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New Place Plan brings initiatives and ideas to enrich Kampong Gelam as a thriving historic area for all

  Published: 09 July 2023

The Kampong Gelam Alliance (KGA) today unveiled its Place Plan for the Kampong Gelam Historic Area1. The Place Plan is a strategic roadmap that aims to enhance Kampong Gelam’s heritage, offerings and experiences for stakeholders and visitors alike, based on a collective vision for the precinct shaped by feedback and ideas from over 1,600 Kampong Gelam stakeholders and members of the public. 

From November 2022 to January 2023, KGA conducted a public engagement exercise comprising a public survey and walkshops2 to seek views from Kampong Gelam stakeholders and members of the public on their aspirations for Kampong Gelam, the core values of the precinct (‘Community’, ‘Respect’ and ‘Resilience’), and initial draft of the Place Plan. Findings showed that majority of respondents have a strong affinity with the rich heritage of Kampong Gelam, and are also in favour of more initiatives to strengthen its history, culture and community. A summary of key findings can be found in Annex B [PDF, 435kb].

Based on the ideas and feedback gathered, KGA, in consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), has identified five focus areas that underpin the Place Plan – Identity, Economy, Placemaking, Connectivity and Activation – and a corresponding range of projects that could be introduced progressively over the next five years. These will  transform and enrich Kampong Gelam into an even more attractive, inclusive and resilient historic area for all, while preserving its ‘soul’. 

(i) Identity: Celebrating and sustaining Kampong Gelam’s unique identity through public artworks, vibrant spaces and a cultural mapping initiative 

The Place Plan sets out strategies to sustain Kampong Gelam’s unique identity as a treasure trove of heritage, culture and the arts. One way to do so is to partner community talents, businesses and agencies to create public artworks and public spaces initiatives that illuminate the historic area’s unique stories.  

Under this approach, stakeholders and visitors can look forward to a series of installations that will enliven public spaces in Kampong Gelam in September. Presented in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and URA as part of Archifest 20233, the urban installations will draw inspiration from key ideas in the Place Plan as well as the rich heritage of Kampong Gelam. Created by artists, designers and architects, they aim to capture the vibrant spirit of the historic area through a mix of traditional references, modern aesthetics and creative storytelling methods. More details of these urban installations will be released soon. 

Another delightful new artwork presented in partnership with the community is Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong’s upcoming three-storey high mural on the side wall of a shophouse at 92 Arab Street. The mural, which is sponsored by the property’s owner and long-term stakeholder of the area, will be a detailed pictorial map of old Kampong Gelam that will transport visitors back to Kampong Gelam’s yesteryears where traditional arts, trades and charming shophouses shaped its vibrant streetscapes. Painting works for the new mural will commence later in July and are expected to be completed by September this year. 

In addition, KGA has launched a cultural mapping initiative to document the layers of diverse cultural assets such as heritage businesses, institutions and key buildings in the historic area. The public is also invited to pin locations and stories that they wish to document on a virtual map. Through this collective mapping initiative, we hope to build a repository of knowledge for visitors, businesses, researchers and members of public to better understand and engage with Kampong Gelam’s culture and community. 

(ii) Economy: Creating a vibrant economy that supports traditional trades while attracting new businesses 

KGA will embark on projects that sustain Kampong Gelam’s distinctive traditional trades and spaces, while also strengthening the precinct’s appeal and relevance as a destination that provides new offerings to visitors. 

An idea being explored is a skills apprenticeship scheme where younger generations work with senior business operators to learn traditional trades. To support new entrepreneurs, KGA will also explore with property owners and businesses creative interventions such as a “share-a-shop” concept to encourage pop-up businesses to co-locate within existing businesses. This will nurture a more diverse range of businesses that offer a wider variety of products and services for visitors.     

(iii) Placemaking: Making Kampong Gelam more inclusive for all historic area 

KGA will continue to work on placemaking projects to create more comfortable and delightful public spaces for all visitors. For instance, there are plans to introduce more green spaces and initiatives in the coming years, such as community gardens, tree planting campaigns and adding potted plants along the streets. 

We also hope to create new spaces where visitors can interact, linger and bond while soaking in the rich atmosphere of the precinct. This includes exploring with agencies an idea received during the engagement to activate the open space at Sultan Gate for smaller-scale events. 

(iv) Connectivity: Better connections and accessibility for visitors 

The Place Plan also sets out ideas to enhance connectivity and access for visitors, based on feedback received from the engagement exercise. 

This includes improving connectivity to adjacent areas through wayfinding and directional signage, improving traffic conditions by sharing information on vehicle parking availability at buildings in the area as well as introducing cycling lanes and bike parking areas to improve cycling connectivity in the long-term.

KGA will work closely with the relevant agencies to assess the viability of these ideas, and work towards creating a safe and welcoming environment for all visitors. 

(v) Activation:  Injecting life to Kampong Gelam through enriching and people-centric events  

Visitors can continue to look forward to enriching fun-filled events and activities that celebrate the unique attributes of Kampong Gelam, such as the annual Cahaya Ramadan bazaar. To enhance their experience, KGA aims to develop an online calendar of key events at Kampong Gelam to not only help the public to better plan their visits, but also facilitate planning and collaboration amongst stakeholders.  

We will also explore suggestions to build a stronger community through intimate and people-centric events, such as organising half-yearly neighbourhood get-togethers for current and former residents and stakeholders. 
Refer to Annex C [PDF, 171kb] for a list of potential projects that KGA will explore in the next five years.

Formalising KGA as a not-for-profit CLG to drive the Place Plan

To ensure the smooth implementation of the Place Plan over the next five years, KGA – a voluntary alliance – will also work towards formalisation as a not-for-profit Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG). This will facilitate more formal and extensive partnerships with other businesses, organisations as well as agencies, and equip KGA with more resources to progressively implement the various ideas in the Place Plan. 

Mr Saeid Labbafi, Chairman of KGA said, “Through the Place Plan, KGA aims to promote Kampong Gelam’s identity and heritage values, support the businesses here, and put public spaces to great use. We will continue to work with agencies to make Kampong Gelam a vibrant, connected and attractive place for everyone to visit. Kampong Gelam is a gold mine which you need to discover. We would like to invite more volunteers to come onboard the journey of enhancing Kampong Gelam's future.”

The full version of KGA’s Place Plan is available at www.listeningtokg.org. From 9 to 16 July from 10am to 5pm daily, the public can also view key excerpts of the engagement findings and Place Plan at 45 and 47 Sultan Gate4. KGA continues to welcome support and collaboration opportunities from the wider community to shape the future of Kampong Gelam. Individuals and organisations keen to be involved in the implementation of the Place Plan or the management of the historic area can reach out to KGA to join the efforts.

About Kampong Gelam Alliance: 
First formed in 2018 and expanded in 2021, the Kampong Gelam Alliance (KGA) comprises residents, cultural institutions, business organisations, property owners, and hotels in and around Kampong Gelam. The alliance looks beyond driving the economic growth of the precinct, and aims to also strengthen its cultural, community, and social fabric by developing relevant programmes and projects in partnership with government agencies. Our vision is a Kampong Gelam that is anchored by its values, and remains relevant to present and future generations as a neighbourhood of culture, community, and enterprise. Visit www.facebook.com/Kampong.Gelam.Alliance for more information. 

About Urban Redevelopment Authority 
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is Singapore's land use planning and conservation agency. Our mission is ‘to make Singapore a great city to live, work and play’. We strive to create an endearing home and a vibrant city through long-term planning and innovation, in partnership with the community. 

URA’s multi-faceted role includes being the main government land sales agent. We attract and channel private capital investments to develop sites that support planning, economic and social objectives. We also partner the community to enliven our public spaces to create a car-lite, people-friendly and liveable city for all to enjoy. In shaping a distinctive city, URA also promotes architecture and urban design excellence. Visit www.ura.gov.sg for more information.

1 The Kampong Gelam Historic Area comprises the gazetted conservation area, as well as key modern developments around the perimeter of the conservation area. Refer to Annex A [PDF, 233kb] for a map of the historic area.  
2 KGA organised four “walkshops” which comprised site walks at various locations in Kampong Gelam. Participants held discussions around the Place Plan, and raised feedback and ideas to enhance the historic area.

3 Organised by the SIA since 2007, Archifest is envisaged as a platform for discussion, debate and deliberation on architectural issues through dialogue and collaborations. The upcoming urban installations at Kampong Gelam are presented in partnership with KGA as well as URA through its Public Space Programme, which supports the creation of liveable and loveable public spaces with initiatives such as the Lively Places Fund.

4 45 and 47 Sultan Gate are a pair of state-owned conserved shophouses prominently situated along the historical axis leading to the former Istana Kampong Gelam. They have been identified by many participants of the engagement as a key community asset suited for a range of community uses. KGA’s exhibition of the Place Plan excerpts here is part of its efforts to further engage the community on possible use of these buildings in the near future.