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SINGAPORE: The Republic’s first government-built neighbourhood centres in over a decade will be significantly upgraded from their more functional counterparts seen in the heartlands now.

Located in new estates in Punggol, Hougang and Sembawang, the four new neighbourhood centres will sport waterfront features, lush terraces, and connections to public transport, and have “green” systems like rainwater harvesting. This will benefit executive condo residents such as those from The Terrace EC and Amore EC in Punggol as well as The Visionaire EC , Brownstone EC and Parc Life EC in Sembawang.

Built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), they will be completed over the next three years, ensuring that residents get ready access to facilities once they move into their new homes.

All four will have a sheltered community plaza where residents can come together and mingle over daily activities or community events. “We want to plan towns that are well designed, sustainable as well as community-centric; HDB is not just a developer and master planner, we also play a social role,” said Mr Fong Chun Wah, Group Director (Development and Procurement) of HDB.

Each NC is expected to serve about 5,000 to 6,000 households. Designed based on public feedback, they will be one-stop centres offering a wide variety of amenities, like supermarkets, food courts, and other dining and retail options. All four will be designed to link to transport nodes, like an existing or upcoming MRT or LRT station, or a bus stop.

Oasis Terraces, which is situated next to Oasis LRT station at Punggol Waterway, will resemble a landscaped hill, featuring cascading gardens and scenic views of the waterfront. It will also house the Punggol Polyclinic operated by SingHealth Polyclinics - set to be one of the largest polyclinics in Singapore.

Over at Northshore Plaza, the centre will be a test bed for technologies like smart fans, lighting, and an electronic carpark monitoring system, in line with Punggol Northshore’s goal to be the first “Smart and Sustainable District” in Singapore.

In Sembawang, the three-storey Canberra Plaza will contain 11,000 sqm of floor space for an event plaza, a water playground for children, food courts, restaurants, and enrichment centres. An elevated link bridge will connect the centre directly to the future Canberra MRT station.

And residents in Hougang can look forward to Buangkok Square, which will have a sheltered community plaza integrated with a neighbourhood park, where they can stroll around rain gardens, and enjoy facilities like playgrounds and fitness stations.
The last neighbourhood centres built by the HDB were Pioneer Mall and Punggol Plaza, which were completed in 2004. The HDB had stopped doing so to “increase private sector participation in the provision of commercial facilities in HDB Towns”.

On why it had taken back the reins from private developers, the HDB said private developers usually only build neighbourhood centres if there is a large enough residential population to support their business operations, thus creating inconvenience to residents. Hence, HDB took over to better meet residents’ needs.

As the developments of these new NCs are still in the early stages, the cost of building them, and estimated rental rates are not available at this juncture, said an HDB spokesperson.

Asked whether these new-and-improved neighbourhood centres would displace the mom-and-pop shops, the HDB stressed that these centres serve different needs. Said Mr Fong: “The mom-and-pop shops are really convenient stops for residents - if you want to buy a loaf of bread or some toothpaste, you can just run down and buy, and you don’t have to go all the way to the neighbourhood centre or town centre. Each type of (development) plays its own role.”