Three themes to drive masterplan for Somerset Belt

The finalised masterplan for transforming Somerset into a youth-oriented area will be revealed in the next three months.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Youth hub plan set to adopt elements like ‘urban culture’ distilled from ideas by young people

A finalised masterplan for transforming Somerset into a youth-oriented area will be revealed in the next three months, The Straits Times has learnt.

The masterplan will be guided by three key themes – “urban culture”, “adaptable architecture” and “future ready” – distilled from ideas from thousands of young people, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in response to ST queries.

Feedback on the themes from youth – defined by the Government as those aged 15 to 35 – was also gathered through roadshows and an online poll held over the past two months, and will be considered in refining the Somerset Belt masterplan, the spokesman added.

“More information on future plans for the Belt, along with the finalised masterplan, is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2020,” he said.

The Somerset Belt refers to the area surrounding Somerset MRT station, from *Scape and Cathay Cineleisure Orchard to the junction of Somerset and Killiney roads. It also includes The Red Box, TripleOne Somerset and Somerset Skate Park.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng, who co-leads the Somerset Belt working panel, said the process of working with young people and other stakeholders has been a rewarding one.

“We went out on quite a lot of different platforms to get public input, especially from the youth community, which helped facilitate the intent of the project,” he told ST.

Since the initiative was first announced in March last year, the panel has used social media, online and face-to-face conversations, workshops and also a “public prototype day” to gather feedback, with more than 14,000 young people having participated by July.

Ideas that have been brought to the table include walkways made from old MRT train cabins, pavilions repurposed from nostalgic orange-and-white bus stops, and road crossings given a splash of colour with floor murals.

Commenting on the three design themes, veteran urban planner Steven Choo said he liked the idea of having adaptable architecture, and was glad young people had been given a say.

“Structures that can be easily repurposed – like those with modular elements – suit the young, as they can evolve with their needs and are great fun, which unleashes creativity,” said Dr Choo, chairman of real estate advisory firm VestAsia Group.

But he feels “urban culture” or ideas such as murals are trickier, given that culture evolves and needs to be something original and not contrived.

“Youth culture, being what it is, is fleeting. Whether it will work depends on how well it can connect to the people, and this will move quickly. Ultimately, young people themselves must decide,” he said.

Mr Baey said the masterplan will be rolled out in phases, with an evolving timeframe, adding that what might work now may not work later.

“We want to keep that white space there – whether physically or conceptually – so that we can respond quickly to the changing demands of young people,” he said.

The Somerset Belt initiative is part of a plan first announced in Parliament in March last year to involve young Singaporeans in policymaking.

Called SG Youth Action Plan, it has engaged over 40,000 young people since May to help articulate a vision for the Republic in 2025.

“Source:[Three themes to drive masterplan for Somerset Belt] © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction”

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