Eye on Jurong: Westward bound

Romesh Navaratnarajah23 May 2015

Westwood Residences

A highly industrialised estate set to play a key role in the upcoming Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high speed rail project, Jurong has come a long way from its colonial-era days. We find out what’s in store for this west-side town.

The name Jurong is synonymous with industrial operations amid the wonders of nature, embodying Singapore’s reputation as a Garden City that boasts modern infrastructure.

As it is, housing developments, schools, retail malls, offices and industrial sites are common in the area, making it suitable for a wide range of residents. It is also one of Singapore’s largest estates, consisting of Jurong East and Jurong West.

Still, the Jurong we know today came from decidedly humble beginnings.


Once upon a time

Though pre-independence Singapore was far from a fishing village, Jurong spent the early part of the 20th century as a swampy, low-hilled area abundant in shrubs and numerous rubber plantations, with only a single road connecting it to the rest of Singapore.

The government turned to industrialization to solve the young nation’s economic problems, leading to Jurong being chosen as a prime development spot: its deep coastal waters meant it was a suitable port, its hills served as readily available landfill, and its distance from the city and residential areas made it ideal for heavy industries.

The 1950s saw the progress of Jurong as a primarily industrial estate, with investors opening factories there. Due to manpower issues, housing developments eventually began to take root, giving factory employees an easier commute to work. The formation of the Economic Development Board (EDB) in 1961 further cemented the area’s status as Singapore’s foremost industrial estate, and in 1962, the National Iron and Steel Mills was established. This led to 24 factories being set up in the next year alone, with Jurong Port becoming operational in 1965.

Since then, Jurong has flourished: Jurong Island, connected to the mainland via Jurong Island Causeway, acts as a chemical, oil and petrochemical base, and Jurong itself continues to thrive in both the residential and commercial aspects.


Now and next

One could say Jurong’s development has never really ceased. The government’s 2008 Master Plan earmarked the estate for further enhancement; the Jurong Lake District, comprised of Lakeside and Jurong Gateway, has already seen the establishment of three shopping malls (JCube, Jem and Westgate), as well as an integrated medical hub consisting of Ng Teng Fong Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital. It also boasts its very first hotel, Genting Hotel Jurong.

Corporation Primary School, Yuhua Secondary School, Jurong Junior College, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National Institute of Education (NIE) and Canadian International School are but a fraction of the schools in Jurong. The Science Centre, which has long been a fixture in the area, will be located beside the Chinese Garden MRT station in 2020, as part of Jurong Lake Gardens. Additionally, retail options abound: apart from the three aforementioned malls, IMM, Jurong Point Mega Shopping Centre and Pioneer Mall (among others) also serve Jurong.

Jurong Gateway is set to become Singapore’s largest commercial hub outside the CBD, with 500,000 sqm of office space and 250,000 sqm of retail, F&B and entertainment space to occupy the area. This is in addition to the existing commercial and industrial establishments there, including International Business Park and Tuas Industrial Estate. Moreover, at least 1,000 homes have been planned for Jurong Gateway.


Home sweet homes

Jurong is a highly popular estate for home buyers. From 6 to 14 May this year, it was the most searched estate on PropertyGuru.com.sg for HDB flats for sale, and the most searched executive condominium (EC) on the website was Westwood Residences, an upcoming EC project at Westwood Avenue. As Singapore’s first cycling-themed residential development, it will incorporate features to facilitate a healthy lifestyle for residents, such as an outdoor mini velodrome track, a connecting cycling trail, and bicycle storage. The 99-year leasehold 14-storey project offers 480 two- to five-bedroom units, and is expected to be completed in by 2021.

This follows the success of Lake Life, an earlier Jurong EC that saw 98 percent of its units sold by the second day of its launch. What makes Jurong appealing as a residential estate? Yammie Ho, Associate Senior Team Director at HSR International Realtors, says: “Jurong is developing into a self-sustaining satellite town, where multiple generations can live together in one estate. It also offers very good rental yield and capital gain for HDB and private homes; there is pent-up demand for limited private housing from the HDB dwellers aspiring to upgrade. Corporations and business resettling in Jurong East will also provide tenants, which is good news for residential landlords. Despite the cooling measures, well-priced units are moving very quickly now.”


Green appeal

Despite the prevalence of heavy industries in Jurong, it is also known for its abundance of nature. Chinese Garden lives up to its name, with a stone lion, seven-storey pagoda, bonsai garden and even a turtle and tortoise museum on its grounds. It is connected by a bridge to Japanese Garden, whose design was inspired by the Japanese Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. Chinese Garden is currently being refurbished, in a bid to restore it to its former glory.

Elsewhere in Jurong are the Jurong Bird Park, Pandan Lake and Jurong Lake. Jurong Lake Gardens is underway, with the first phase to be completed in 2017.


Trained for convenience

Already, Jurong is connected to the rest of Singapore via the North-South and East-West MRT lines; Boon Lay, Lakeside, Chinese Garden and Jurong East MRT stations are located in and around the estate. But within the next five years or more, the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high speed rail (HSR) project will be built in Jurong East, where the Jurong Country Club is currently situated.

Christine Li, Director of Research at Cushman & Wakefield, says, “Jurong Gateway is already a major transport hub, so the HSR will allow for seamless connectivity. In addition, vacant land is still available for development, so construction costs will be relatively lower than in the city centre, due to minimal tunnelling. It is also the biggest commercial hub outside the CBD, beating Tuas West.”

This improved connectivity with Malaysia will certainly bring Singapore one step further in its progress as a modern, advanced nation. With so much to anticipate, in addition to its existing residential, commercial and industrial developments, Jurong is a local stalwart that still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.


Transacted prices in Jurong

Image: Artist’s impression of the upcoming Westwood Residences EC.


Article and images contributed by Cheryl Marie Tay.


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