Young people get say in shaping Somerset youth hub

Co-working spaces, car-free days and zones where local entrepreneurs can set up shop.

These were among the suggestions from young people as to how they would like to see the Somerset area spruced up to attract other young Singaporeans.

Thirty-six young people took part in a discussion yesterday about how to improve the "Somerset Belt", after the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) earmarked it as a hub for youth-oriented organisations, businesses and service providers earlier this year.

The MCCY has already communicated with about 14,000 young people to find out what they would like to see in the area - which spans the stretch from *Scape to the junction of Somerset and Killiney roads.

The ministry surveyed and pulled together comments from online conversations, polls and face-to-face sessions held in May and June.

Research so far has shown that young people - defined by the MCCY as those between 15 and 35 years old - appreciate touches of local culture and heritage in the Somerset area, such as its shophouses and the traditional ice cream carts that operate there.

"Youth appreciate what (the) existing spaces represent and mean to users today, but also hope that they can cater to other youth interests," the ministry said.

More detailed ideas for the area will be developed and showcased in the coming months. A public vote for a master plan for the Somerset Belt will be held in November.

Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Culture, Community and Youth, said that funding will depend on the ideas selected.

He added that the ministry is not averse to reviewing rules and regulations "to make things even more flexible for our young people".

Mr Baey hopes that the process of rejuvenating Somerset and, by extension, Orchard Road, will help the Government understand how to create solutions with the public.

He said the Somerset Belt project has brought together young people, the Government and the private sector to "tap the richness and diversity of views around us... to help us illustrate a new model of working together with different segments of society (that have) different expertise".

The ministry has convened a working panel comprising company leaders such as Ms Dione Song, chief commercial officer of e-commerce retailer Love, Bonito; Mr Kent Teo, founder and chief executive of events company Invade; and Mr Den Sabari, project director at events company LalooLalang.

University of Manchester architecture undergraduate Jamie Loh, 22, who took part in the discussion, hopes the Somerset Belt will accommodate a wide spectrum of youth interests, from music to sport.

She added that the area should be flexible and able to "change according to needs".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'Young people get say in shaping Somerset youth hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe