Plans to transform Orchard Road, create more buzz in CBD

Shoppers in Orchard Road may one day find themselves in a lush urban corridor that connects to the Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park, based on plans to rejuvenate the central area.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan, released yesterday, also includes other initiatives to revitalise the central area, such as tapping vacant state properties in the Central Business District (CBD) for short-term use to bring about greater footfall.

The plan also includes the introduction of two schemes to incentivise developers to convert ageing developments to other purposes, such as hotels and residential use.

“Increased global competition, changing trends and lifestyle aspirations mean that our city centre needs to maintain its competitive edge and dynamism through continued growth and rejuvenation,” said the URA in a statement.

Orchard Road will be divided into four sub-precincts, each offering a different experience. The 2.4km stretch may also see a car-free portion to connect green spaces, as well as new retail concepts, attractions, entertainment options and events.

A solution to generate more vibrancy in the CBD is to tap vacant state properties, said URA chief planner Hwang Yu-Ning to the media in an earlier briefing on Monday.

These buildings can be used to test-bed new ideas and events. Some of these vacant buildings are in Maxwell Road and Sultan Gate.

The CBD Incentive Scheme will give developers a higher gross plot ratio – the permissible development intensity of a land parcel – to encourage them to turn older offices into mixed-use buildings. The scheme will kick in when the Master Plan is gazetted, which is expected to be later this year.

Under the Strategic Development Incentive (SDI) Scheme, which took effect yesterday, developments islandwide may be able to increase their gross plot ratio or attain flexibility on other development controls if they have innovative proposals that transform the precinct. Such ideas include the provision of high-quality public spaces, car-lite measures and conservation efforts, for example.

To qualify, the buildings must have a minimum age of 20 years from the date of the last temporary occupation permit. Submissions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Jason Leow, president (Asia and retail) of CapitaLand Group, which owns and manages a network of properties in the central area, called the Draft Master Plan “a positive move in promoting ground-up ownership of and private participation in the urban rejuvenation of Singapore’s built environment”.

Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of property consultancy ZACD Group, said owners of ageing retail malls outside the central area may be attracted to the SDI Scheme, as these developments face dwindling footfall due to changing consumer habits amid a rise in e-commerce.

“These owners are likely to welcome incentives which encourage redevelopment and possible conversion of uses to inject more life and vibrancy in the area,” he said.

Ms Christine Li, senior director and head of research at property firm Cushman & Wakefield, said the CBD Incentive Scheme may indirectly cause CBD office rents to rise.

“Given that there could be a wave of redevelopments into residential and hotel segments to tap the CBD Incentive Scheme, office supply in the medium term could be even tighter if there are more conversions of office developments into residences and hotels,” she said.

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