Jurong Regional Library to be relocated as URA further develops Jurong Lake District

The library is set to be replaced by a residential development with shops on its first storey. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE – The Jurong Regional Library will be relocated as part of the next phase of development for Jurong Lake District, which will focus on the area south of Jurong East MRT station.

According to a proposed amendment to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) master plan published on Oct 14, the library is set to be replaced by a residential development with shops on its first storey.

The proposed changes – which also include new development plots south of Jurong Town Hall Road and a new road network in the Science Centre area – will affect three other developments, a URA spokesman told The Straits Times.

The former French-Singapore Institute (12 Science Centre Road) and German-Singapore Institute (10 Science Centre Road) will be redeveloped, while Science Centre Singapore’s extension – The Annexe – and its surface carpark will be affected by the proposed amendment.

In a statement, the National Library Board (NLB) said it is aware of URA’s plans to redevelop the area where the library is located, adding that it is currently “working out plans for the replacement library”. More details will be announced when ready, added NLB, without saying when the library would move.

The regional library was officially opened in August 1988 as Jurong East Community Library – the eighth full-time branch of the National Library. It underwent refurbishment and, in June 2004, reopened as Singapore’s third regional library, after Tampines Regional Library (1994) and Woodlands Regional Library (2001). With a 12,020 sq m floor area spanning four floors and a basement, it was at that point the largest regional library.

The URA spokesman said the agency is focusing its development efforts south of the MRT station and on the site of the former Jurong Country Club over the next 15 to 20 years.

He noted that since the blueprint for Jurong Lake District was unveiled in 2008, the area surrounding the MRT station has “become a vibrant commercial node with a critical mass of mixed-use developments”. The coming changes will “build on the growth momentum and anchor Jurong Lake District as the largest mixed-use business district outside the city centre”, he added.

Over the past decade, several developments have opened in the area, such as JCube in 2012, Westgate and Jem in 2013, and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital in 2015.

An integrated transport hub, which the Land Transport Authority will have offices in, is slated to be completed in 2027, while CapitaLand Development is looking to redevelop JCube mall into a mixed-use residential development.

The proposed amendment added five development plots in the Science Centre Road area. Most of these plots have areas of about 1ha to 1.5ha, said the URA spokesman, adding the plots are mostly zoned white to give developers the flexibility to provide a mix of uses such as offices, homes, shops and hotels, in line with changing economic and social needs. To cater to evolving business needs, bigger plots may also be sub-divided into smaller ones, he said.

The changes affect the former French-Singapore and former German-Singapore institutes, which were set up by the Economic Development Board as joint training institutes with foreign governments to train Singaporeans for new industries like electronics and software. The institutes were transferred to Nanyang Polytechnic in 1993.

ST reported in January that the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) was studying using the site of the former French-Singapore Institute for its new office building. Of the five new plots, the plot on the institute site is the only one zoned for commercial use, with a plot ratio of 5.6, while the other four are zoned white, which allows for a mix of uses.

In response to queries, an MSE spokesman said on Thursday that the ministry recently awarded a consultancy tender for a proposed new office building at the site of the former French-Singapore Institute.

The former German-Singapore Institute is among the developments affected by URA’s proposed changes. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The Science Centre’s main building will not be affected by the changes, said the URA spokesman.

In May, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said in an interview with ST that the authorities are exploring the possibility of retaining significant elements of the main building, which has an iconic character.

Software engineer Tan Ting Yu, 27, who frequented the regional library in his teens, said it is currently conveniently located near public transport amenities. He hopes its replacement will also be easily accessible.

Despite living closer to other public libraries, he favoured the regional library for its wider selection of books. “It was difficult to find (British novelist) Agatha Christie’s books in other branches, so I went to Jurong to hunt for them,” he said.

Property analysts said the 1ha plot that the library sits on can yield between 400 and 500 units, based on its plot ratio of 4.2.

OrangeTee and Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun said the demand for housing in Jurong is strong among owner-occupiers and investors, who wish to benefit from the area’s “regional hub” status. The area is quite popular with tenants who work in the west, which will draw demand from investors hoping to earn rental income, she added.

ERA Realty head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak noted that the most recent condominium project near Jurong East MRT station, J Gateway, was popular when it launched in 2013. He believes demand for new condos in the area will be strong, due to the absence of such projects near the MRT station over the last few years.

Uban planning consultant Alan Cheong urged caution against the rapid development of Jurong Lake District, citing soft and uncertain economic conditions.

Mr Cheong, the executive director of research and consultancy at Savills Singapore, said the parcels are presently more suited for mixed residential use than purely commercial developments, as the Covid-19 pandemic has entrenched hybrid working arrangements, which will decrease demand for office space.

With environmental concerns becoming more pervasive, he said workers may also increasingly refrain from commuting to the office daily to reduce their carbon footprint, which will in turn affect office space demand.

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