History of Toa Payoh

Named after the words ‘big swamp’ (toa means big in Hokkien and Teochew, while payoh is a loanword from the Malay word paya which means swamp), Toa Payoh is Singapore’s first HDB-planned-and-built satellite town.

The area was once a swampland filled with pig farms, but has since been developed to become one of the most populated public housing estates in Singapore. Apart from being the first town planned and developed by HDB, Toa Payoh is also a very special town as it pioneered many of the country’s “first” projects including Toa Payoh Bus Interchange – the first air-conditioned bus interchange in Singapore – opened in 2002; Toa Payoh MRT station was the first train station to be built as part of the six kilometre North South Line from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh – opened in 1987; it was the first town to host the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games (SEAP Games, now known as the Southeast Asian Games) in 1973; and Toa Payoh was where Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to public housing flats in 1972.

What’s in Toa Payoh

Developed as a self-contained satellite town, there are plenty of amenities in Toa Payoh including shops, schools, markets, clinics, cinemas, community centres, hawker centres, places of worship, and more – basically everything that residents need.

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Toa Payoh in the next 10 years

The oldest HDB town in Singapore, Toa Payoh will undergo a facelift in the coming years, which will include the construction of a few thousand new flats. This is part of HDB’s Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, which will also include a facelift for the iconic pedestrian mall in the town centre.

The two new public housing areas in Toa Payoh have been identified: a 10ha site next to the Caldecott MRT station on the Circle Line and the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line in Toa Payoh, and a 4ha site in Toa Payoh East, next to the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery. While the exact number of new flats has not been announced, analysts say that the two plots could fit approximately 5,000 units, depending on the flat sizes.

Besides the new housing projects, Toa Payoh’s iconic town centre will be rejuvenated. The 440m pedestrian mall, stretching from Block 175 to the public library and open plaza fronting the HDB Hub and Courts furniture store, will be upgraded with landscaping, more seating spaces and sheltered rest areas, making it more conducive for residents to mingle.

While new developments have been planned for Toa Payoh, efforts will also be made to preserve the charm and rich heritage of the mature town. The elevated garden in front of Block 184 in the town centre will be transformed into a first-of-its-kind Arts and Heritage Corner, where there will be storyboards on the history of the estate, as well as a model of the town centre. Markers will also dot the town at iconic spots such as the Dragon Playground and the Unique Y-shaped Block 53.

Nature lovers will be pleased to know that part of the rejuvenation plans include more greenery around the estate – seven new mini parks along Toa Payoh Ring Road have been planned, allowing residents to take leisurely walks or work out at the fitness stations. The 4km loop, bound by Lorong 1 and Lorong 6 Toa Payoh, will have a new scenic Nature Way with flowering plants to attract birds and butterflies. It will also comprise plant species that reflect the estate’s agricultural past, such as nutmeg and pepper. Seven new pocket parks will be introduced along the route.

As a large population of the residents living in Toa Payoh are elderly folks – three in 10 residents are aged 60 and above – all five neighbourhood centres in the town will be equipped with elderly-friendly features such as ramps and handrails. Lorong 8/8A and Lorong 5 will also be designated as Silver Zones, where there will be additional features to make it easier and safer for seniors to move around, such as levelled pavements.

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Given their central location, the new housing developments in Toa Payoh are expected to be much sought-after by home buyers. The flats in Toa Payoh are the nearest HDB estate to the Orchard Road shopping district by MRT, and the estate offers residents with everything they need, from entertainment, dining, and shopping options to schools and hawker centres.

While there are plenty of facilities and amenities in Toa Payoh, the new housing developments and rejuvenation works will definitely energise the whole estate.