Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hougang gets hip

If they were reality makeover show contestants, Hougang, East Coast and Jurong are set to look like a billion bucks.

Under the second phase of the Housing Development Board's Remaking Our Heartland programme, the mature estates will undergo a $1-billion rejuvenation over the next five years.

The nip and tuck include new riverfront housing for Hougang, an outdoor play corridor for East Coast and new community plazas in Jurong.

First announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2007, the initiative started with Punggol, Yishun and Dawson. Waterfront parks, cycling paths and designer HDB blocks are now being built there.

Here is a look at the upcoming changes in Hougang, East Coast and Jurong:


Swanky Sentosa Cove, housing estate River Vista @ Kallang and the upcoming Waterway Terraces residential estate in Punggol will not be the only places where home owners can enjoy waterfront living.

New public housing to be developed in the next five years along Serangoon Reservoir will boast unblocked water views. HDB will announce more details on the project at a later date.

An observation deck, open plaza space, a shopping area and eating places will be built within this housing estate.

Dr Chong Fook Loong, HDB's deputy director of physical planning, says the developments will allow more people 'to get close to the water'.

The riverfront housing estate will be built at the Old Kangkar Port, which used to be an important wholesale fishing centre. This spot is also where a major road, Upper Serangoon Road, ends.

A 4.2km stretch of the road, which dates back to 1822, will be turned into a Heritage Corridor: Information boards tracing its history and surrounds will be put up in key spots, such as the 6th milestone, or lak kor chiok in Teochew.

For a nostalgic feel, a market square will be built on a currently empty plot next to Heartland Mall shopping centre and Kovan MRT station. 'It will have spaces for kiosks and storyboards of the past,' says Dr Chong. 'Even old movies can be screened there.'

A heritage corner will be set up in Hougang Central to tell the town's story.

Many of the Chinese residents in Hougang speak Teochew as they were originally from Kampong Ponggol, which was a predominantly Teochew community. The area used to be dotted with pig farms.

'With a focus on heritage for the area, the older residents will recall the nostalgic lifestyle, while the younger generation will be more aware of the area's past.'

The rejuvenation is not all about heritage, though. Hougang Walk, a 1km-long pedestrian path, will be created along an existing canal. It connects the Hougang Sports Complex to Punggol Park and Serangoon Reservoir. When completed, walking along the canal will be a more aesthetically pleasing experience.

Mr Lim Yong Hock, a senior vice- president at PropNex real estate firm, says improvements to a mature estate such as Hougang will definitely improve the quality of lifestyle.

As to whether such improvements will raise the estate's value, he says: 'There will be a clear indication only when the improvements are completed. There is unlikely to be a substantial impact on the property value in the meantime.'

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