LTA mulls over leasing out land under MRT viaducts for commercial, community use

Published: Jan 31, 2024 by 
PropertyGiant Singapore
The plots are also managed by various government agencies. At the Yishun site, there is a park connector running through it that the National Parks Board oversees. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI
The plots are also managed by various government agencies. At the Yishun site, there is a park connector running through it that the National Parks Board oversees. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Land plots underneath rail viaducts next to Yishun and Choa Chu Kang MRT stations may be leased out for commercial or community use in the coming years, if a study shows such a project is viable.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) called a tender on Jan 19 for a property valuer to assess open-market rental rates for the two sites in Yishun and Choa Chu Kang, each measuring about 5,000 sq m in land area.

The site in Yishun is a narrow strip of land starting near Block 749 Yishun Street 72 and ending near Block 757 on the same street.

The space in Choa Chu Kang is split into three plots – one near Keat Hong Community Club, another near Block 346 Choa Chu Kang Loop, and a final segment near Block 345 Choa Chu Kang Loop.

Responding to queries, LTA said it and the Ministry of Transport are exploring the possible use of sites next to MRT stations as part of efforts to increase vibrancy around the stations.

The study is still at an early stage, so issues such as land ownership will be considered later if LTA decides to, or is able to, proceed with the project, it added.

According to tender documents, the land plots in Yishun and Choa Chu Kang earmarked for the study comprise state land and Housing Board-owned land.

The plots are also managed by various government agencies. At the Yishun site, for instance, there is a park connector running through it that the National Parks Board oversees.

Asked about the commercial or community purposes it envisages the sites will be used for, LTA said it plans to consult stakeholders such as relevant government agencies, social and business entities, and local grassroots advisers, if it decides to proceed with the project.

According to tender documents, LTA’s plan is to lease out each site to a prospective operator, who will pay rent to the authority and sublet spaces at each location to tenants.

The prospective operator will have to bear the cost of civil, electrical and mechanical works to fit out the site, so that it is in a rentable condition. These works are estimated to cost $7.04 million for each location.

LTA said in its tender that the rent it intends to charge will correspond to the value of each site, and take into account the project term and capital expenditure borne by the operators.

The plan is for construction at the two sites to start in January 2025 and last until 2027. The sites will be occupied for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years, inclusive of the two-year construction period.

The viaduct outside Choa Chu Kang MRT station on Jan 26. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

The appointed property valuer is expected to provide LTA with analysis and advice on open-market rental rates for the two sites, based on these parameters and overall market conditions.

The valuer will also have to carry out a comparative study of equivalent properties.

In its reply to The Straits Times, LTA noted that similar projects under viaducts have been introduced successfully in countries such as Japan.

One example is the Koganecho area in Yokohama, where a 100m stretch of land beneath a train overpass was turned into a meeting space, an open-air piazza, an art studio, an art gallery and a cafe, among other things.

It is not the first time LTA has mooted repurposing the space underneath rail viaducts.

In 2022, for instance, it proposed turning a section of the rail viaduct near Tanah Merah MRT station – and the space below it – into a green corridor for walking and cycling after the 1km stretch is withdrawn from use in 2026.

In November 2023, LTA made an open call for ideas from the public, and the agency is in the process of reviewing submissions.

In addition, the authority is looking at how it can repurpose Changi Depot, which houses trains, after it is replaced by the upcoming East Coast Integrated Depot for trains and buses in 2025. Ideas for this were also sought during the 2023 open call.

The LTA called a tender on Jan 19 for a property valuer to assess open-market rental rates for the two sites in Yishun and Choa Chu Kang, each measuring about 5,000 sq m in land area. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Mr Michael Leong, deputy chief executive of architectural firm SAA Architects, said that leveraging underutilised spaces beneath rail viaducts is a step in the right direction, considering Singapore’s land scarcity.

“There are exciting opportunities to create inclusive spaces that cater to a diverse range of activities and users, such as flea markets, art galleries, farming plots, or social enterprises,” he added.

Ms Ray Krishna, head of the Singapore smart mobility department at consultancy firm Ramboll, said the rent for such spaces under viaducts may be more affordable for small businesses that are just starting out and testing their commercial viability.

“From a safety aspect, these areas will no longer be quiet and gloomy when they have a purpose,” she added.

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim welcomed LTA’s plans to develop the spaces underneath rail viaducts in his Keat Hong ward, as this will maximise their use.

He pointed to existing infrastructure such as a water playground underneath the LRT viaduct near Keat Hong Community Club and the pop-up space next to it, where young people can learn about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

He also noted that the LRT and MRT viaducts in Choa Chu Kang connect to Tembusu Park, which is being rejuvenated.

“There is potential to create a seamless corridor of community and commercial spaces,” he said.

Nee Soon GRC MP Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that LTA’s project will complement plans to rejuvenate Nee Soon, noting that the proposed Yishun site is near key transport nodes with high foot traffic.

“It is a smart way to turn dead space into something functional and new – a place for people to come together, make new friends and strengthen existing bonds,” added Associate Professor Faishal, who is also Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development.

Credit : THE STRAITS TIMES

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