Urban Regeneration - Bringing Vibrancy to
​​​​​​​Light Industrial Zones

Singapore is an urban laboratory where various new urban initiatives are tried and tested. The integration of multiple uses in one development is an initiative that has been well-executed and well-worth observing. Such developments, including Our Tampines Hub and Hearbeat@Bedok, integrate various community facilities under one roof to create a vibrant multi-purpose environment, optimise land use and add a unique character to the city. These developments have the advantage of being relatively close to Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations, which increase their accessibility and reduce the need for excessive car parking facilities. Singapore Sports Hub and Yishun’s Northpoint City are examples of how this integration created a unique and vibrant environment, improved efficiency and rejuvenated the surrounding areas.

While these initiatives deserve applause, more could be done to our industrial zones. Industrial activities in Singapore have evolved towards light and clean industries, and some industrial buildings here have changed from monotonous blocks to architectural creations. However, most light industrial areas in Singapore remain largely an urban backyard - quiet, lifeless and dark after office hours. Even though attractive showrooms that welcome visitors are located on the ground floor, they are not designed with complementary amenities to be an attractive place for people to socialise, and are usually closed after operating hours.

An attempt to allow religious activities to be held in industrial buildings did not bring much change; perhaps because it was not promoted, and perhaps also due in part to the perception of industrial zones as secluded and even unsafe. It is a pity because religious activities, mostly held during weekends and after office hours, would be a good fit for industrial zones. With improvements in lighting, security and accessibility by public transport, religious activities could generate commercial viability and put car parking facilities to use.

An unusual example of a vibrant and attractive light industrial area is the development of the cluster around Tai Seng MRT station, where BreadTalk, Sakae Building and 18 Tai Seng are located. This development exemplifies how a mix of uses and urban design guidelines can be introduced to create a vibrant strip with high and wide covered walkways, F&B outlets and an open public plaza that leads to the underground MRT station. While not yet fully optimised, such spaces open up opportunities for various events and festivals to happen after office hours and during weekends.

While urban spaces within industrial zones may be less attractive than high-rental ones in CBD or residential areas, they offer an economical alternative for events and small businesses, giving would-be entrepreneurs a leg up. With well-designed spaces and astute management, attractive evening activities such as flea markets, food-streets, and arts and crafts bazaars could be introduced to enrich these areas. In the near future, with the expansion of the MRT network, it would be beneficial to integrate the stations with parts of light industrial zones, so that these areas can be regenerated as attractive urban spaces with a good mix of uses. Not only will this optimise land use and make good use of existing parking facilities, but they will also create more work-and-play settings while adding variety to lifestyle destinations.

Linking light industrial zones with public transport network will help to increase commercial potential.

Light industrial zones, with astute planning, can be regenerated as vibrant urban spaces with attractive evening and weekend activities; not only can this optimise land use, it can also boost commercial viability.

An artist's rendering of a light industrial cluster integrated with lifestyle programmes and public plazas.

Djoko Prihanto
Djoko Prihanto is the Director of Urban Planning and Design at DP Architects. He has over 25 years of experience in regional and city planning, and urban design in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.