The Jurong story: from swampland to Jurong Gateway

BI-min
Jun 27, 2016

The story of Jurong is a fascinating piece of Singapore history. Arising out of swampland and developed into an industrial estate in the 1960s, Jurong has since become a self-sufficient and thriving town in the West.

Today, the precinct is enjoying a second wave of development under the URA’s Master Plan. More recently, it has been earmarked as a trial precinct for Singapore’s exciting Smart Nation initiatives. With so many ambitious plans on the drawing board, it is no wonder that Jurong is now on the lips of practically everyone in Singapore.

Read on to uncover the fascinating story of Jurong.

Jurong then…

jurong-story-swampland-jurong-gateway-1-min
Former PM Lee Kuan Yew visiting Jurong in its early days. Photo: ST

Jurong began as a vast swath of swamps, jungles and small fishing villages in the western region of the island.

But all that changed in 1961, when Singapore’s first Finance Minister, Dr Goh Keng Swee, mooted the idea of transforming it into a modern industrial estate to put Singapore on the road to industrialisation. For this reason, he is sometimes regarded as the “father of Jurong”.

This kicked off a series of rapid changes in Jurong. Hills were levelled and swampland filled to make way for industrial, residential and recreational amenities.

In September 1962, Dr Goh laid the foundation stone of the first factory in Jurong Industrial Estate, the National Iron and Steel Mills. Jurong Port began operations in 1963, handling and transporting raw materials and manufactured products.

Meanwhile, the Housing & Development Board built flats to house Jurong’s working population. In the 1970s came the unique attractions that soon became synonymous with Jurong – the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, Jurong Hill, Jurong Bird Park and Science Centre Singapore.

jurong-story-swampland-jurong-gateway-2-min (1)
Jurong Hill is the highest ground in Jurong. It features a lookout tower and a “garden of fame” where visiting dignitaries planted trees. Photo: ST

As Jurong developed, its rail and road network grew more comprehensive. The Pan Island Expressway was completed in 1981, providing direct and fast access to the east of Singapore, where the newly operating Changi Airport was.

In 1992, Jurong welcomed Singapore’s first business park, the International Business Park, and throughout the next decade, this area continued to thrive, attracting residents with its ever-improving infrastructure and recreation amenities like Superbowl Jurong and Jurong Entertainment Centre (which housed a cinema and even a skating rink).

Jurong now…

jurong-story-swampland-jurong-gateway-3-minResidents at the new pedestrian mall, J Link, which connects Jurong East MRT station to Jurong Regional Library and nearby HDB blocks. Photo: ST

By the 2000s, Jurong had grown into a self-sufficient satellite town with many more facilities such as a library, a country club, a sports stadium, shopping centres, food centres, schools and an MRT station.

As part of the Draft Master Plan 2008, then Minister for National Development Mr Mah Bow Tan announced a blueprint to transform the area into a distinctive lakeside destination for business and leisure, named Jurong Lake District.

The 360ha area consists of two unique precincts – Jurong Gateway and Lakeside. Combined, the area was planned as the largest commercial hub outside the city in Singapore.

The rise of Jurong Gateway

In recent years, we have seen the impressive transformation of the Jurong Gateway precinct, the area located around Jurong East MRT station.

Once a humble heartland town centre, it has been extensively revamped into a commercial hub with bustling offices, world-class healthcare facilities and glitzy shopping malls.

As one of three regional centres identified under URA’s Concept Plan 1991, Jurong Gateway has been developed into a vibrant commercial hub – and the biggest outside the city centre. Billed as Singapore’s second Central Business District, Jurong Gateway will have over 3,000 companies within 500,000 sq m of office space when its development is complete.

With its close proximity to the International Business Park, industrial estates and educational institutions, Jurong Gateway presents a highly attractive option outside the downtown CBD to set up company headquarters and technology-based business.

A stark contrast to the old days when IMM was about the only place to eat and shop in the area, Jurong Gateway now brims with new malls such as Westgate, JCube, Jem, Big Box and even its very first hotel, Genting Hotel Jurong. In fact, a total of about 2,800 hotel rooms are expected in Jurong Gateway according to the Master Plan.

jurong-story-swampland-jurong-gateway-4-min
Jurong Gateway brims with new shopping malls like Westgate. Photo: SPH

In October 2015, the 700-bed Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and 400-bed Jurong Community Hospital, located on the same site, were officially opened. The state-of-the-art building is a major landmark of Jurong Gateway. Come 2018, the future Vision Exchange development will enhance Jurong Gateway’s healthcare offerings with 53 medical suites in its office tower block.

URA also made plans to introduce 1,000 or more new homes to Jurong Gateway, to offer people the option of living, playing and working in the same vicinity. It turned out to be a great success. Case in point: the 2013 condominium project J Gateway, by MCL Land, was almost sold out on the day it was launched.

From swampland to Jurong Gateway in only a matter of decades – Jurong is an outstanding example of urban planning and development in Singapore.

Header photo: ST