For a small country like Singapore, we have 24 towns and 3 estates. Among these towns, some have a long history, whereas some newer ones are built upon modern town planning designs. We bring a series of Neighbourhood Round-up articles to showcase each town’s charm and attractiveness as a place to work, live, and play.
In this article, we will highlight Tanjong Pagar. Most may know it as a place they go to for work. However, how does it rate as a place to live or play?
Past: Early Beginnings Of Tanjong Pagar
According to the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu), it accounts for a tale known as the Singapura Di-Langgar Todak. The story narrates that the villagers along the coast of Singapore were being attacked by shoals of swordfish. On the advice of a particularly astute boy, the Sri Maharajah (King) built a barricade of banana stems along the coast, which successfully trapped the attacking fish by their snouts as they leapt from the waters. Hence, it was speculated that the “Pagar” or “stakes” in the toponym “Tanjong Pagar” came about due to the barricade of banana stems.
However, if we were to look at Coleman’s 1836 map, it shows a small fishing village near the promontory named “Tanjong Passar” and it was also located at the end of the “Tanjong Passar Road”. This expunged road led to South Bridge Road where the Chinese and Indian population were, which is now known as Chinatown. It is further speculated that the Tanjong Passar fishing village could have been a wet market where people got their fish. As a result, the name “Passar,” or market, was given.
However, by the time the village was redrawn in Turnbull’s 1844 map, it was renamed as Tanjong Pagar and showed the village had expanded eastwards into a larger settlement area named as “Tanjong Pagar Village”.
Source: Urban Explorers of Singapore
#1 Early Developments in Tanjong Pagar – Trade
Due to the favourable soil conditions and hilly terrain in the Tanjong Pagar area, the first half of the 19th century saw early settlers focused on agricultural activities such as gambier, nutmeg, and fruit cultivation.
By the second half of the 19th century, Singapore’s trading activities flourished due to the advent of steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal. As the Singapore River estuary, where early traders settled, became too open and too small to be developed as a major port, the natural deep harbour in Tanjong Pagar was selected for the building of new wharves. It saw the birth of New Harbour, which was renamed as Keppel Harbour in 1900.
In 1905, the government bought over the privately-owned dry docks from the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company and formed the Tanjong Pagar Dock Board, which is now known as the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA). It has become one of the largest port operators in the world, making Singapore a global hub port, connecting to over 600 ports in over 120 countries.
Tanjong Pagar played a critical role in the development of Singapore from a third world to a first world nation within one generation as the home of the maritime industry, which is still a key contributor to Singapore’s GDP growth, employing over 160,000 people in various technical and commerce-related functions.
#2 Early Developments in Tanjong Pagar – Housing and Transport
With the increasing economic activity from Keppel Harbour, Tanjong Pagar saw rapid urbanisation as it became a major transportation node. The Tanjong Pagar Road soon became one of the main thoroughfares for the transportation of goods between the docks and godowns along the Singapore River. In 1903, the Jinrikisha Station was built at the junction of Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar Road and served as the main depot for rickshaws, which at the time were a popular and important means of transportation amongst the people. Today, Jinrikisha Station houses restaurants, pubs, music lounges, and offices.
Additionally, the Singapore railway station, which was later known as the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, was built on reclaimed land along Keppel Road in 1932. The railway station facilitated the easy transfer of cargo between steamships and railway trains, as well as passengers travelling to and from the Malayan hinterland. Though the railway station is no longer in use after its closure in June 2011, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced plans to integrate the national monument with the upcoming Cantonment Station – under the Circle Line network in 2025, so as to preserve a piece of our heritage.
More commercial and residential properties in the form of two- and three-story shophouses were built as employment in the area expanded. These rows of properties, which gradually took a larger share of the landscape, were constructed along Duxton, Tanjong Pagar, and Neil Road. Today, these shophouses command some of the highest prices for non-industrial properties in Singapore and are predominately used for business activities.
#3 Early Developments in Tanjong Pagar – Politics
Tanjong Pagar might be synonymous to most as being the home ground of our late founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The electoral division was first contested and won by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1955, which paved the way for the first People’s Action Party (PAP) branch to be set up. Mr Lee Kuan Yew then went on to become Singapore’s first Prime Minister in 1959. He served as a member of parliament representing the electorates in the Tanjong Pagar division for 60 years till his passing in 2015.
Present Day Tanjong Pagar
#1 Business Activity
The Shenton Way/Tanjong Pagar district has always been the financial and commercial centre of the city. Though historically favoured by global businesses in the shipping and finance industries, a research report by property services firm Colliers International rated Tanjong Pagar as being the top location in Singapore among Asia’s top commercial real estate locations for technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) occupiers. The area has many skyscrapers, including multiple Grade A office buildings, such as AXA Tower and Capital Tower. Perhaps the fact that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has its office in the Tanjong Pagar/Shenton Way district bears the best testament to the importance of the location as a hub for trade.
Tanjong Pagar’s unparalleled connectivity makes it easy and convenient for one to enter the Central Business District (CBD) through the multiple MRT stations traversing the East-West Line (EWL), North South Line (NSL), North East Line (NEL) and the Circle Line (CCL). Moreover, there are over 50 bus services connecting Tanjong Pagar to the rest of the other parts of Singapore. For motorists, three main expressways, namely the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), Central Expressway (CTE) and Marina Costal Expressway (MCE) connect residents from the west, north and east. respectively, to Tanjong Pagar.
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had a vision of a home-owing society through which many families could have a tangible stake in the nation. The ensuing policy led to Singapore achieving one of the highest home ownerships in the world at around 89%. Of those, roughly 78% live in public housing (HDB) flats built by the Housing Development Board (HDB).
The table below states the median housing price both at the town level, represented by Bukit Merah Town and Central Town, and at individual HDB estates, represented by Everton Park, Cantonment Tower, and Pinnacle@Duxton. The prices of the different types of HDB flats in Tanjong Pagar are in the higher range when compared to other HDB towns.
|HDB Resale Median Housing Price|
|Location||3 – room||4 – room||5 – room|
|Bukit Merah Town||402,500||750,000||840,000|
Apart from the public housing, Tanjong Pagar is also a hotbed for luxury private condominiums. And none has surpassed the standards set by the Wallich Residence. Standing at a height of 290m, the Wallich Residence, which is part of the mixed-use Tanjong Pagar Centre, is currently the tallest building in Singapore. A super penthouse in the development was sold for around $74 million in 2019 to British billionaire Mr James Dyson, and stands as an embodiment of the status of Tanjong Pagar as a place of living amongst the high net-worth clientele. This comes as no surprise as the location commands a higher premium due to its centrality to major commerce activities.
Benjamin Franklin was famously quoted for the phrase “the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance”. However, he too may have agreed that prime real estate is probably not that far off either.
Perhaps as a reflection of the high land costs, there is only one MOE registered educational institution in the Tanjong Pagar area, which is Cantonment Primary School. It is ranked 109 out of 185 for 2019. However, when we searched for preschools in the area, we received more six hits. These include PCF Sparkletots, Carpe Diem, and Modern Montessori, to name a few.
The stark contrast between the number of preschools and the number of primary or higher learning institutions in Tanjong Pagar is due to the dynamics of the populace in the area. The largely non-resident working adults give rise to a higher demand for preschools near their workplace to send their toddlers. While, the majority of lower and upper-level educational institutions are concentrated in purely residential enclaves.
The proverb, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, does not resonate more closely with any other town in Singapore than Tanjong Pagar. After a long day of work, Tanjong Pagar is also an ideal location to unwind in the many shops, eateries, and pubs that are nestled within.
We are blessed in Singapore to be able to indulge in a wide variety of culinary dishes from various ethnicities. And in Tanjong Pagar, we have arguably the most delicious neighbourhood, where we are spoilt for choices, from local hawker fare food from hawker centres like the Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Maxwell Food Centre, to the many Michelin-starred restaurants along Tanjong Pagar Road and Tras Street serving international-inspired dishes.
And for those whom want to keep up with the latest fashion or to escape the scorching weather, they will surely not be disappointed by the shopping options presented in Tanjong Pagar. Shopping malls like Icon Village, 100 AM, and the Guoco Tower offer shoppers a more unique and international offering that is not commonly found in comparable neighborhood malls.
Any individual looking to adopt an active and sporty lifestyle, would not face any difficulty in doing so at Tanjong Pagar, with its many (over 15) gyms and boutique fitness studios conducting classes on yoga and high-intensity workouts.
Future: Masterplan 2019 To Concept Plan 2030
For many years, downtown Singapore has been associated with being the financial and commercial centre of the city. However, under the URA 2030 Concept Plan and 2019 Master Plan, the city centre is set to undergo a transformation from a mono-use that is dominated by offices to one that is more mixed-use and lively after office hours.
Under the Great Southern waterfront project, which is expected to commence after 2030, the area around Tanjong Pagar will be transformed into a space three times the size of Marina Bay. Once the leases of the ports expire in 2027 and are subsequently moved to the Tuas Mega Ports, the freed-up space will give rise to more new homes, making the Central Business District (CBD) area livelier and more vibrant at night. Newer residential and commercial districts will be built along the coastline, which will stretch over 30km from the waterfront promenade that connects Labrador Park to Gardens by the Bay in Marina South.
This includes construction of public housing projects at the mega waterfront development project, which analysts expect to be priced near the upper range of the HDB pricing, similar to the prices set by the popular Pinnacle@Duxton. One of the first expected developments will be situated on the site of the Keppel Club, which will yield around 9,000 units comprising of both public and private housing.
Additionally, office buildings that have been built or have had their last major refurbishment at least 20 years ago, will get a plot ratio increase of between 25 – 30% under the CBD Incentive Scheme and Strategic Development Incentive Scheme, which is expected to encourage developers to convert ageing offices into hotels and homes. Through such policies, the government intends to introduce a broader mix of uses so as to make the CBD not only a place to work, but also a vibrant place to live and play.
Connectivity in the downtown area is set to be further improved with the addition of four MRT stations; they are Maxwell and Shenton Way stations along the Thomson-East Coast Line and Prince Edward and Cantonment stations along the Circle Line. With these additions, all developments in the downtown area will be within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station. Moreover, another 5km of cycling paths will be added by 2021 to the existing network of 22km around the downtown area, making alternative commuting more convenient. There are further plans to transform the current key bus corridor at Robinson Road into a transit-priority corridor by giving more space to buses, cycling paths and pedestrian walkways.
Through the implementation of these rejuvenation policies, the downtown area in years to come will bear the fruits of the transformation, making it more relevant to the varied needs of the modern lifestyles of its residents. Moreover, having a good transportation system that enhances connectivity will help to anchor its position as a dynamic 24/7 downtown and global financial hub.
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|Pedigree||Very Good||A district a with long history, from the beginning as a town for trade and commerce. The existence of multiple Grade A office buildings has ensured it’s still the top choice for global businesses in current times.|
|Accessibility||Very Good||Fast and affordable public transportation in the form of multiple MRT stations linked to various rail networks and bus services is widely available. Motorists are able to connect to the major expressways, enabling quick and easy connectivity to other parts of the town.|
|Affordability||Poor||In terms of public housing, record resale prices have been set for the Pinnacle@Duxton project. Most of the other housing projects also command a higher range of the HDB resale price index. It’s the same with private housing, with prices recorded at the top range of the scale for per square foot (PSF).|
|Schools||Poor||With only one primary school, there is a lack of options in this department.|
|Recreation||Very Good||A town famed for having the most Singapore Michelin restaurants does not disappoint in this department. There are also a few shopping centres with unique offerings compared to the neighbourhood malls. Moreover, there are plenty of boutique fitness centres and gyms for fitness enthusiasts to workout in, along with the roughly 27km of cycling path around the town.|
|Investment Potential||Very Good||Based on the Concept Plan, the area is set to undergo a major rejuvenation program where more public and private housing can be expected. Prices of such homes will be in tandem with demand. Moreover, as more old office buildings are redeveloped into mixed-use buildings, greater vibrancy and activity will be felt throughout the day. These initiatives are set to increase the attractiveness of working, living, and playing in Tanjong Pagar even further.|
This article was first published on 4 July 2020 and has been updated with new information.
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