NATIONAL DAY RALLY

Jurong makeover 'will breathe new life into estate'

A view of the Chinese Garden and Jurong Lake area. An expanded park will combine the decades-old Chinese and Japanese gardens and the Jurong Lake Park. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in his blog yesterday that the new gardens will b
A view of the Chinese Garden and Jurong Lake area. An expanded park will combine the decades-old Chinese and Japanese gardens and the Jurong Lake Park. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in his blog yesterday that the new gardens will be completed by 2017.ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Residents cheer plans, but are disappointed over delay of hospital opening

Lake gardens in the heartland, a new science centre and maybe even Singapore's first high-speed rail station.

Jurong, the gritty industrial hub of the country, is transforming into a jewel in the west, and residents and workers in the area are cheering the prospect.

Almost all 24 Jurong residents and business owners The Straits Times spoke to said the changes would breathe new life into an old estate, though a few expressed disappointment that a planned hospital will open six months later than originally scheduled.

That aside, new plans for the Jurong Lake District include a new Science Centre, a possible terminus for the Singapore-Malaysia high-speed rail network, and an expanded park that will combine the decades-old Chinese and Japanese gardens, and the Jurong Lake Park, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday in his National Day Rally speech.

Taxi driver Patrick Ong, 54, told The Straits Times yesterday: "The upgrade will be good, it will give Jurong a younger feel."

Together, the Jurong East and Jurong West Housing Board estates are home to 358,000 residents. The Jurong constituency spans more than 12 sq km.

One retiree, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Cheong, is looking forward to the new 70ha Jurong Lake Gardens. "The gardens are a national treasure and so beautiful, but so few people come here. It's such a waste," said the 62-year-old.

The new gardens will be completed by 2017, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in his blog yesterday.

Long-time fans of the Science Centre were also excited to find out it will have a new home, on the north of the lake just beside the Chinese Garden MRT station.

Madam Prabavathi Natarajan, 34, started taking her son to the science centre when he was still in a stroller. Now he is six and "knows about motors, electromagnets and things like that", said the housewife, who lives in Jurong Town Hall Road.

She plans to take him and her older son to the new centre even more often.

Over the years, 29.5 million students have visited the Science Centre, which was built in 1977.

The new centre, the "jewel" of the district, said Mr Lee, will be integrated with the lake gardens.

Others were happy that there might soon be one more way to travel to Malaysia. The terminus of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail link - slated to be completed by 2020 - may be located in Jurong.

It would make life easier for people like Malaysian Sha Chia. The 38-year-old retail associate, who lives in Johor Baru, takes a bus to Woodlands and then the MRT to get to work at a Jurong shopping mall.

"If there is a train, it will be very convenient for me," he said.

Businesses said they were looking forward to increased traffic.

"The new developments will only make the area more exciting," said Mr Tan Jian Da, 26, a deputy assistant outlet manager at Sync restaurant in Westgate mall.

On another note, three of the 24 interviewed were disappointed that the new Ng Teng Fong General Hospital will not be ready this year, because of a shortage of manpower and delay in getting construction parts from Thailand.

"When my son had food poisoning a year ago, we had to rush him to the National University Hospital (in Kent Ridge)," said Mr Lim Swee King, who lives at the Park Vista condominium in Lakeside.

And there were those worried they would be left behind as Jurong modernises and moves ahead.

Mr Tay Lye Whad, 60, who has been running the Bao Sheng Minimart in Jurong Street 13 for more than 30 years, said business has been flagging for more than a decade. "Nowadays people stop and shop at the shopping malls like Jem," he said. "It's hard for shops like us to stay open."

The shops beside his store are shuttered and empty.

"Business was so much better last time. The Government should do something to help old businesses like mine," he said.

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