Making 'Jewel of West' shine

PLANS afoot to position the Jurong Lake District as a second Central Business District will get a boost from the siting there of the high-speed rail terminus. Express links to a hinterland across the Causeway and major arteries linking Jurong to other parts of the island will enhance its prospect of thriving as a unique business and leisure hub. That is a valuable cachet that will benefit not just organisations and residents there but also the nation as a whole, should economic bustle grow as a result of cross-border complementarity.

Jurong Lake District has to be more than just a transit-oriented development if it is to hold its own against growth areas like Woodlands Regional Centre and Paya Lebar Central. For example, there is scope to develop 500,000 sq m of office facilities at Jurong Gateway but existing office stock forms only 20 per cent of that amount. To draw more businesses, the district - which includes Jurong East - must be able to offer more than just space. It ought to leverage plans to make it a test bed for an envisaged "smart nation" by serving as a model of connectivity in a broad sense.

Just as Jurong Lake provides the aesthetic inspiration for planners, the district's strategic location should spur Jurongites to make synergy their mantra. A speedy link to Malaysian nodes can prove useful but, of course, such means alone are not the sole driver of business activity. For example, it was e-commerce in goods and services that fanned cross-Channel trade and an expansion of the Eurotunnel rail fleet to handle growing freight and passenger volumes. Thus, an emphasis on creating synergistic value should go beyond cross-border transport and look at other infrastructural and technological improvements as well.

As it will take many years for the essential features of Jurong's development blueprint to fall into place, the overall vision of connectivity should be internalised so that all pull in the same direction and not make ad hoc demands related to land usage that could prove short-sighted. This is important as development to serve both the economic and social needs of Jurong can lead to a competition for finite space.

Given the spatial limits to widening roads and digging tunnels, state agencies ought to work with private planners to find innovative approaches to urban mobility. For example, businesses ought to be encouraged to explore how big data can be tapped to minimise unnecessary movements and ease flows in a smart city. And all private and public spaces should dovetail neatly with each other, as exemplified by the J-Walk, an elevated pedestrian network to link various Jurong East facilities. For connectivity to take root, all must walk the talk.