Making Jurong district a viable second CBD

Analysts say it is vital to get mix of offerings right and ensure good transport links

An artist's impression of Jurong Lake District. PHOTO: URA

Canary Wharf in London, Pudong in Shanghai, Parramatta in Sydney, Songdo in Incheon, South Korea - and now, Singapore's very own Jurong Lake District.

These are some of the places around the world considered the second Central Business District (CBD) of their respective cities.

As a global leader in master planning, Singapore is well-placed to pull off its vision of turning Jurong Lake District into an innovative and eco-friendly second CBD, analysts said.

But there are also lessons that can be gleaned from the second CBDs that have come before - and applied locally, they added.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Monday said it was seeking master plan proposals for Jurong Lake District. It would not only be Singapore's second CBD, but also a futuristic, eco- friendly and inclusive urban space filled with homes, offices, hotels and recreational facilities surrounded by greenery and waterways.

The authority added that one possibility would be to have innovative urban infrastructure, such as a district cooling system, pneumatic waste conveyance system and urban logistics deployed underground.

A URA spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday: "This project is more complex than usual due to the presence of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail terminus and convergence of several existing and future MRT lines.

"However, it is not unusual at the master planning stage to study the available opportunities, and incorporate several strategies and ideas to create a liveable and distinctive precinct."

Head of CBRE Research for Singapore and South-east Asia, Mr Desmond Sim, said these ambitious plans would be expensive to carry out, but they give an indication of how long term the URA is thinking.

"These plans will not crystallise within the next five years. When the URA or Ministry of National Development plans a concept, they are looking at 15 years and beyond," he said.

"And this approach of thinking of the big picture, and factoring in things like utilities, ensures that the development of Jurong Lake District would not take place in a piecemeal fashion, which could lead to overcrowding or insufficient infrastructure."

To be sure, Singapore is not the first country to have seen a need for a second CBD. In many other cities that have embarked on the same path, the idea for a second CBD arose amid a need to provide businesses with more space, and at lower costs.

Often, the second CBD is also seen as offering a niche proposition not available in the traditional CBD.

In London, for example, Canary Wharf was built with the promise of spanking new infrastructure, featuring the latest cutting-edge technologies. This has drawn international banks to set up offices there, such that the area now rivals the traditional CBD, the City of London, which features 200-year-old infrastructure, said Century 21 Singapore chief executive Ku Swee Yong.

Perhaps the most successful second CBD in the world is Pudong in Shanghai, which has overtaken the city's first CBD, Puxi, as the main centre of activity, noted Mr Sim.

In Pudong's case, Beijing offered tax incentives to get financial institutions and multinationals to move across the river.

The lesson to be learnt, said Cushman & Wakefield's research director Christine Li, is that the second CBD should offer a different proposition from the traditional one, but still be complementary.

"For example, large multinational will set up headquarters in Raffles Place and Marina Bay for corporate branding and be close to their key clients, but could have their support or research and development centres in the second CBD," she pointed out

Mr Ku said it is especially crucial for Jurong Lake District to get its unique offering right, because Singapore already has several attractive business spaces outside Raffles Place and Marina Bay.

For example, the Alexandra area is home to tech giants Microsoft and Google, while Changi has a solid reputation as a high-tech base for financial institutions to place their back-end operations. Ayer Rajah and one-north have cemented themselves as the base for innovative tech and infocomm start-ups.

"So the master planners would have to carefully study what Jurong Lake District's proposition should be - what industries are there left for this area to capture?" Mr Ku said.

Location and transportation are also key factors to a second CBD's success, noted Ms Li. "Sydney's second CBD in Parramatta, which is at the implementation stage, is more centrally located than the old CBD. It also has an existing concentration of transport, services and transport density to make commuting easier for the local residents compared to the old CBD."

Although Sydney's original CBD is in the Sydney Harbour area, near the Opera House, most of the city's population lives to the west.

This may not be the case for Jurong, which some in Singapore might consider as far-flung in the West, which makes it all the more important for the master planners to ensure excellent connectivity and accessibility, the analysts said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2016, with the headline Making Jurong district a viable second CBD. Subscribe