Fishing port to lifestyle hub?

Fishing port to lifestyle hub?
The wholesale fish market at the Jurong Fishery Port, where 250 tonnes of seafood is sold every day.

SINGAPORE - Jurong Fishery Port will be upgraded and architects think it has the potential to be a lively restaurant and retail centre

Something fishy has been going on in Jurong.

In the wee hours of the morning, goods are unloaded off boats, money changes hands and, by sunrise, much of the business winds down.

Not many people know about the Jurong Fishery Port, a 5.1ha area that integrates a port for docking of fishing vessels, a 400m-long wharf and a 9,000sq m wholesale fish market. The port started operating in 1969.

Up to 3,000 people, including fish retailers and a smattering of members of the public, head to the market every day to buy up to 250 tonnes of seafood, such as red snappers, prawns and crabs.

According to a Lianhe Zaobao report published two weeks ago, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan announced last year that the fishery port will be upgraded, although no dates were given.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), which operates both the Jurong and Senoko fishery ports, says: "AVA is planning to redevelop the Jurong Fishery Port. More details will be shared at a later date."

Lianhe Zaobao also interviewed fish merchants operating in the market, who said that the new port could include a multi-storey centre, seafood processing facilities and eateries to attract both businesses and consumers.

If these hoped-for changes take place, the Jurong Fishery Port may become something like the bustling tourist attractions such as Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco or Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, the Zaobao report said.

Though it is still early days, architects Life!Weekend spoke to say that the Jurong Fishery Port does have the potential to blossom beyond its current form.

"An array of restaurants and retail facilities selling fresh sashimi and seafood, as well as related restaurant supply shops, will certainly add to the vibrancy of the place," says Mr Seah Chee Huang, director of DP Architects.

He adds that like Fisherman's Wharf, "recreational and civic spaces" located near the pier, such as a visitor centre, heritage gallery and festive markets, can add dynamism to the port.

Mr Jason Pomeroy of architecture consultancy, Pomeroy Studio, envisions that the port can be a "home to a cluster of high-tech, innovative vertical fish farms", citing Singaporeans' growing appetite for home-grown and sustainable food sources, coupled with land scarcity.

Such farms make use of recycled water systems to allow fish farming activities to take place in industrial settings.

However, the architects caution that infrastructural changes are necessary to increase the accessibility of the port, which is located near Jurong River.

Director of RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Seah Chee Kien says the location is "not conducive", adding that the "heavy industrial port traffic" makes it difficult to turn it into a compelling attraction. But he adds that the development of the Jurong East area and Jurong Lake District would bring more people into the vicinity.

Mr Seah from DP Architects agrees, suggesting that alternative transportation routes for cycling and even water taxis could be explored, on top of improving vehicular access. If these suggestions are implemented, the new port might net an increase in visitors and even tourists in the future.

One such visitor, Mr Adib Jalal, 32, welcomes these potential changes as he feels that "we Singaporeans sometimes have a disconnect with knowing where our food comes from".

The creative director of urban consultancy Shophouse & Co has visited the wholesale market twice in the past two months, attracted by the prices of the seafood, which are about 25 per cent cheaper compared to regular markets.

But while he believes that the fishy smell of the market is "part of the experience", Nanyang Technological University student Kamarulzaman Mohamed Sapiee says he could do without the stench.

The 24-year-old wishes for a jetty for people to stroll along, as well as restaurants, but hopes that the changes will not be too complex. "At the end of the day, it is still a fishery port and the area shouldn't change into a garden or park or something else," he says.


This article was first published on January 16, 2015.
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