SINGAPORE -When its first buildings are ready in five years, Punggol North could become something of a mini Silicon Valley in Singapore - a centre of digital and cybersecurity industries that generates up to 28,000 digital economy jobs.
The masterplan for the 50ha Punggol Digital District was launched on Sunday (Jan 21) by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at Waterway Point mall, together with an exhibition on what the district would look like. Speaking at the event, DPM Teo said the plan is to make Punggol "a hub for key growth sectors of the Digital Economy" and that could even involve moving government agencies, such as the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore - currently in Maxwell Road - to the district.
"This will help create a new cluster of cybersecurity and technology firms in Punggol. Our residents can look forward to many exciting jobs in the future close to home."
The district will also serve as a testbed for a slew of new features and planning practices.
The area will also be car-lite, with infrastructure such as parking spaces located underground. That leaves the streets for pedestrians, cyclists and users of personal mobility devices. It will be connected to other parts of Singapore by a host of new transport infrastructure, including the new Punggol Coast MRT station.
The Singapore Institute of Technology's (SIT) new campus will also be in the district, a move that DPM Teo said would create opportunities for students and faculty to exchange ideas with industry practitioners working there.
The Punggol Digital District is a pilot project for what is being termed an "enterprise district", with the authorities studying if this model can be applied to other areas in the future.
JTC Corporation, which is working with SIT to develop the area, hopes to attract tech-centric enterprises specialising in areas such as cyber security and artificial intelligence to set up shop there. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first mentioned the plans for developing Punggol North during his 2015 National Day Rally speech.
More details - such as more flexible land use rules for the new district - were later revealed by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament last year.
The new district is a collaboration among four agencies - the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Infocomm Media Development Authority, JTC and SIT.
They envision a cluster of buildings managed by centralised systems which would handle waste collection, cooling and logistics for the whole area. It could even be cooled by "smart" thermostats which can detect changes outdoors and adjust the temperature indoors accordingly.
Flanking the area will be Housing Board flats, such as the upcoming Northshore Edge development, which is slated to be completed in 2021.
Mr David Tan, who is assistant chief executive officer at JTC, said that it will be applying lessons it has learnt from other developments it has been involved in. This includes striking the right balance between work and leisure spaces, and even how closely spaced the buildings are.
For example, buildings at the International Business Park are "very standalone" compared with those in one-north, said Mr Tan. Both developments are operated by JTC. "At one-north, the buildings are much closer together and so you have more interaction," he said.
Ms Lam Lee Choo, who has lived in Punggol for 11 years, said that the transformation plan will appeal to residents.
"The Punggol residents are generally young. They will welcome the use of technology that improves their lives," said the 52-year-old housewife, who is also a grassroots leader.
"An area that they will look forward to is the use of technology to deliver government services, so that they don't have to visit the government offices," she added.