Singapore's very own Lake District JURONG tends to conjure up unflattering images of factories and sleepy suburbia, but the area is slated for a stunning makeover that will transform it into Singapore's only lakeside destination.National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday unveiled a vision for a revamped Jurong, starting with a new name: the Jurong Lake District.The ambitious plan, to be implemented over the next 10 to 15 years, involves building new waterways, 1,000 private homes, 2,800 hotel rooms and adding 750,000 sq m of office and retail space.The Jurong Lake District, which at 360ha is the size of Marina Bay, will consist of two precincts.One is the 70ha Jurong Gateway, which will boast swanky new offices, condos and entertainment features, including an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, all set around Jurong East MRT station.The other is Lakeside, which is being targeted as a hang-out for young families.It will feature a bold new science centre, tourist attractions and parks complemented by water activities, all set around the Chinese Garden and Lakeside MRT stations.Mr Mah told a 500-strong audience at an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) seminar yesterday that many Singaporeans saw Jurong as a suburban residential and industrial area 'located far away from the city centre'.But he described it as a 'gem', with compelling reasons singling it out for redevelopment. It is near established towns, with a large labour force and a population catchment of more than one million residents.It is also a thriving business hub, with more than 3,000 companies - from multinationals to tiny operations - two universities and research centres such as one-north in the vicinity. That made it an ideal business location for cutting-edge technology, said Mr Mah.Existing transport links - the PanIsland and Ayer Rajah expressways and two MRT lines - also connect Jurong East to the city quickly.Mr Mah pointed to another benefit of the plan: the proximity of jobs to homes in the area, which reduced the need to commute and eased pressure on transport services.Jurong's rejuvenation is part of a broader URA decentralisation strategy to balance economic growth, reduce commuting and provide a high quality of life with many leisure options.It will announce its plans next month to redevelop Paya Lebar. Both initiatives are part of its 2008 Draft Masterplan Review.URA chairman Alan Chan said the ideas for Jurong were the result of consultation with a wide spectrum of public and private industry players.Market watchers welcomed the news, saying it would inject new life into Jurong, which has struggled for years to shed its industrial image.Colliers International's director of research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying said the plan 'would lift the popularity and value of property in the mid- to long-term'.PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail predicted that home prices could increase by five to 10 per cent in the next two years.Madam Halimah Yacob, an MP for Jurong GRC, said the rejuvenation was a welcome move.The Chinese and Japanese gardens, for example, were under-utilised and could do with a makeover, she said.Residents are also excited.Manager David Lim, 49, who owns a four-room HDB flat at Lakeside, said he hardly stays in Jurong for his weekend recreational activities.'But to have all these amenities so close to home will really be a bonus,' he said.Fun: New waterfront playgroundTHE Lakeside area will be transformed into a major leisure destination in the next 10 to 15 years, with existing attractions enhanced and new ones added.WATERSIDE FUN: The lakeside village will feature a host of food and retail outlets as well as boutique hotels.First up is the new 'world-class' Singapore Science Centre, which will involve expanding the existing attraction and relocating it next to Chinese Garden MRT station. This will allow it to make use of the nearby Jurong Lake and surrounding green spaces to extend the learning environment, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.New facilities will also be added to key attractions in the area, like the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.Jurong Lake itself will be spruced up, turning the area into Singapore's new 'waterfront playground' and bringing it closer to the new Jurong Gateway office hub.The Government is also exploring ways to make the lake more accessible, such as by building new waterways or a landscaped walkway.By the end of the year, the lake will host new water activities such kayaking and dragon-boating, thanks to the PUB. By the end of next year, the agency will also set up more public amenities around the lake, such as boardwalks, fishing points, wetlands and water features. To cap it all, a public park and a lakeside village will be built along with four or five other attractions near the water targeted at families with young children.These may have 'edutainment' or nature themes, and could even include hotels, restaurants, or shops.The lakeside village will offer more shopping and dining options. It will be linked to Jurong Gateway by a network of walkways, making the two precincts just a 10-minute walk apart.Business: Largest commercial area outside townMOVE over, Tampines. Jurong is set to be the next big suburban commercial hub.BIG DRAW: Jurong Gateway will host offices, shops, homes, hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres.About 70ha around the Jurong East MRT station have been set aside for the new Jurong Gateway, which will be the largest business district outside of town.Offices, shops, homes, hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres are just some of the facilities earmarked for the site, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.Jurong Gateway will provide about 8.1 million sq ft of office and retail space - more than double Tampines' and more than three times Novena's, Mr Mah said.About two-thirds of the space will be set aside for offices, while a third will be for retail, restaurant and entertainment outlets. There will be a mix of large, modern malls and low-rise shops in a 'village setting'.Jurong Entertainment Centre, part of CapitaLand's CapitaMall Trust, is also being revamped and will house an Olympic-size ice-skating rink next year.Mr Mah also said more than 1,000 new private homes will be added around the MRT station, and up to 2,800 hotel rooms in the area.The spate of development will make Jurong Gateway 'an attractive location for company headquarters, especially those from the business services and science and technology sectors', he said, adding that Jurong East is 'already a thriving business hub today', with more than 3,000 companies in Jurong and Tuas.Property consultants welcomed the plans. 'Making plans now would prevent a possible repeat of the supply crunch we are experiencing,' said Ms Tay Huey Ying of Colliers International.Housing: Over 1,000 private homes to be builtPROPERTY hunters looking to buy a stake in the newly revamped Jurong Lake District will be happy that more than 1,000 private homes will be built there.TARGETING YOUNG FAMILIES: View of Lakeside park. New private housing will be coming up close to the area.But no more new Housing Board flats are planned for Jurong, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.This is also partly because the focus is on building up Sengkang and Punggol towns, said Mr Mah.'There is sufficient public housing in Jurong so the next phase will be... on private housing,' he added.However, if demand is strong for the private homes, more land can be re-allocated for condominiums.That is why the sites around the MRT stations are mostly white sites, said Mr Mah.'But all this ultimately has got to depend on the market and how it responds, whether the emphasis is more on office or housing.'The Urban Redevelopment Authority said yesterday that the residential buildings at Jurong Gateway are likely to be 35 storeys at most, and building heights will gradually step down towards the lake to enable good views.Colliers International's director of research and consultancy, Ms Tay Huey Ying, said it was timely for the Government to make early plans to accommodate and tap on any spillover in demand from the Central Business District.This could occur from the office, hotel and residential sectors when mega projects, such as the two integrated resorts and Marina Bay Financial Centre, are completed and up and running, she said.