To attract more residents and businesses to the CBD, plans for increasing amenities such as grocery stores, coffee shops and encouraging a more exciting dining and bar scene have been implemented.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of the hybrid-working model, posing a threat to Singapore’s financial district, which is underpinned by an office-based employment model.
The stakes are high for the city-state since its economic success depends on retaining its appeal to top foreign companies within its Central Business District (CBD) – which are currently worth more than US$50 billion (S$67.9 billion), according to a Bloomberg analysis of top-flight offices in developers’ financial reports.
As of the last week of September, workplace activity in the CBD was down by 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels, showed Google mobility data. This comes as the city-state takes a cautious approach in reopening even as it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, reported Bloomberg.
“Past definitions of a successful business and financial district are no longer relevant,” said a spokesperson from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as quoted by Bloomberg.
“The portrait of a successful CBD today is strikingly different from the mono-use office districts of yesteryear.”
Nonetheless, plans to transform the CBD into a more attractive place to live and work has been on the agenda of Singapore’s city planners.
Plans to attract businesses and residents to the area include injecting more amenities like coffee shops and supermarkets, as well as encouraging a more vibrant restaurant and bar scene.
And while the city-state is playing catch-up with its global peers when it comes to after-hours attractions, progress is already being made.
In 2019, the Singapore government rolled out a scheme encouraging property owners to convert older office buildings into mixed-use developments such as residences, hotels and lifestyle amenities.
Authorities also required developers to incorporate privately-owned public spaces within the compounds of their office buildings.
Plans to revitalise the city include featuring more cycle paths and pedestrianised zones to make it easier for residents to explore the area on foot.
The Government’s rejuvenation efforts have lured tech giants, with TikTok owner ByteDance opening a new office within the city centre, while Alibaba Group Holdings is building a new office on Shenton Way, an older portion of the business district that is in much need of rejuvenation.
“Failure to reinvigorate the older sections of the financial district would very soon make them irrelevant and unattractive to companies dealing with the new economy and digital finance,” said Savills Singapore’s Executive Director of Research Alan Cheong as quoted by Bloomberg.
The Government also eyes to bring public housing, the affordable apartments which house over 80% of Singapore’s population, to the financial district.
In an article published in The Straits Times in June, Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah said housing in prime locations should not be restricted “only to the rich and affluent”.
However, there are dilemmas like ensuring homes in such an expensive area remain affordable and that owners are not only buying to cash them out later. With this, authorities are looking into the plans while consulting the public.
Christine Sun, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at OrangeTee & Tie, said city-centre homes might particularly appeal to younger Singaporeans, adding that outdoor playgrounds as well as cheaper eateries will be needed to cater to such demographic.
“If you want people to come back to offices, it’s no longer purely just for work. You need retail, food, living, fun,” said Ada Choi, Head of Occupier Research, Data Intelligence and Management for Asia-Pacific at CBRE.
“The biggest, biggest challenge is that you are not only designing the physical aspect — you have to think about the experience that you are going to have within that area.”
Cheryl Chiew, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact her about this story, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.