Jurong Lake District plans timely but timeline may be too short

The government’s plans for the Jurong Lake District have been widely well-received by market watchers.

They noted that it is important to re-brand Jurong away from its industrial estate image to a more vibrant one. However, on the other hand, there are concerns that the government may be moving too fast for the market.

Some analysts said the proposed 10- to 15-year time frame may be a little tight, especially given the amount of projects in the pipeline, and a dampened global economic climate.

It is going to take some effort imagining the Jurong area as a bustling entertainment, business and residential area.

Analysts said that is one of the main challenges the government will face.

Grace Ng, Deputy Managing Director, Agency and Business Services, Colliers International, said, “Jurong has been known as an industrial area, so it has been less successful in attracting commercial and residential activities in the area compared to newer towns like Tampines.

“We need to erase the industrial image of Jurong and convince Singaporeans to make it their workplace and place of residence. As for developers, we need to convince developers to actively participate in the tender of the sites.”

Ku Swee Yong, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Savills (Singapore), said, “The government authorities, Singapore Tourism Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Jurong Town, will still have to put in a little bit more effort to shake off the long-held views that Jurong has been a industrial area.”

However, analysts said that once this hurdle is cleared, the potential is vast.

They pointed out that some investors have already starting sniffing out opportunities in the area.

Mr Ku said, “We are very positive about it. (We’ve) been saying for the past two years that the West side of Singapore has been neglected by the investment community. We see very strong growth in household income and wealth, given the high growth in electronics, pharmaceutical, oil and gas industries, and there are households there that are actually doing a lot better than what may appear on the surface.

“We have been seeing quite a strong take up from home users, plus some investors who are buying units to rent out to academics, engineers and expatriates.”

Vacancy levels for office space in Jurong has been tight, so the promise of more commercial space in the area will be welcome.

But even with so much going for it, many said the government might need to temper their growth plans for the area, and work on building up even more demand to match its planned dramatic increase in capacity.

Over the past few months, the government has delayed several public projects to help rein in rising construction costs.

And property watchers said the plans for Jurong Lake could further stretch resources.

Mr Ku said, “I think that it is rather ambitious to try to put all this work together to build a 5 million square foot of office space, another 2 million of retail and F&B space. All this in next 10-15 years may be a little fast. But (if it is) 15, 20 or even just a little beyond 20 years, I’m sure the market can absorb it.”

Ms Ng said, “It’s scheduled to have 2,800 hotel rooms which seems like quite a high number given that Jurong has not been established as a tourist area.”

But from the ‘big picture’ point of view, analysts agreed that these plans will put a sheen on the property market in Jurong.

Prices can be expected to start inching upwards over the next two to five years when developers start actively tendering for the sites. – CNA/ms

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 4 Apr 2008

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