SINGAPORE - Part of Orchard Road could be turned into a car-free green space as part of wide-ranging plans to redesign and expand Istana Park to include Dhoby Ghaut Green.
The proposal would mean realigning the stretch of Orchard Road from the Istana to SMA House to merge with Penang Road.
The ideas were among proposed enhancements to refresh Singapore's shopping belt unveiled by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday (Feb 13).
The plans will be showcased at a month-long public exhibition at The URA Centre.
Proposed enhancements also include increased greenery along Orchard Road and improved connectivity in the stretch towards the Singapore River to form a 6km green connection linking Singapore Botanic Gardens, Istana Park, Fort Canning Park and the Singapore River.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told a ceremony to open the exhibition: "These efforts will create a new green oasis in the city. This is part of our efforts to ensure Singapore remains a lush and liveable city in a garden."
The proposals come after a public exhibition and consultation exercise last year. More than 1,500 people gave feedback with many calling for more green spaces and family-friendly facilities in Orchard Road.
The new plans call for the 1.3ha Istana Park to be expanded to more than three times its current size. The park will be redesigned to include the existing Dhoby Ghaut Green and Penang Road Open Space.
It will feature an orchid-themed garden and a rustic nature playgarden with a water play area.
Other initiatives include pedestrianising a section of Orchard Road from Buyong Road to Handy Road to allow Istana Park to be better integrated with the Istana entrance and commercial establishments in the area.
Orchard Road's vehicular traffic would be directed to Penang Road.
The proposal also includes improving the links between Orchard Road and the Singapore River.
For example, there will be new connections from Istana Park to Fort Canning Park via a linkway at 9 Penang Road (former Park Mall) and proposed sheltered escalators leading from the pedestrian underpass at Canning Rise to Fort Canning Centre at the hilltop.
Pedestrian connectivity could also be improved with new public spaces at Clarke Quay Road and Merchant Road.
These additions will create a 6km-long green connection linking many of the cities landmark spaces, including Singapore Botanic Gardens, Fort Canning Park, the Singapore River and Pearl's Hill City Park.
Ms Ang Wei Ping, group director of policy and planning at NParks, said: "We intend to inject more greenery into the streets by bringing in more bougainvillea, cloves and nutmeg plants and plant these along Orchard Road. We want the Orchard Road and the Dhoby Ghaut zone to be appealing to all age groups, especially families.
"What we are trying to do is enhance the experience of walking through Orchard Road. So that as you walk along .. you get to enjoy flowering shrubs and lush trees."
Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said realigning part of Orchard Road would be a large task but not impossible: "It would take time but if they are talking about building another four lanes on Penang Road then it won't be as disruptive as constructing a tunnel."
Dr Theseira said the plans are an interesting reimagining of the space that would increase activity in the Dhoby Ghaut area, which he feels is under utilised.
He added: "The question should not be how will it affect vehicular traffic. That is a very car-centric view. The question should be how could it improve things for everyone else."