Yishun, which has more than 250,000 residents, is no lifeless backwater.

Bryna Singh
The Straits Times
March 30, 2015

The cafes are always a sign. Call them the “coolness” litmus test of a neighbourhood. Once they start popping up, it is time to pay attention.

In Yishun, the sleepy estate in the north of Singapore, several new cafes have opened in recent months.

Two of these outfits are Holy Cow Creamery, an ice cream parlour in Yishun Street 22, and RoyceMary Cafe, serving coffee and desserts out of a unit in a mixed-use building in Victory 8 in Jalan Legundi.

And then there are the bike shops, with at least four of them along Yishun Avenues 6 and 7 alone, supplying the hipster transportation staple.

Is Yishun becoming the next Tiong Bahru?


But the area, which has more than 250,000 residents, is no lifeless backwater.

In fact, it is mounting a modest renaissance, with new amenities, gleaming healthcare facilities, a mega mall in the works and new flats and properties in the making.

The biggest development is Northpoint City, a commercial and residential development which will be integrated with the existing Northpoint Shopping Centre.

When it opens in 2018, it will be the largest mall in northern Singapore with more than 500 shopping and dining outlets. It will also house the first community club within a mall and an integrated transport hub linking the mall to an air-conditioned bus interchange and Yishun MRT station.

Junction Nine in Yishun Avenue 9, a 99-year leasehold mixed development that has retail units and private homes called Nine Residences, will also open in 2017. The 186-unit residential project will have a mix of one-bedroom to two-storey apartments. And Yishun estate is still not that expensive.

Property agents say the prices in the area have remained steady and mirror general market trends.

Mr Donald Han, managing director of property consulting group Chestertons, says prices in Yishun were going up from about 2009, but after 2013, they started going down because the introduction of tougher mortgage rules – the total debt servicing ratio – made it harder for people to obtain loans.

But he adds that there has been stronger demand for mixed developments in Yishun, such as the upcoming Nine Residences.

Units there were sold at a median price of $1,196 per square foot (psf) in December, significantly higher than the median prices for other Yishun developments such as Lilydale ($742 psf), The Estuary ($916 psf) and The Canopy ($696 psf).

He attributes the draw of Nine Residences to its location and proximity to transportation options.

Other property experts say the greenery in the area – Yishun Pond, Seletar Reservoir and the Orchid Country Club with its golf courses – are also plus points for buyers.

Indeed, Yishun, like several off-city centre, well- developed suburban neighbourhoods in Singapore, has become a conducive place to call home, especially in terms of recreational options in nature. It has serene green spaces, scenic waterways, enhanced parks, cycling paths and exercise corners.

Named after pineapple and rubber tycoon Lim Nee Soon, whose name is Lin Yishun in Mandarin, the estate was one of the first three towns selected in 2007 under the Housing & Development Board’s (HDB) Remaking Our Heartland initiative and still enjoys the fruit of that upgrading exercise.

The Lower Seletar Reservoir along Yishun Avenue 1 was revamped at a cost of $10 million and now features a multi-purpose stage with a water play area, a Rowers’ Bay for competitive rowing and a 170m-long jetty-like bridge that extends from the banks of the reservoir across the waters.

In a 2011 makeover, Yishun Pond unveiled floating wetlands, flower trails and a three-storey lookout tower. The waters there teem with orange cichlid fish and tortoises, and wading birds can be seen in the marshlands.

A 15.5km cycling trail is also due for completion this year and will connect major transport nodes, neighbourhood centres and parks.

Since last month, residents have also been enjoying Orto, a new leisure park the size of seven football fields that opened on the site of the former Bottle Tree Park. Visitors can go fishing or prawning round the clock in the park, which also has several eateries.

Ms Yen Sim, senior manager of corporate communications and branding at the China-based Fullshare Leisure Group, which manages the place, says Fullshare decided to bid for the site because there were opportunities for a variety of recreational activities and eateries to be added to the park.

“Furthermore, it has a distinctive kampung feel that retains the old charm of Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s,” she says.

By the park’s grand opening in June, its activity offerings will include paintball, futsal and trampoline.

“Yishun is no longer a boring or ulu town,” says odd-job worker Angela Teo, 49, using the Malay word for “remote”. She has lived in the area for more than 20 years.