SINGAPORE -Estate upgrading plans are afoot in 14 neighbourhood centres across Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris, potentially featuring new works such as playgrounds and shelters that have been built under an HDB scheme in towns such as Bukit Batok.
The Housing Board (HDB) on Sunday (Apr 9) revealed new plans for the three estates as it gave an update on upgrading works elsewhere under its Remaking Our Heartland scheme.
Starting next Sunday (Apr 16), HDB will hold exhibitions separately in Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris, unveiling details on the Neighbourhood Centre (NC) rejuvenation plans and inviting residents to give feedback on them.
Upgrading will be carried out in 14 NCs in these three towns, comprising about 670 shops and potentially benefitting more than 500,000 residents.
The HDB also said it has spent $19 million out of the budgeted $42 million for the upgrading of 21 NCs - comprising 1,500 shops - in East Coast, Hougang, and Jurong Lake.
It said upgrading works have been completed in 11 of the 21 NCs, with the remaining 10 set to be progressively completed by 2019.
The upgrading works will benefit more than 800,000 residents living in these three areas, said HDB.
One of the 11 NCs upgraded is the Bukit Batok West Shopping Centre, located in Bukit Batok Street 11.
The neighbourhood centre, which was built in 1985 and reopened last October, now boasts the first community herb garden in an NC.
It is also the first neighbourhood centre that has a community pavilion that features a self-irrigated greenery system on its roof.
To improve accessibility for wheelchair users and others, the floor of the neighbourhood centre was extensively retiled for a smoother surface.
And a fitness corner was revamped, now featuring not just new equipment but a children's playground as well.
Retired plantation worker Lawrence Lee, 68, is a driving force behind the dozen or so residents who regularly help out in the 150 sq m herb garden. He had been pushing for such a space since late last year, when he showed off his green thumb by salvaging discarded flora from around the estate and bringing them back to life.
The new garden features more than 30 plant species, chosen to suit his interest in traditional Chinese medicine.
Even students have volunteered part-time to help him tend to the greenery, he said.
"They say things like, 'Uncle, uncle, the plant is blooming' and express their gratitude. They will buy me food or bring soil," said Mr Lee, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, speaking in Mandarin.
Even residents from other parts of Bukit Batok have flocked to the NC, which houses 65 shops and eateries.
Madam Neo Ai Ling, a school canteen worker in her 60s, finds herself in the neighbourhood centre twice a day - to go to the market in the morning and to supervise her five-year-old granddaughter's play in the evening.
She told The Straits Times that she finds the new facilities convenient and tidy.
Even though business fell off during the year-long upgrading, it has since bounced back and is about 10 per cent better than before, said Bukit Batok Merchants' Association chairman Thomas Ong, 58, whose group represents about 40 shops in the area.