Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, at the Exhibition Launch of “A Green Oasis In The City”

  Published: 13 February 2020

Introduction

I am very happy to join you this afternoon for this exhibition on the Green Oasis in the City.

I wish we were doing this under more favourable circumstances. But, for now, as all of you know, we are fully focused on dealing with the COVID-19 situation, the virus has broke out in China, and which are dealing with in Singapore. We also know that while we deal with this, life goes on. The work of the Ministries and Government agencies goes on, and that is why we can and we should continue to go on with our lives, so as long as we take extra precautions. That is why we decided to continue with today’s event. It does not constitute a large-scale gathering, but please take precautions – you do not have to shake hands with one another, minimise contact and maintain good hand hygiene, as we have always emphasised. In fact, the current situation reminds us that for a small open city like Singapore, completely linked to the outside world, we will always be exposed to new challenges and threats. We have to keep on staying alert, stay vigilant, anticipate what may come, not just today, but tomorrow– so that we are ready with our responses. And indeed, in dealing with COVID-19, we have been able to respond quickly, partly because of the experience from previous outbreaks like SARS, and because through this experience we have put in place various drawer plans for different scenarios. We also have systems comprising multiple lines of defence.

This forward-looking approach is also what we do for urban planning. This is why we are also always looking at our land use, and putting in place new plans to do better and to make our city greener and more liveable. 

Last year, we announced plans to rejuvenate Orchard Road. We received lots of feedback. Many people were excited about the idea of bringing the ‘Orchard’ back to Orchard Road – so we are making this theme a priority, and today we are sharing with you some plans on how we can go about doing this.

Bringing Back the Orchard to Orchard Road

Orchard Road is nestled between the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park. We used to have fruit orchards and nutmeg plantations along this road – and that is how Orchard Road got its name. We intend to re-plant some of these plants that used to be along Orchard Road, in order to showcase its natural heritage. We will also inject more colour and vibrancy – planting trees does not mean that all is green, because we can have different colours by planting different types of trees and shrubs along Orchard Road.

From Botanic Gardens, as you walk down Orchard Road, you will eventually reach three existing parks – there is Penang Road Open Space which is next to Orchard Central, Istana Park, and Dhoby Ghaut Green where the MRT station is. But these parks are not very well utilised today. I am sure all of you will recognise them. They are somewhat isolated spaces, flanked by major roads on both sides; so accessibility is an issue. With this rejuvenation of Orchard Road, we see an opportunity to turn these three parks into a major green node in Orchard Road.

How are we going to do this? The idea is to combine the three parks together – they will be more than four hectares in size and span over 700 metres, stretching all the way from where Orchard Central is on one end, to the Konfrontasi Memorial across from MacDonald House on the other end. We can also realign the stretch of Orchard Road in front of Istana and Plaza Singapura so that the green spaces are better integrated with adjacent establishments for more seamless connectivity. If we look at the three parks and combine them together, and then you stitch it closer to where the adjacent establishments are, this can become a new family-friendly attraction along Orchard Road. Within this revamped Istana Park, we can have a glasshouse to showcase horticultural plants used in the Istana dating back to the 1800s, and we can have an expanded Istana Heritage Gallery. We are dealing with such a large space, and we can put in other things as well, including a water play area and nature playgarden for children, as well as flexible spaces for programming and activities. 

These plans are still a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions as well as your ideas on how we can better use these spaces, and what kind of programmes and activities you would like to see. We will then incorporate these ideas as we start to flesh out the detailed design for the park later this year.

From this new green space, we can also enhance connectivity to Fort Canning Park. We can have an elevated connector across Penang Road which would be expanded – when you cross Penang Road, there used to be a building called Park Mall – it is now called 9 Penang Road – it is a new building, that new building will have an upcoming linkway to reach the mid-level of Fort Canning Park. From the green space at Istana Park, you can cross Penang Road to 9 Penang Road, and easily reach Fort Canning Park, at the mid-level, from which we will have new sheltered escalators all the way up to Fort Canning Centre – we will have seamless connectivity from one park to another park.

We will also continue to enhance Fort Canning Park, especially the part fronting River Valley Road – that is where we have the Foothills as well as Jubilee Park. Jubilee Park has been very popular with families since it opened. We will double the play area in size by 2021 and provide new exciting play experiences for children to interact and connect with nature. We will also redesign the landscape at the Foothills, and introduce new F&B options and flexible event spaces.

From the Foothills and Jubilee Park, you cross River Valley Road to get to Singapore River. There are existing underground and elevated connections, but we will improve these connections and link them to future developments in that area. In particular, you can look forward to a new hotel above the Fort Canning MRT station, as well as the redevelopment of Liang Court, which has already been announced. We will engage these stakeholders so that these new developments can be done in a cohesive and integrated manner, aligned with this broader masterplan. 

Conclusion

When you put all of this together, it will be quite an exciting journey in creating a new green oasis in the city. We will have a lush and vibrant 6km green link that runs from the Singapore Botanic Gardens through Orchard Road, through the revamped Istana Park, and then to Fort Canning Park, and down to Singapore River in the south. Through this new 6km green link, it can feature nature, heritage, retail and lifestyle experiences when all the connections and enhancements are in place. All this is part of our efforts to ensure Singapore remains a lush and liveable City in a Garden. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to help realise this shared vision and build a better city for all Singaporeans to enjoy.

Thank you very much and please enjoy the exhibition.

 

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