SINGAPORE - By June 2020, Sembawang residents will no longer have to go to Yishun for their daily swims or cheap meals.
Instead, a car-lite sports and community hub with facilities like swimming pools and a hawker centre will soon spring up on a 12-hectare site next to Sembawang MRT station.
On Sunday morning (July 1), Sembawang GRC MPs held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the hub, Bukit Canberra, which was attended by some 800 residents.
"Finally, the project that some residents said they have been waiting a long time for is here," said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
The other MPs in attendance were Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Senior Parliament Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Mr Vikram Nair.
Led by Sport Singapore, the hub contains the second Town Sports and Recreation Centre (TSRC) under its Sports Facilities Master Plan.
This is a $1.5 billion project to provide citizens with greater access to a wider range of sports facilities around the country by 2030.
Unlike standalone swimming complexes or jogging tracks, such centres house multiple sports facilities under one roof. They are smaller than the National Stadium and regional sports centres like the one at the recently opened Our Tampines Hub.
In Bukit Canberra's case, these include an indoor sports hall with 500 seats, a 1,500 sq m ActiveSG gym - the largest yet - that can cater to all abilities, a six-lane sheltered swimming pool and an eight-lane lap pool.
But beyond sports, the hub will also bring together multiple services and features to give residents more chances to relax and interact with one another.
For example, there will be 3km of running trails, in various difficulties, snaking around the hub.
The park will also feature a "food forest" and "fruit orchard", with edible crops such as the cocoa tree and roselle plant. There will also be community gardens for residents to show off their green thumbs.
Integrated into the park will be heritage story boards for visitors to learn more about the area's past as a naval base, including the Former Admiralty House which used to accommodate key military leaders based in Singapore.
There will also be plenty of healthcare options, including a polyclinic and senior care centre providing rehabilitation services as well as home-based services to frail and elderly residents.
But Mr Khaw said he hoped the new park and sports facilities would encourage residents to commit to a healthy lifestyle, to the point that "our polyclinic will have no business".
"(The doctors') prescription will include an exercise routine. This time - no excuses. Please make full use of the assets you are going to get in this Bukit Canberra project," he said.
He added that he had given consultants several conditions, including minimal car park spaces and cutting down of trees to preserve the area's greenery.
"We are tree huggers... And I said no carparks. You can walk here, take the bus or MRT - our MRT has improved a lot," the Transport Minister said.
The hub will open in phases, and is expected to be fully operational by September 2021.
Parts of the hub were initially set to be opened by this year, but it was pushed back to flesh out the project more fully, Mr Ong had said in 2016.
Among the residents looking forward to the hub's completion was crane operator Yong Teck Kwek.
The 56-year-old said he was looking most forward to swimming in the new pools which, "at my age is easier on the joints than jogging".