URA sets new standards for public spaces in private properties

Mapletree Business City at Pasir Panjang features an outdoor garden amphitheatre and a lush central park located within the heart of the business park.
Mapletree Business City at Pasir Panjang features an outdoor garden amphitheatre and a lush central park located within the heart of the business park. PHOTO: MAPLETREE

Public spaces in new private properties such as malls and office blocks that people can access round- the-clock will soon be required to have ample seating, bicycle racks and shelter from bad weather.

Additional amenities, such as public art, exercise equipment, water features, wireless Internet and phone charging points, will also have to be provided at larger public spaces above 500 sq m, according to new minimum standards set for public spaces by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

And at the entrance, a plaque with the words "Open to public 24 hours" would signal that the space is free for all to use.

These new rules kick in on April 24 and apply to all new private developments that are required to have such spaces for public use, such as those under Government Land Sales (GLS) contracts.

One example is Asia Square at Marina Bay, a retail and office building with a dedicated public resting area. Asia Square already meets URA's new design guidelines, said a spokesman for URA.


The Metropolis has notable artworks. PHOTO: HO BEE LAND

This is not the first time there have been guidelines for public spaces - they were previously mandated at 120 GLS sites. These are sites located near major transportation nodes or pedestrian paths, according to the URA's Parks and Waterbodies Plan.

But "not many private developments" - unless mandated to do so - have taken it upon themselves to provide these covered public spaces on their own, the spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times. This may change as developers willing to build public spaces, even if not required to do so, can qualify for a gross floor area (GFA) exemption so long as the property is frequented by the public or situated along popular routes.

This means that developers do not have to pay for the floor area occupied by these facilities, translating into significant savings.

"We hope to see more private developers taking up the GFA incentives to provide such covered public spaces under these guidelines," the spokesman said.

Property developers told The Straits Times that they support the new design guidelines.

CapitaLand's Asia development deputy chief and head of design management Poon Hin Kong said: "Even before government guidelines, we have catered for community spaces on our properties, which are considered from the start of the development process."

Among others, he highlighted Westgate's main courtyard and Plaza Singapura's outdoor plaza.

Frasers Centrepoint Singapore's chief executive officer Christopher Tang believes this is a positive step towards promoting more good-quality public spaces in the city.

Such public spaces could increase footfall for malls, while some office buildings may gain from the GFA exemptions too.

But developers must now weigh the pros and cons of such a decision - first-storey floor space is prime estate that could be leased out to tenants.

A spokesman for developer Ho Bee Land said: "We would probably need to keep a balance between maximising revenue and keeping sufficient public space to give the project the necessary ambience."

Its office development, The Metropolis at Buona Vista, features a large public area at its entrance.

Maintenance and upkeep costs can also be a factor, he added, "but these are duly offset by the intangibles such as the vibrancy these public spaces bring to the development".


Ample seating, lush greenery, art installations and more at current locations

PLAZA SINGAPURA Developer: CapitaLand

Plaza Singapura's outdoor plaza comes with ample public seating and shade provided by lines of trees. The Jelly Baby Family sculpture by Italian artist Mauro Perucchetti, in particular, is a popular meeting spot.

WESTGATE Developer: CapitaLand


The Courtyard in Westgate has a designated area for buskers and live performers. PHOTO: CAPITALAND

The Courtyard in Westgate, an urban park set within the semi-outdoor street, serves as a public space with ample seating and a designated area for buskers and live performers.

ASIA SQUARE Developer: BlackRock Inc

The public space offers people a comfortable resting place in a cavernous well-lit sheltered space, with generous seating that can be moved and tables that allow different configurations of social settings.

THE METROPOLIS Developer: Ho Bee (One North)

The public area is at the entrance to the office complex. Lined with trees and notable artworks, it is a pleasing transition to a pedestrian mall connecting Buona Vista MRT station and the office towers.

TANJONG PAGAR CENTRE (Upcoming) Developer: GuocoLand

An urban public space will be built above the Tanjong Pagar MRT Station. To be integrated with Tanjong Pagar Park, it will include lush greenery, ample public seating and activity-generating uses within a sheltered space.

FRASERS TOWER (Upcoming) Developer: Frasers Centrepoint

Its outdoor public space will come with water features that extend to the building, and is designed to draw people in from Telok Ayer and Cecil Street.

MAPLETREE BUSINESS CITY Developer: Mapletree

The development features an outdoor garden amphitheatre and a lush central park located in the heart of the business park. Newly commissioned art installations and sporting amenities such as basketball and futsal courts are also provided.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'URA sets new standards for public spaces in private properties'. Print Edition | Subscribe