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Eye on Punggol: A family-friendly neighbourhood

Punggol is an up-and-coming modern housing estate.

Punggol is a popular estate among younger Singaporeans due to its many new HDB flats which offer waterfront living.

By Joanne Poh

No other neighbourhood in Singapore has undergone such a dramatic transformation over the past decade than Punggol.

Around 10 years ago, Punggol was little more than a sparsely-populated riverside area, where water sports enthusiasts would occasionally venture.

Today, it is one of Singapore’s most prominent non-mature residential towns, and has become a magnet for newlywed couples and young families due to the proliferation of new HDB flats in the area.

A turbulent past

The name Punggol is said to be derived from the Malay word ponggol, which refers to the act of throwing sticks at tree branches in a bid to harvest fruit, and suggests that fruit-growing was one of the area’s major industries.

The Punggol area was previously a rural settlement housing rubber plantations and supported other types of agricultural establishments such as fish, poultry, pig, hydroponic vegetable and orchid farms. While the area was originally settled by Malays, it later became a predominantly Teochew and Catholic area.

Punggol also played a grisly role in World War II’s Sook Ching massacre, when some 400 civilians were killed by the Japanese at Punggol Point, the area’s northernmost point. The incident is now referred to as the Punggol Beach Massacre. A war memorial has been erected at Punggol Point in remembrance of the victims.

Beginning in the 1960s, Punggol became known as a waterfront location populated mainly by seafood restaurants and watersports facilities thanks to amenities for wakeboarders, waterskiing and boating enthusiasts. But it was only in 2007 that the area’s transformation into one of Singapore’s most well-known non-mature estates began.

The development of present-day Punggol had been anticipated since the 1990s, but due to the turmoil of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, it was put on the back-burner for a decade. In 2007, the Punggol 21 Plus plan was finally announced, under which the area would be developed into the waterfront town it is today.

An eco-town for families

Present-day Punggol consists of seven districts named Canal, Crescent, Punggol Point, Matilda, Northshore, Waterway East and Waterway West.

Under the Punggol 21 Plus plan, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon were transformed into Punggol Waterway, a reservoir and waterway that have become Punggol’s defining feature. Punggol Waterway is 4.2km-long and runs through the neighbourhood, offering residents the opportunity to enjoy true waterfront living.

Punggol is also Singapore’s first eco-town. The residential estate has been developed in tandem with several sustainability initiatives. In particular, management of water, energy and waste has been designed to prioritise sustainability.

Anna Lim, a lawyer who lives in Punggol with her two young children, cites Punggol’s family-friendliness as a key draw.

“There are a lot of child-friendly amenities,” she said. “There is no shortage of playgrounds in each HDB development. There is also a lovely waterway park with sand play and water play areas for the kids.”

She recommends Punggol Settlement, which is now a chic dining and entertainment hotspot housing clusters of cafes, bars and restaurants. The area is home to a wide variety of waterfront dining establishments including several well-known seafood restaurants as well as Thai, Japanese and local options.

Despite the surge in popularity of Punggol amongst young families, it is a non-mature estate and is thus an excellent option for investors as property prices are currently significantly lower than those in nearby mature towns such as Ang Mo Kio or the city fringe areas. As Punggol undergoes further development, prices are sure to rise, which offers current investors the opportunity to enjoy good capital appreciation.

Punggol’s defining landmark is most certainly Punggol Waterway Park, which has attracted curious visitors from all over Singapore and is a favourite weekend destination for many residents. The park is divided into four zones: Nature Zone, Recreational Zone, Heritage Zone and Green Gallery, and contains amenities such as cycling and jogging tracks which line the waterway. It is linked to the Park Connector Network’s North Eastern Riverine Cycling Trail, and will eventually be connected to the Round Island Route.

Punggol also has its own island. Coney Island, which measures 50ha and is located just off the coast at Punggol Point Park, can be accessed by a bridge and is home to more than 80 bird species as well as several contrasting habitats, including mangrove and grassland.

Punggol residents are connected to Punggol MRT station on the North-East Line via the Punggol LRT Line, as well as bus services that terminate at Punggol bus interchange, which is located beside the MRT station. The Tampines Expressway and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway are highways which link the area to the expressway network.

Lorong Halus bridge
Lorong Halus bridge

The Lorong Halus Bridge at Punggol Waterway.

A fast-growing neighbourhood

Development in Punggol is currently ongoing. The seven subzones are being developed into distinct waterfront districts, each with its own theme, that will be walkable and green.

Current residents of Punggol already enjoy a range of amenities, including the recently opened Waterway Point, which comprises shops and eateries. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is in store for future residents.

Punggol’s new town square is being developed into a community space with sweeping views over the waterway. More facilities such as a community club, regional library and hawker centre are on the way. Meanwhile, Punggol Point is being developed into a recreational centre to rival East Coast Park with F&B outlets to draw the crowds. It currently boasts breathtaking views of the coastline thanks to a 300 sq m viewing deck.

Current sports and recreational facilities like the completed SAFRA Punggol clubhouse, which is equipped with an indoor water playground, will soon be complemented by an upcoming regional sports centre that will be integrated with Punggol Waterway.

According to Edmund Ee, group division director at PropNex Realty, the Global Indian International School’s Punggol campus at Punggol Field Walk, which should be ready by the first half of 2018, is expected to bring foreign students to the area and in turn raise demand for rental units.

Ee also pointed to the new Punggol Coast station on the North-East MRT Line, which is expected to open in 2023, as a major pull factor, as it is expected to greatly boost connectivity in the area.

The station was initially supposed to be opened by 2030, but plans have been accelerated in order to serve the residential developments in Punggol North and in the Northshore and Punggol Point areas. When the Punggol Coast station opens, it will connect commuters to City Hall station in about 30 minutes.

But it is the impending development of a Creative Cluster in Punggol which, in Ee’s opinion, will truly transform Punggol. The Creative Cluster will be a space for innovative new industries, generating employment opportunities in the area.

“Alongside the Cluster, a Learning Corridor will see the addition of a new tertiary institution, which will act as a catalyst for growth and forge fresh synergies with industries and the community,” said Ee.

Did you know?

-One in 10 of Punggol’s residents is under the age of four, which has earned the neighbourhood the moniker of Singapore’s baby town.

– Punggol’s population has grown by more than 44 percent over the past two years, and is expected to rise by another 30 percent, which makes it one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in Singapore.

– Punggol Waterway has been the recipient of numerous awards. In 2012, it was named Global Grand Winner in the planning category and won the Global Superior Achievement Award. Both awards were conferred by the International Water Association.

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