CBD needs more than just injection of homes, hotels

An artist's impression of an urban neighbourhood at Anson Road.
An artist's impression of an urban neighbourhood at Anson Road.PHOTO: URBAN REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

Perhaps if our urban planners had taken regular strolls along Shenton Way over the past decade, they might be more careful with making a correlation between the injection of homes and hotels in the precinct and an increased vibrancy of the area (More homes planned in city centre to inject vibrancy, March 28).

By rough estimates, at least 3,000 to 4,000 residential units have been added to the Marina Bay-Shenton Way precinct alone since 2009. Out of these, about one-third to half appear unoccupied, even though most of the developments have sold out.

What was once a road filled with mostly deserted office blocks at night is now a relatively quiet stretch occupied primarily by mixed developments targeted at investors.

Has the flood of residential properties, some hotels and lifestyle establishments raised the buzz of Shenton Way come dusk? At most, it has moved the needle by a bit.

There are many reasons for this - including the fact that our planners, as well as many of our developers, lack an appreciation of what makes cities come alive in variegated hues at world-class levels.

Our planners appear to be still steeped in infrastructure planning, while the majority of our property players are driven largely by profits, and a mass market "me-too" mindset that is best defined by the mediocre lifestyle clusters in their malls.

Shenton Way certainly has great potential to be Singapore's equivalent of New York's Park or Madison Avenues or Tokyo's Marunouchi or Otemachi, linking a revamped and revitalised Orchard Road and Marina Bay area with the Greater Southern Waterfront precinct in Tanjong Pagar.

And Singapore certainly deserves far more than another same old, same old workmanlike draft master plan, where every major road in our Central Business District is envisioned to be filled with "hip restaurants, bars and boutique gyms" - like the vibrant street life that has emerged in fringe CBD areas such as Boat Quay, Circular Road and Telok Ayer.

Boat Quay and Circular Road? Seriously? Amid stiffer curbs on manpower in said sector?

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2019, with the headline 'CBD needs more than just injection of homes, hotels'. Print Edition | Subscribe