Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rediscover Singapore, says URA

String of initiatives launched to renew S'poreans' love for city

IF IT is true that in crisis lies opportunity, then the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is not letting this downturn go to waste.

As Singapore's master planning agency celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, it is kicking off a string of initiatives to plan for the eventual recovery and to expand its own role locally and globally.

It is also hoping to reacquaint Singaporeans with the city and renew their love for it, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said at the URA's annual Corporate Plan Seminar yesterday.

While Singaporeans love to travel, there is also much to enjoy at home, he told the 400-strong audience comprising URA's partners from the public and private sectors during the session at the Swissotel Merchant Court.

'Perhaps during this downturn it is timely for Singaporeans to take some time to get to know their own city better, enjoy what we have to offer here in Singapore and maybe save a little bit of money at the same time,' he said.

'So let's do what we would like to do overseas - let's do our shopping, our eating, our sightseeing - let's travel around Singapore, revisit the places we have not visited for a long time, maybe even discover some new surprises.'

After all, a 'new Singapore cityscape' will emerge over the next few years with the development of areas such as Punggol, which will boast unique features such as a coastal promenade and a 'heartwave wall' with a mini waterfall.

To encourage Singaporeans to rediscover their city, the Ministry of National Development and URA will launch a programme called My New Singapore. Among other things, Singaporeans will be able to visit the new Marina Bay and find out what plans are in store for their own neighbourhoods.

As part of the programme, the URA will start a roving exhibition, My Endearing Home, at major malls next month for Singaporeans to learn more about the city and sign up for visits to places such as Sungei Buloh and the Changi Boardwalk.

Similarly, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will also conduct a series of exhibitions next year - in conjunction with its 50th anniversary - showing how HDB neighbourhoods have changed over the years and presenting future public housing plans, said Mr Mah.

As it looks to the future, the URA will also kick off a new round of reviews for its next Concept Plan, due in 2011.

This overarching urban plan, reviewed every 10 years, is the longer-term version of the Master Plan and maps out Singapore's changing land use and transportation needs over the next 40 to 50 years.

To put together Concept Plan 2011, the URA will actively seek views from the public on how to improve the quality of life in Singapore, Mr Mah said.

There will be changes taking place within the URA as well, as the agency takes on new responsibilities beyond its master planning and development roles.

Having taken charge of the branding and marketing aspects of Marina Bay, the URA will also begin to manage the Singapore River district in a similar fashion.

The agency has also created the URA Consulting Group to better export its planning expertise abroad.

'Looking ahead, Singapore faces tremendous challenges. We know we need to continue to work even harder to stay ahead,' URA chairman Alan Chan said in a speech yesterday.

Source: Straits Times, 18 April 2009

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