Nine precincts join scheme to inject buzz into public spaces

Far East Square (left) is part of the China Place precinct, while the SingPost centre (right) lies within the Paya Lebar precinct. Businesses and retailers are catching on to the idea of place-making, or the remaking of public spaces to rejuvenate an
Far East Square (above) is part of the China Place precinct, while the SingPost centre lies within the Paya Lebar precinct. Businesses and retailers are catching on to the idea of place-making, or the remaking of public spaces to rejuvenate an area, said Mr Lawrence Wong.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG, CHONG JUN LIANG
Far East Square (left) is part of the China Place precinct, while the SingPost centre (right) lies within the Paya Lebar precinct. Businesses and retailers are catching on to the idea of place-making, or the remaking of public spaces to rejuvenate an
Far East Square is part of the China Place precinct, while the SingPost centre (above) lies within the Paya Lebar precinct. Businesses and retailers are catching on to the idea of place-making, or the remaking of public spaces to rejuvenate an area, said Mr Lawrence Wong.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG, CHONG JUN LIANG

Business Improvement District programme sees stakeholders drive rejuvenation of areas

More public spaces will be made attractive and vibrant as business owners, developers and other stakeholders of nine precincts, including Raffles Place and City Hall, join the Business Improvement District (BID) programme to drive their transformation.

They follow Singapore River One, the first BID set up under the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last year. The pilot project saw stakeholders and the local community taking greater ownership in place-making, or the remaking of public spaces to rejuvenate an area. This, in turn, helped generate higher visitor traffic and more business for the precinct.

"These positive examples highlight the importance of place-making, and why it is essential for government and businesses to work together to embrace the concept and raise it to a higher level in Singapore... That is why last year, we announced we wanted to scale up place-making efforts and expand the BID pilot we started with Singapore River One nationwide, to more business owners, associations and precincts," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at the URA's annual Place Management Seminar yesterday.

Interest has been overwhelming, he noted. Nine submissions were received after the URA invited stakeholders in September last year to submit a preliminary business plan, including outlining their initiatives to bring vibrancy and proposed membership fees to fund these.

All nine - representing a mix, from historic and civic districts to mixed-use precincts inside and outside the city centre - were selected. These are China Place, City Hall, Jurong Gateway, Kampong Glam, Marina Bay, Marina Centre, Paya Lebar, Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar. Together with Singapore River One, there are now 10 BIDs.

Mr Cheng Hsing Yao, chairman of Tanjong Pagar pilot BID and group managing director of GuocoLand Singapore, said: "The capacity of place-making by an individual stakeholder is insufficient to activate the precinct. With the coming together of multiple stakeholders (for the first time), we can have a more coordinated effort to contribute to the transformation of Tanjong Pagar."

The partnership includes GuocoLand, Carlton City Hotel, Far East Organization, Orchid Hotel, Downtown Gallery and Tian Teck Investment Holding.

The Tanjong Pagar pilot BID is expected to be launched in the first half of next year, and aims to expand to Tanjong Pagar Road, Duxton Hill and Keong Saik Road.

Stakeholders of City Hall plan to showcase the precinct through the arts, history and architecture, while those at Jurong Gateway and Paya Lebar are looking to build more environmentally and socially sustainable community spaces.

Mr Wong noted that businesses and retailers are catching on to the idea of place-making.

"Shoppers will need a reason to go to the store other than buying things... As one consultant put it to retailers, you have to 'stage experiences or go extinct'," said Mr Wong.

 

"To stage experiences, you need place-makers to turn generic spaces into authentic experiences that can engage people and make them want to spend time and come back again," he added.

The nine are required to develop detailed business plans and get at least 51 per cent support from stakeholders in the precincts, and then form pilot BIDs, which are business-led and funded bodies formed to improve a precinct.

The Government will provide dollar-for-dollar matching for the membership fees collected by each pilot programme up to a cap of $500,000 a year, for the first four years. The funds help to kick-start place-management efforts and set the foundation for expansion.

"We are studying the possibility of legislation to provide legal backing for the BIDs," Mr Wong said. "How this unfolds really depends on the pilots. We want the pilots to be successful so that... more stakeholders will come on board; and with legislative backing, they can take place-making to a higher level."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'Nine precincts join scheme to inject buzz into public spaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe