DESIGN professionals have been tossed a challenge to take part in what could be considered one of the biggest design-and-planning opportunities in the country for years - to draw up a concept master plan and concept proposals for Singapore's Rail Corridor.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday released details of a Request for Proposal (RFP) - a brief to guide participating design teams in their job of coming up with proposals.
The 24-km long Rail Corridor, stretching from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar, was land previously used by Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu or KTM railway. The land was returned to Singapore in 2011.
Since then, the URA has been engaging the community to gather feedback on how they would like the Rail Corridor developed.
Suggestions from the public have included retaining its natural, green character, and making it more accessible to the general public.
Based on this feedback, the URA has put together the RFP, titled "Rail Corridor - An Inspired and Extraordinary Community Space". Some of the goals designers will need to keep in mind are that the Rail Corridor should:
• Retain its identity as a "green corridor" that provides relief from the increasing density of urban living, and a place to which the community can retreat for respite and recreation;
• Provide seamless connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists to use and enjoy;
• Retain and recapture the Rail Corridor's sense of place and memory, reflecting not just its rail heritage and history, but also that of its surrounding communities and attractions;
• Be an inclusive, safe and inviting public space.
The Concept Master Plan and Concept Proposals are meant to cover the entire length of the rail corridor; they should include concept designs for four key "activity nodes" and two "special-interest" areas.
The four key activity nodes are Buona Vista, the Bukit Timah Railway Station area, the former Bukit Timah Fire Station, and Kranji. URA's senior director for physical planning Tan See Nin, said the four nodes were chosen for their proximity to transport routes, making them easily accessible.
The Buona Vista activity node, next to Buona Vista MRT interchange, can become a vibrant community space for the nearby business park and the research community and residents of the area.
Mr Tan suggested: "Companies in the one-north area can consider using the Rail Corridor for exercise programmes for their staff."
Suggestions have been received for the former Bukit Timah Railway Station to be used for a visitors' centre or for an event space. Occasional community events can be held here; at other times, the space can be used as a place of retreat.
As for the former Bukit Timah Fire Station, a new pedestrian walkway will link it to the Rail corridor; there could also be links built from the former fire station to nearby heritage sites such as the Old Ford Factory.
The activity node at Kranji, across from the Kranji MRT Station, will be the northern gateway into the Rail Corridor. Its design should complement and be sensitive to key landmarks in the area, such as the Singapore Turf Club, the Kranji War Memorial and the Mandai mangroves.
In addition to these activity nodes, the two special-interest areas that will need concept designs drawn up are the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and Choa Chu Kang, adjacent to the Sungei Pang Sua Canal.
With the railway station, participating design teams have to think about adaptive re-use for this national monument, so that it can be a venue for multi-functional community activities. The public should have unfettered access so that they can appreciate the heritage of the building and its surroundings.
With Choa Chu Kang, the URA is asking for concepts that will enhance the urban green-blue tapestry of this area.
Participating design teams also have to include a comprehensive landscaping strategy - one that will improve the quality of plants and vegetation types and enrich the corridor's biodiversity.
Teams will also need to come up with amenities such as shelters and toilets, as the Rail Corridor currently lacks this.
Appropriate lighting options must also be part of the design proposals, as the Rail Corridor is likely to be well-used in the early mornings and evenings.
Mr Tan said the place is now frequented only by nature and outdoor-activity enthusiasts, and is not frequently used because of the lack of formal access points to it.
"In the meantime, we will see how proper signage can be put up to direct people to the Rail Corridor," he said.
The RFP exercise comprises a two-stage tender process.
Participating teams are required to submit information on the composition, organisation and track record of the team, along with a Statement of Design Intent to the URA by April 23.
In May, up to five teams will be shortlisted to participate in Stage 2 of the RFP.
The shortlisted team or teams will take part in a 13-week design exercise to develop the Concept Master Plan and Concept Proposals; the successful team of consultants will be announced in October.
This will be followed by a public exhibition of all shortlisted submissions from October to December, and the public will be invited to give their feedback on the proposals.
From January to March 2016, the team or teams will refine their concept designs based on the feedback received.
From March to May, based on the Final Revised Concept Master Plan and concept design, the consultants will carry out a 12-week long preliminary design for a 4km signature stretch of the Rail Corridor. The location of the 4km stretch will be announced later.
URA's chief executive Ng Lang said: "Our intention is to continue to sensitively stage the development of this project with the community, and not rush into developing the whole stretch at one go."
Mr Tan said he foresees exciting times for users when the Rail Corridor has been enhanced. He noted that it will cut across residential communities both public and private, business parks and factories; there are 58 schools along the way.
He added: "In the past, the railway used to divide communities, but now we have the opportunity for a common space for shared experiences."
This article was first published on March 19, 2015.
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