Fancy a jog down the runway? Plans for Paya Lebar Air Base may see runway kept as part of new town

Participants cycling down the runway of Paya Lebar Airbase during the National Runway Cycling and Skating event in 2012. PHOTO: ST FILE
The runway at Paya Lebar Air Base, now used by military aircraft for take-offs and landings, could be a focal point of the new town. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Residents of the future town that will be built on the Paya Lebar Air Base site may be able to use its 3.8km-long runway as a running track if it is transformed into a community space with amenities.

Now used by military aircraft for take-offs and landings, the runway could be a focal point of the new town, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced on Monday (June 6) at an exhibition for its long-term plan review.

About 800ha of land will be freed up after the Paya Lebar Air Base is relocated in the 2030s.

The site and its surrounding industrial areas - which is about five times the size of Toa Payoh - will be developed progressively into a new town comprising housing and recreational facilities. It will also provide space for businesses to offer employment opportunities.

The Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) and the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) have been working with the URA to develop ideas and proposals for the site.

At the exhibition, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said: "Some of the early concepts include anchoring the area's identity on the heritage of the airbase. Others also suggested designing workplaces and towns from scratch to be optimised for remote working and future industries."

The architects proposed districts within the town, each with its own identity based on key heritage features such as the former passenger terminal buildings, control tower, airport hangars, runway, bunkers and other historic buildings.

Within each neighbourhood, there could be small flexible spaces that provide temporary use for pop-up events, and these can be changed according to the community's needs.

SIP and SIA's ideas will be studied and considered for the development of the site's future master plan, URA said.

SIP immediate past president Wilfred Loo noted that the runway - longer than Orchard Road’s 2.2km - is sloped.

“This height difference allows us to accentuate vistas at the north, which overlooks the south where the heritage buildings are,” he said.

Mr Loo said SIP proposed flanking green areas along the runway, which can be divided into segments with different characteristics.

“Heritage buildings can also be repurposed as offices, event spaces, art galleries, food and beverage outlets – any spaces of interest to Singaporeans,” he added.

Under the proposed plans, the site could have 160,000 homes and housing blocks ranging from 30 to 40 storeys, he said.

The future Cross Island Line - Singapore's longest fully underground line connecting Jurong Lake District, Punggol Digital District and Changi region - will run through the town, it added.

Paya Lebar Airport, which opened in 1955, was built to replace Kallang Airport. It served as Singapore's commercial international airport for 26 years until 1981, when it was converted into a military airbase.

Architects envisioned future neighbourhoods in the site to have a mix of high, mid and low-rise buildings, with facilities and public spaces that aim to connect residents and foster social bonds.

The town could also have buildings with both living and work areas.

Mr Loo said there could be co-working spaces within the blocks or near them.

“The idea is to plan towns to be self-sustaining, how to increase amenities and have anything you need within 10 to 15 minutes,” he added.

The organisations proposed the new town to have at least half of its energy needs derived from renewable resources such as solar farms and waste-to-energy plants.

They also mooted introducing a network of parks, nature corridors and waterways in the town to support biodiversity, as well as offer residents spaces close to nature.

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