Co-working spaces and car-free days: Young people suggest ideas to develop 'Somerset Belt'

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Transport Baey Yam Keng (centre) and other participants taking part in a discussion at the Somerset Belt Urban Youth Catalyst - Urban Hack, at the Sports Hub Library on Aug 4, 2019.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Transport Baey Yam Keng (centre) and other participants taking part in a discussion at the Somerset Belt Urban Youth Catalyst - Urban Hack, at the Sports Hub Library on Aug 4, 2019.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Co-working spaces, car-free days and zones where local entrepreneurs can set up shop.

These were among suggestions from young people as to how they would like to see the Somerset area spruced up to attract other young Singaporeans.

Thirty-six young people took part in a discussion on Sunday (Aug 4) about how to improve the "Somerset Belt", after the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) earmarked it as a hub for youth-oriented organisations, businesses and service providers during its Budget debate in March.

The MCCY has already communicated with about 14,000 young people to find out what they would like to see in the area - which covers from *Scape to the junction of Somerset and Killiney roads

Online conversations, comments, polls and face-to-face session were held in May and June.

Research so far has shown that young people - defined by the MCCY as 15- to 35-year-olds - appreciate touches of local culture and heritage in the Somerset area, such as its shophouses as well the traditional ice cream carts that operate there.

"Youths appreciate what (the) existing spaces represent and mean to users today, but also hope that they can cater to other youth interests," the ministry said.

More detailed ideas for the area will be developed and showcased in the coming months and a public vote for a masterplan for the Somerset Belt will be held in November.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth and Transport Baey Yam Keng said that funding will depend on the ideas selected.

Mr Baey added that the ministry is not averse to the idea of reviewing rules and regulations "to make things even more flexible for our young people".

He hopes that the process of rejuvenating Somerset, and by extension Orchard Road, will help the Government understand how to create solutions with the public.

Mr Baey said the Somerset Belt project has brought together young people, the Government and the private sector to "tap on the richness and diversity of views around us and to help us illustrate a new model of working together with different segments of society, different expertise".

The ministry has convened a working panel comprising company leaders such as the chief commercial officer of e-commerce service Love, Bonito Dione Song, founder and chief executive of events company Invade Kent Teo, and project director at events company LalooLalang Den Sabari.

Architecture undergraduate at the University of Manchester Jamie Loh, 22, who took part in the discussion, hopes the Somerset Belt will accommodate a wide spectrum of youth interests, from music to sport, adding that the area should be "flexible" and able to "change according to needs".