Regional hubs – an alternative to city living
  • Spaces
  • 03 October 2019

Regional hubs – an alternative to city living

The upcoming Jurong Lake District is set to become Singapore’s second Central Business District. Photography: The Straits Times

Regional hubs look set to be even more popular as the notion of live, work and play continues to evolve.

Today, Singapore boasts vibrant hubs in decentralised and fringe locations such as at Tampines, Jurong, Buona Vista and Newton, allowing residents to work, live, play and learn.

Singapore’s first Concept Plan
However, this idea is not new, and dates back to 1971 with the first Concept Plan – a strategic land use plan that has guided Singapore’s real estate development. The plan advocated the development of a ring structure of satellite towns around the Central Water Catchment, supported by the Central Area as the Central Business District (CBD). In the 1991 Concept Plan, a hierarchy of commercial centres in different parts of Singapore was proposed.

There were four regional centres, supported by sub-regional and fringe centres to bring jobs closer to homes to alleviate congestion in the city centre. Backed by a decentralisation policy in 1991, this was the genesis of Singapore’s regional hubs. The trend towards regional hubs mirrors that of other gateway cities where activity hubs have sprouted outside of city centres such as Brooklyn in New York City; Canary Wharf in London; Parramatta in Sydney; Island East in Hong Kong; and Damansara in Kuala Lumpur.

Globally, the growth of regional hubs is expected to gain popularity as public transport becomes more convenient. Instead of merely being a place within the city centre, a good location has been redefined in terms of ease and duration of travel instead of its physical distance from the city centre.

Land Transport Master Plan 2040

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) recently released the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 which encapsulated LTA’s long-term plans to build an inclusive and well-connected land transport system. Photo credits: LTA

By 2030, Singapore’s 2013 Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) targets for eight in 10 households to live within 10 minutes’ walk from an MRT station; 85 per cent of public transport journeys to be completed within 60 minutes and 75 per cent of all peak hour journeys using public transport. The LTMP advisory panel recently advocated 20-minute towns and a 45-minute city on public, active and shared modes of transport by 2040.

The 20-minute town implies that all journeys to the nearest neighbourhood centre using public, active and shared modes of transport are under 20 minutes, while a 45-minute city advocates nine in 10 peak period journeys using public, active and shared modes of transport are under 45 minutes. These will further support the growth of regional hubs.

Jurong Lake District (JLD)

Ever since the Urban Redevelopment Authority identified JLD as the second CBD, it has added more than 151,000 sq m of office space and 147,000 sq m of retail space. Photography: KCAP

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has identified Jurong Lake District (JLD) as the second CBD alongside other growth areas outside the Central Area such as the Punggol Digital District (PDD), Woodlands Regional Centre (WRC) and Paya Lebar Central (PLC). Since then, the Jurong Regional Centre which is considered part of JLD, and Geylang East which is considered part of PLC have added some 45,000 sq m and 80,000 sq m of office space, and 4,000 sq m and 23,000 sq m of retail space respectively. As at the end of 2018, the JLD has more than 151,000 sq m of office space and 147,000 sq m of retail space, while PLC has more than 232,000 sq m of office space and 110,000 sq m of retail space. More integrated mixed-use developments, amenities and community facilities such as Woods Square in WRC and the new Punggol Town Hub connected to Punggol MRT station will be delivered in time to come.

From 1998 to 2018, private non-landed properties in the planning areas showed that the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for the median price per sq ft (psf) ranges from 2.6 per cent in the emerging PDD to 6.0 per cent in the more established PLC. As the first regional centre, Tampines has performed relatively well and today, it has significantly more new private residential developments compared to the other planning areas. Tampines has a comprehensive range of amenities ranging from international school United World College of Southeast Asia, to warehouse retail parks such as Courts, Giant and Ikea. The proximity of the JLD to Changi Business Park and Changi Airport adds to the cluster of economic activity, which tends to increase the momentum for price growth.

The JLD, positioned as Singapore’s second CBD, is a relatively established mixed-used precinct. As the future Tuas mega port opens progressively from 2021 to 2040; the Jurong Region Line from 2026; and the tentative high-speed rail (HSR) from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur from 2031, the regional centre (with its proximity to Malaysia via the second crossing) holds much promise.


The upcoming Jurong Lake District comprises the Jurong Lake Garden, known as a “people’s garden” with spaces for families and the community. Photography: NParks

Similarly, in Geylang near Paya Lebar where there are significantly more new private residential developments, the average median price growth is the highest among the five areas explored.

Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ)

A newly urbanised mixed-use development set to transform the area. Photography: Paya Lebar Quarter

Located between the city and the airport and with the Paya Lebar MRT interchange for the East-West (EWL) and Circle Lines (CCL), the area is undergoing rejuvenation with completion of developments like the soon-to-be-completed Paya Lebar Quarter with its mix of working, shopping, dining and living spaces. Identified as a sub-regional centre in the 1991 Concept Plan, Paya Lebar has potential to grow further as land in the vicinity is being continues to be recycled for future uses.

Woodlands Regional Centre (WRC)


WLC is poised to take its place as the largest economic hub in Singapore’s North region. Photography: JTC

WRC was identified as early as 1991 and has since been supported by developments such as Causeway Point shopping mall. Although slow to start, this is going to change with the completion of the mixed-use Woods Square (an integrated office, retail, dining and childcare development); the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) in 2019; the 7.66-ha Woodlands Health Campus (1,800 beds) in 2022; and the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System post-2024.

WRC holds much potential with its proximity to Malaysia via Johor Baru – the business capital of southern Malaysia. The government has also made available for tender on the Reserve List a 2.75-ha white site at Woodlands Avenue 2 to promote growth in the area. Completion of these catalytic developments will create jobs and activate the northern precinct of Singapore, which will in turn attract demand for housing.

Punggol Digital District (PDD)

Masterplan aims to transform 50ha area into hub for digital economy’s key growth sectors

PDD is an emerging waterfront precinct, with more public housing, amenities and transport options to be completed such as new Build-To-Order (BTO) flats at Punggol Point; an upcoming executive condominium development at Sumang Walk; a new train station extension; together with the new Singapore Institute of Technology campus in 2023. With its integration of a business park, a university and community facilities, the master-planned 50-ha PDD will be Singapore’s Silicon Valley and is expected to create some 28,000 jobs. PDD is expected to epitomise the work, live, play and learn concept.

Living and working in regional hubs will be even more popular in the future as alternative options become available and the notion of live, work and play continues to evolve. Underpinned by a growing public transport network and a wide range of amenities, regional hubs will attract anchor tenants for both office and retail spaces and a skilled workforce which will attract home buyers and investors.

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