New-era industrial park at Lorong Halus

Straits Times 5 Feb 10;

Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education Grace Fu this week suggested ways for Singapore to become a more attractive place to live and work in. She gave examples both in industry and the arts.

An artist's impression of the Lorong Halus Food Zone Industrial Development. Factories and plants will be sited among lush greenery in the industrial park, and waterfront lifestyle amenities will be in place for the public to use. The ESC sub-committee suggests better integrating residential, business, leisure and 'clean' industrial uses into 'live-work-play' enclaves. -- PHOTO: URA

EVEN in property-obsessed Singapore, industrial sites are often dismissed as drab, dull areas that hold no interest for the general public.

But new-era industrial parks like the one planned at Lorong Halus in Tampines could change all this.

Formerly a landfill, the land is now home to a wide diversity of wildlife.

When it is turned into an industrial park in the years to come, factories and plants will be sited among lush greenery and waterfront lifestyle amenities that the public can use.

The planned Lorong Halus industrial area was one of the examples cited by the Economic Strategies Committee sub-committee on how to make better use of land. Among its recommendations was a suggestion to better integrate residential, business, leisure and even 'clean' industrial uses into 'live-work-play' enclaves.

A thriving arts cluster
Straits Times 5 Feb 10;

Gillman Village has the benefit of being housed in conservation colonial barracks, which arts groups can make use of rather than paying to construct new buildings. Outdoor spaces can also be creatively used at events organised for the arts and creative industries.

IT IS now a laid-back enclave with a clutch of rustic restaurants and watering holes but in a few years, Gillman Village could be a thriving cluster for arts and creative activities.

At least, that is the vision of the Economic Strategies Committee, which suggests turning the site off Alexandra Road into a 'prominent destination to anchor and grow the arts and creative businesses'.

These could include design and digital media firms, said Ms Grace Fu, who chaired the sub-committee on enhancing land use.

She said Gillman has the benefit of being housed in conservation colonial barracks, which arts groups can make use of rather than paying to construct new buildings.

As an arts cluster, Gillman Village will add to the diversity of attractions along the southern waterfront, the sub-committee said in its report.

More flexibility for industrial zones
Less rigid rules could help businesses and liven up sterile areas
Joyce Teo, Straits Times 5 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE should look more closely at how it can use its industrial land to help enhance its liveability as a city, the high-level Economic Strategies Committee has recommended.

One proposal is to site offices, shops and restaurants alongside manufacturing plants. And if this is done well, these new facilities can breathe new life into previously sterile areas.

In an interview on Wednesday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu - who co-chaired the ESC sub-committee on maximising value from land - said the Government should inject this type of flexibility into the use of land in a gradual and targeted manner.

But she also warned against too much flexibility, as it could raise the price of industrial land to an unaffordable level for businesses.

Still, one example of an industry that could benefit from flexibility in land zoning is food manufacturing, suggested Ms Fu.

There is no reason why a food manufacturer with its manufacturing business in an industrial park should not be able to locate its plant next to an office where research and development is done or a kitchen or restaurant where products can be tested by consumers, she said.

Over time, this type of area could even become a hub for the food and beverage industry to test consumer responses and tastes, she added.

Suki Sushi director Kelvin Ong said: 'We're not allowed to do commercial sales in a factory.

'Yet doing it this way means the profit margin is good, and the consumers benefit because you cut out the middleman's fees and you don't need to pay the shopping mall landlord.'

He also said mall rents are high for start-ups, and added: 'Besides, on weekends, some people may want to go to a factory area to shop for cheap goods. There will be more choices.'

Ms Fu also said the Government should be prepared to explore different lease tenures. Now, industrial land typically comes with a 30-year lease, with an option to extend.

'In our discussions with industrialists, we have realised product life cycles are a lot shorter. We thought we could explore other lease terms.'

Other ideas the sub-committee threw up included a suggestion that land allocation be subject to a measurement of productivity like the number of jobs created per hectare.

Industrialists are also being encouraged to build higher instead of wider. Ms Fu said grants can be made to industrialists for them to study all this.

And turning to the subject of industrial landlord JTC, she said: 'From developing land, JTC may have to look at developing townships for new industrial parks.'

Mr Tan Tiong Cheng, chairman of Knight Frank property consultancy, said injecting flexibility is clearly good.

'If people see Singapore as very adaptable and conscious of change, it becomes more attractive,' he said.

Make reserve list responsive to market
Straits Times 5 Feb 10;

THE Economic Strategies Committee is proposing to tweak the reserve list - one of the main methods used to sell development land - to make it more responsive to the market.

Under this method, land is formally put up for tender only after a developer indicates interest by committing to a minimum bid the Government deems acceptable.

The ESC would like to speed up the process for activating a tender so land can come onstream faster to avert potential rental spikes.

'When we consulted the developers... one piece of feedback was that there's a price to pay to trigger a piece of land,' said Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

'We're trying to look at ways to make it as low-cost as possible so that developers do not have to cross a high-cost barrier to trigger.'

The current method requires a developer to put down a deposit of 5 per cent of the minimum acceptable bid within two weeks of acceptance.

Some smaller developers have said that when they commit to an acceptable bid and trigger a tender, they might still miss out on the site.

'If so, why should they bother to trigger it? Their funds would be tied up,' said a property consultant.

Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng said that to speed up the process, the Government could give an indicative price range.


Underground museums next?
Straits Times 5 Feb 10;

A STUDY will look at ways to carve out more underground space - for possible use as public areas such as museums and galleries.

It could also be used for facilities such as power stations and for storage, said Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education Grace Fu.

Singapore now has underground malls and pedestrian walkways, though underground uses can be 'quite varied', she said.

'We can foresee a museum, an art gallery, a science museum, something for the public to use as well as public infrastructure like an electrical substation,' said Ms Fu, co-chair of the ESC sub-committee on land productivity.

Talks are under way on using MRT stations for such functions. 'URA has always been thinking about what we can do at the Botanic Gardens station... We know there's a potential there; we haven't found a specific use so we will look out for the opportunity,' she said.

Architect Tai Lee Siang said if underground space was promoted properly, 'people's acceptance... will change rapidly, especially because Singapore has a finite land resource'. He added underground areas can suit uses needing little or no daylight, such as theatres.

Ms Fu said a national geology office could be set up almost immediately, with an underground masterplan to follow.

ESC recommends better use of industrial land
May Wong, Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE : Making productive use of limited land in Singapore can help the country generate higher economic enterprises, according to the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC).

The sub-committee looking into maximising land use said such industries require less land space, but have high "value-added" output.

Industrial land now occupies more than 10 per cent of Singapore's total land stock. And making the land become more productive is the way forward.

"This can be done by increasing plot ratio to promote the development of innovative, capital intensive business parks or industrial parks," said Associate Professor Tu Yong, Department of Real Estate, School of Design & Environment, NUS.

"In the future, if we want to maintain our competitiveness, we have to make sure that our price is stable and competitive. We have to make sure sufficient industrial space is available so that the price will not be pushed up in the short term."

Experts said to better make use of industrial land in Singapore, the government may develop more projects like Fusionpolis. Such developments can then be home to higher value-added industries like biomedical, fashion and even cosmetics.

Experts added that such sectors will not only require less industrial land space, it will also help to generate jobs and help boost Singapore's economy.

Other proposals included creating new commercial areas outside the central region to ease congestion, and to position new growth areas which will be attractive hubs for Asian and global headquarter activities.

The government will respond to the committee's proposals later this month. - CNA /ls

Substation, science park among possible uses for underground space
Hoe Yeen Nie/Lip Kwok Wai, Channel NewsAsia 4 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE: The way Singapore uses its land could change in the coming decade and one idea, according to the Economic Strategies Committee, is to build deeper underground.

Senior Minister of State for Education and National Development, Grace Fu, said: "We have to explore better use of the land beneath us. We believe there are certain services and installations that are suitable, for example - substations and incinerator plants.

"We have quite a developed framework above ground. For example, we can designate areas for land reserves or canal reserves. So we need to have a similar framework for underground space as well."

As a start, land development agency JTC is studying the possibility of building a science park underneath the Kent Ridge university campus.

There are also plans to develop the current port area at Tanjong Pagar into a waterfront area similar to Marina Bay and creating new arts and lifestyle clusters out of places like Gillman Village.

The government will also look at ways to develop recreational spaces near industrial parks and build more homes within the central region. - CNA/vm

Live, work, play
Self-contained enclaves may help maximise land value

Neo Chai Chin, Today Online 5 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE - The Economic Strategies Committee thinks that Singapore should have more liveable industrial townships.

Instead of the manufacturing clusters that come to mind now, the image for the future is a clean, high-rise complex with manufacturing, research and test-bedding facilities under one roof.

Tenants would enjoy shared facilities such as carparks and storage space. Housing, dining and recreational facilities would all be within easy reach of employees, with machinery discreetly and conveniently tucked underground.

"Live-work-play" enclaves with distinctive characters are the way to go, if proposals from the subcommittee on maximising land value are realised. And its members believe this is possible, as the shift toward knowledge-intensive jobs means "there will be greater room to integrate economic uses together with residential and leisure uses".

Industrialists have highlighted the difficulty in getting workers to commute to remote parts of Singapore, and as new and emerging industries in Singapore will bring fewer environmental concerns, "there's really a need to bring elements together", said sub-committee co-chair Grace Fu, who is also Senior Minister of State (National Development).

Creating liveable and desirable industrial spaces is essential to attract talented workers to Singapore, and "as the line between manufacturing and services gets blurred ... we can bring jobs closer to people and bring workers closer to workplaces", said sub-committee member Tai Lee Siang, director of DP Architects. Industrial townships will have to shed their "pollutive and dirty image" and become live-work-play environments within a green setting.

It was revealed yesterday, for example, that there are plans for an industrial park at Lorong Halus - a former landfill that is now a green spot with grasslands and wooded hills - with lifestyle products and food industries set amid greenery and the Serangoon River.

Industries of the future will be less dependent on land, so it will be possible for estate planners to "stack the spaces in high-rise configuration", Mr Tai added.

Such a vision has already been articulated for the Kallang Riverside precinct, which will consist of an industrial area, waterfront residences, office and entertainment venues.

And for industrial sectors that are "large land-takers and/or with low plot ratio", such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, solar and marine sectors, the subcommittee asked for the Government to provide incentives to "encourage experimentation" in innovative industrial plant layouts.

The aim: To achieve a smaller land footprint, given that industrial land now takes up more than 10 per cent of Singapore's total land stock.

The subcommittee also recommended providing choice and diversity in business locations. This is already underway, for example, with the Jurong Gateway near Jurong East MRT station, which will have 500,000 square metres of office space, and provide an alternative to the Central Business District for global and Asian headquarters.

Property observer Colin Tan of Chesterton Suntec International told MediaCorp that with relaxed zoning policies, each business cluster will likely develop a stronger identity. In the past, he said, the Government didn't allow flexibility of use.

"Now, we say one urban centre looks very much like another because of these strict guidelines. The moment you allow some flexibility, each area will have its own distinctive identity," Mr Tan said.

To create more land in the longer term, the sub-committee called for underground space to be developed and synergised with above-ground facilities.

While it is unclear if this latest call would be in time to take advantage of ongoing underground rail works for the Downtown Line, Ms Fu said the Urban Redevelopment Authority has "started discussions at some stations", such as the Botanic Gardens.

Land: Lever, support in economic strategy
Neo Chai Chin, Today Online 5 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE - How might unproductive businesses in Singapore be weeded out in the future? It is clear from the report from the Economic Strategies Subcommittee on Maximising Value from Land as a Scarce Resource, that land is a good lever.

Singapore should consider the resource efficiency of sectors in its economic development and investment attraction efforts - not simply the value added and skills level entailed, the sub-committee said.

Singapore currently measures land productivity chiefly by looking at gross plot ratio (the ratio of the gross floor area of a building to its site area), but "land policy must not only support but also drive economic strategies ahead ... We must think about what sectors to promote and allocate land to, by considering how much value-added, jobs and spillovers for the economy they generate per hectare of land", said sub-committee co-chair Wong Fong Fui, the chairman and group chief executive of Boustead Singapore.

Businesses consulted also called for new ways to make Singapore's limited land space work harder and more efficiently for them.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority will inject more flexibility into current zoning rules, tweak the tenures of land leases, and make it "less onerous" to trigger sites on the Reserve List via a review of the security deposit that developers have to fork out.

Increased flexibility will be practised in a "very targeted way" to keep industrial land affordable, said sub-committee co-chair Grace Fu. Suggestions include allowing companies with service, industrial and manufacturing synergies to be located in industrial areas.

At the moment, rules are fairly rigid, with companies providing services to be sited in commercial buildings, and up to 15 per cent of space in business park zones allowed for "white" uses such as restaurants, shops and childcare centres, for instance.

Citing an example, Ms Fu said flexibility would be ideal for a food manufacturer that is also conducting research and development as well as test-bedding consumers' response.

More varied lease terms would also benefit companies in an era of shorter product life cycles.

Some industry players suggested having more 60-year commercial leases, which are currently few and far between. The sub-committee also suggested longer leases for capital-intensive industries and shorter leases for others. Neo Chai Chin

New ESC landscape may see property market changes
Emilyn Yap, Business Times 5 Feb 10;

Areas under study could include tenures, reserve list system, zoning, land use and land productivity

(SINGAPORE) The government could be making a wide range of changes to the property market - from offering a greater variety of lease tenures to relaxing rules for industrial land use.

These are some of several proposals from the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) sub-group studying ways to maximise the value of Singapore's land. It also suggested that the government track land productivity more closely, review the reserve list system of land sales, and enhance links with land-abundant neighbouring countries.

These ideas came in a report from the sub-group yesterday. The paper also contains proposals announced earlier on Monday, calling for the makeover of Tanjong Pagar into a waterfront district, the creation of underground space and more intensive use of industrial land.

Improving choice and flexibility in the property market was one of the key themes in the report. 'In addition to robust planning, we should also focus on making our land use system more nimble and remove barriers that may impede the flow of land resources from less to more land-efficient economic activities,' the sub-group said.

The sub-group recognised that a wider range of lease tenures would meet varying corporate needs. While industrial sites tend to carry 30 or 30+30-year leases, some capital-intensive industries have asked for longer leases for greater certainty on their investments. For commercial sites, the state usually sells them with 15 or 99-year leases but some have asked for something in between, say 60-year leases.

Property consultants generally welcomed the proposal. For instance, banks may feel more secure lending to businesses operating on sites with longer leases, said Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng. But there are also concerns - having different lease tenures in an area may impede urban renewal later, he added.

Another suggestion from the ESC sub-group pertains to zoning and land use. Some firms have asked for an expansion of allowable uses for state property, or more relaxed guidelines on housing other activities within an industrial zone.

These requests are particularly relevant as product cycles get shorter, and the line between production and services becomes blurred. And in developing entire industries, manufacturing, research and consumer-testing activities may have to come together.

Other zoning assumptions such as buffers between residential and industrial areas may be in for a review, said Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education Grace Fu in an interview. She is also co-chair of the sub-group.

But increased zoning flexibility will come 'in a very targeted way', she emphasised. 'Zoning allows us to segment land use and therefore keep industrial land affordable. . . We are not talking about very broad-based changes in the zoning framework.'

There were also positive responses to having more wiggle room in land use and zoning. Colliers International research and advisory director Tay Huey Ying supported this, though she noted that 'it may make land valuation a bit more tricky'.

The government should also consider offering more types of business locations, the sub-group said. For instance, Gillman Village could become home to a creative cluster, while Lorong Halus could be a waterfront industrial park with more amenities and lush greenery.

The ESC sub-group further recommended that the government place greater emphasis on land productivity when deciding how to allocate land among various uses. For instance, it should track and consider indicators such as value-added and jobs generated per hectare.

As the other co-chair of the sub-group, Boustead Singapore chairman and group CEO Wong Fong Fui described: 'It is like you have a land budget for economic development and thinking about how to invest it to maximise the economic 'yield' from the land.'

The wide range of proposals is expected to have some impact on the upcoming Concept Plan 2011, but Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak noted that 'it is still early days' to say how reviews would go. Changes should be gradual, he reckoned.