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Moving towards stakeholders-led place management

  Published: 05 September 2017

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is inviting stakeholders to form pilot Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) so that they can take greater ownership in enlivening and enhancing the attractiveness of their precincts, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong announced today at the launch of “Making Places Great” exhibition at The URA Centre.

This is to allow the government to garner interest and support from the private sector for Singapore to adopt a formalised place management framework through legislation – a recommendation made by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) with the intention to create opportunities for businesses to innovate and initiate ground-up efforts, as stakeholders are better placed to respond to rapid changes in the economic environment.

Current place management efforts in Singapore

Place management in Singapore is currently undertaken by precinct associations in commercial areas with the aim of injecting vibrancy, increasing footfall and generating more business revenue for the precincts. These precinct associations, such as Singapore River One (SRO) and Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA), are formed by precinct stakeholders who voluntarily contribute membership fees for the associations to run events and marketing activities to enhance visitor experience and attractiveness of the precincts.

In recent years, precinct stakeholders have taken on a greater role in bringing life to their precincts. For example, SRO, Club Street Association and One Kampong Gelam organise weekend car-free zones while ORBA, Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association and Chinatown Business Association organise festive and cultural activities that add life and vibrancy to their precincts.

However, most of these place management initiatives are limited in scope due to the voluntary nature of participation and contribution from stakeholders. It leads to a free-rider problem where stakeholders can choose not to contribute but get to benefit from the contributions of others. The lack of certainty in funding also makes it difficult for precinct associations to make or sustain long-term business plans.

Singapore River One is first pilot Business Improvement District in Singapore

To address these issues, URA has been engaging precinct associations over the last two years to seek feedback on the BID framework – a legislated place management model commonly adopted overseas.

First established in Canada and the United States in the 1960s, BIDs exist around the world today, including Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In cities supported with a legislated BID framework, stakeholders vote to form a BID based on a business plan that is drawn up in consultation with stakeholders. If an agreed threshold of support is met, the legislation will require every eligible stakeholder in the BID to contribute funds to enhance the precinct to increase footfall. This ensures certainty of funding to sustain long-term plans to improve the precinct, and encourages greater stakeholder ownership and participation. Under this model, property owners and business operators are better represented and have a say in the improvement of their precincts. Such a ground-up arrangement empowers businesses to market and enliven their precincts, and has demonstrated in cities where they are implemented that it is a powerful way to transform precincts and sustain their business viability.

SRO has shown strong interest and taken steps towards piloting the framework. Referencing the process of forming a BID, SRO has undergone extensive consultation with their stakeholders, drawn up a four-year business plan to guide their development as a pilot BID, and garnered support from property owners in the precinct to form a pilot BID.

As a newly formed pilot BID, SRO will be rejuvenating Singapore River with a more coordinated approach in marketing and promotion of the stakeholders’ businesses, organising events, as well as managing the use of the recently revamped outdoor dining areas at Boat Quay. They are also looking at the possibility of pedestrianising Circular Road to transform the street into a public space. To better involve stakeholders in creating an attractive precinct, SRO has gathered Boat Quay stakeholders to form a Pub Watch Group to keep a close watch on ground issues to allow them to address them in a proactive manner.

Executive Director of SRO, Michelle Koh, said, “BID is a tried and tested model in many countries, helping towns and cities to bring stakeholders together to shape the vision and deliver projects and services for their districts. There is potential in implementing the model here to generate positive outcomes for the Singapore River precinct, and we are happy to have our stakeholders on board with us for this journey. We have held several successful initiatives, such as the enhancement of the Boat Quay outdoor dining areas and the weekend car-free zone initiative at Circular Road, and we look forward to exploring more opportunities as a pilot BID”.

Invitation to precincts to trial Business Improvement District framework

Early this year, the CFE recommended that the government study the feasibility of enacting legislation for a BID framework to empower stakeholders to take greater ownership of their precincts. To further assess the stakeholders’ support towards such a framework, URA is inviting more stakeholders from a wider mix of precincts – either from existing precinct associations or new groups of stakeholders who are not part of an existing precinct association, to form pilot BIDs. To help pilot BIDs kick-start their place management efforts, the government will provide dollar-for-dollar matching for the collected membership fees at a cap of $500,000 per year for the first four-year pilot BID programme.

Interested stakeholders can express their interest with URA. URA will help to facilitate initial stakeholder engagement to guide precincts through the process of forming a BID. Interested precincts can then submit a formal Expression of Interest (EOI) with a proposal outlining broad ideas to bring vibrancy to the precinct over four years, preliminary support from key stakeholders, estimated membership fees to be collected and other funding sources to sustain the business model.

Based on the strength of the EOI, URA will invite precincts which demonstrate a good understanding of BIDs and have the commitment and support of key stakeholders  to form pilot BIDs. These precincts will be required to develop a detailed business plan in consultation with their stakeholders and get at least 51% support from stakeholders in their respective precincts to form pilot BIDs.

Interested precincts can send in their enquiries at bid_feedback@ura.gov.sg. EOI submissions will close by 31 March 2018.

A documentation of Singapore’s place management journey

Members of the public can learn more about Singapore’s place management journey at the  “Making Places Great” exhibition, held at the main entrance of The URA Centre, from 5 to 28 September 2017.

The exhibition showcases local efforts of precinct associations, as well as individual efforts supported by community-led programmes such as URA’s Streets for People and Our Favourite Place. Taking reference from formal place management models adopted by other countries, the exhibition also explores the possibility of adopting the BID framework in Singapore.

The exhibition also showcases 102 ideas submitted for the third edition of “My Ideas for Public Spaces: Pop-up Projects” competition, including six winning ideas and six merit award ideas. An initiative under URA’s Our Favourite Place programme, the competition invited the public to submit ideas of delightful pop-up installations that can enliven public spaces and engage communities through social bonding. URA will explore the possibility of implementing the winning ideas, and welcomes precinct associations and community partners to adopt these ideas and bring them to life in their neighbourhoods.