such as Bukit Batok.

The HDB yesterday revealed new plans for the three estates as it gave an update on upgrading works elsewhere under its Remaking Our Heartland scheme.

Starting next Sunday, the HDB will hold exhibitions separately in Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris, unveiling more details on the NC rejuvenation plans and inviting residents to give their feedback.

Upgrading in these three towns covers 14 NCs, comprising about 670 shops and potentially benefiting more than 500,000 residents.

Separately, the HDB said it has spent $19 million of the budgeted $42 million to upgrade 21 NCs - comprising 1,500 shops - in East Coast, Hougang and Jurong Lake.

Upgrading works have been completed in 11 of the 21 NCs, with the remaining 10 set to be progressively completed by 2019.

The upgrading works will benefit more than 800,000 residents living in these three areas, said the HDB.

One of the 11 upgraded NCs is located in Bukit Batok Street 11. Known as Bukit Batok West Shopping Centre, the neighbourhood centre was built in 1985 and reopened last October. It now boasts the first community herb garden in an NC, and the first community pavilion in an NC to feature a self-irrigated greenery system on the roof.

To improve accessibility for wheelchair users and others, the floor was retiled, giving it a smoother surface. A fitness corner was revamped, now featuring not just new equipment, but a children's playground as well.

Retired plantation worker Lawrence Lee, 68, is a driving force behind the herb garden, where a dozen or so residents regularly help out. He had been pushing for such a space since late last year. The garden features more than 30 plant species, chosen to suit his interest in traditional Chinese medicine.

Even students have volunteered their help, he said. "They say things like, 'Uncle, uncle, the plant is blooming' and express their gratitude. They will buy me food or bring soil," said Mr Lee, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years.

Residents from other parts of Bukit Batok are flocking to the NC, which houses 65 shops and eateries.

Madam Neo Ai Ling, a school canteen worker in her 60s, visits the neighbourhood centre twice a day - to the market in the morning and to supervise her five-year-old granddaughter's playtime in the evening. She told The Straits Times that she finds the new facilities convenient.

Although business slowed during the year-long upgrading, it has bounced back and is about 10 per cent better than before, said Bukit Batok Merchants' Association chairman Thomas Ong, 58, whose group represents about 40 shops.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Upgrading for 14 more neighbourhood centres'. Print Edition | Subscribe