Speech by 2M Indranee Rajah at the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) Exhibition for Bukit Merah

Sep 17, 2023

Good evening to everyone. I am happy to join all of you today to launch the Remaking Our Heartland exhibition for Bukit Merah. 

Remaking Our Heartland, or ROH, is the Government’s programme to rejuvenate existing HDB towns and estates like Bukit Merah, while preserving and building on unique traits of each town. ROH will improve the living environment of residents by renewing older HDB towns and estates to meet the changing needs of our community.

Since the programme was announced in 2007, nine towns and estates, including Dawson, Bedok and Toa Payoh, have benefitted from the programme. Bukit Merah is among the latest batch of towns to be identified for renewal, together with Ang Mo Kio, Queenstown and Choa Chu Kang.

Remaking our Bukit Merah

Bukit Merah has close to 130,500 HDB residents and comprises several estates – Redhill, Tiong Bahru, Telok Blangah, Mount Faber, and a part of Tanjong Pagar.

Some of the Tiong Bahru flats were built between the 1930s to 1950s by HDB’s predecessor, the former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). Over the decades, Bukit Merah has seen continuous improvements. Most of the older blocks of flats have been upgraded, even as we added new and more modern features to the town. This rejuvenation has transformed Bukit Merah into a modern and vibrant town. Flats in Bukit Merah are much sought-after because of its central location and wide array of amenities. Plans under the ROH programme for Bukit Merah will make it even better.

In drawing up the renewal plans, our primary focus was to ensure that residents’ needs would be met. And since residents know their town best, we also engaged residents and stakeholders right at the outset, to seek their views and suggestions. I would like to say a big thank you to the 400 residents and community members of Bukit Merah who participated in the surveys and Focus Group Discussions and shared your ideas on how we can improve Bukit Merah together.

A recurring theme of these conversations was the unique appeal of Bukit Merah, with its distinctive charm and character. Landmarks like the SIT flats at Tiong Bahru, home to many popular local hawkers and cafes, and the soon to be reopened iconic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, are familiar and cherished parts of communal identity for Bukit Merah residents. In fact, some residents have likened our town to a “living museum” and hope to see more of Bukit Merah’s rich heritage integrated into the town’s landscape.

Others have called for a more vibrant Town Centre, with more community spaces, and better access to green and commercial spaces. Rest assured that HDB and the other agencies have taken in your feedback. Let me share highlights of what we can look forward to in the coming years in making Bukit Merah an even more vibrant and liveable space for all our residents.

Refreshing Our Town Centre

The Bukit Merah Town Centre – where we are here today – is akin to the heart of the town. Many residents come here to shop, buy groceries from NTUC, enjoy a quick meal at the food centre, or hop on a bus from the interchange.

The Town Centre has served residents’ needs for many years. However, as some have pointed out, with the passage of time it looks a little “dated” and could do with refurbishment. We have taken in this feedback, and I’m glad to announce that the Bukit Merah Town Centre will be upgraded.

The current sheltered stage next to the Rubikon building will be replaced by a new, larger sheltered event space with seating. This will free up more conducive space for community events, performances, festive bazaars and fitness activities, rain or shine. So I’m sure that is good news for the Bukit Merah Radin Mas grassroots as well as for those who have set up stalls because it means you will have more community spaces. 

There will be more seating areas and greenery, for those who want to sit down and chat with family and friends, or just simply take a break after shopping.

Where possible, we will also build play areas for the children. Residents will have the opportunity to co-create some of these community spaces, and HDB will reach out to you with the details when they are ready.

Increasing Green Spaces and Access to Nature

Next, we are going to increase the green spaces and access to nature. While Bukit Merah is often celebrated for its urban character, it is also equally blessed with ample green spaces which are well visited by residents. Some of you have shared that you would like to see better access to the Rail Corridor, which passes through Bukit Merah, as well as more convenient connections to parks around the town. I think that is a wonderful idea! It’s a great way to stay healthy, and unwind with your family and friends. So I’m glad to share some updates on HDB’s plans:

  1. We will have a new pocket park next to the existing multi-storey carpark at Block 119 Bukit Merah Central. This park will provide seamless connection from the Town Centre to the Rail Corridor. This will also make it convenient for those using the Rail Corridor to make a stop at the Town Centre and enjoy some refreshments, adding to footfall in the area. So, I’m sure our shop owners are very happy to hear this.
  1. We will also enhance the pedestrian paths at Henderson Road, which connects Alexandra Canal, the Southern Ridges and Telok Blangah Estate to the future Greater Southern Waterfront. New rest points with landscaped seating areas will also be added along the paths.
  1. With new BTO developments coming up in Bukit Merah as well as in the Greater Southern Waterfront area, you can also look forward to more green spaces and easier access to the Labrador Nature Park Network.

Enhancing Connectivity

Across Bukit Merah, we will expand the pedestrian and cycling path networks so that residents can explore our town and enjoy the many amenities more easily and safely. So for example, new pedestrian and cycling paths, as well as sheltered linkways, will be added along Redhill Close, to make it safer and more convenient for you to travel between the Bukit Merah Town Centre and Redhill MRT station.

Come 2026, the opening of two new MRT stations – Keppel and Cantonment Stations of the Circle Line – will further enhance connectivity, making it easier for us to connect to the rail network.

Making our Living Environment more Senior-Friendly

Then, we will make our living environment more senior-friendly. We have lots of seniors at Bukit Merah and we want to make sure that this town is friendly for them. Today, more than one third of Bukit Merah residents are 60 years old and above. So one of our priorities is to make our HDB homes and neighbourhoods more senior-friendly such that our residents can age well in the community. Through ROH, we will enhance Bukit Merah to help our seniors go about their daily activities more easily, and enable them to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

For example, across the various parks in Bukit Merah, we will put in new amenities such as therapeutic gardens and fitness stations. We will also upgrade the common spaces and Neighbourhood Centres in our estates with sheltered walkways, ramps and non-slip flooring, so you can get around safely while you navigate Bukit Merah’s hilly terrain. More seating areas as well as signages with larger and more colourful fonts will also be installed. This will help the seniors to find their way around more easily. 

HDB will roll out these improvements progressively over the next few years, so we can look forward to a Bukit Merah that is more accessible and liveable for residents of all ages.

Strengthening Bukit Merah’s Identity

And we will also strengthen Bukit Merah’s identity. Beyond the hardware, we also want to strengthen Bukit Merah’s identity by building on its rich heritage. Various agencies are looking into ways to incorporate elements of Bukit Merah’s history into the design of the town, including through thematic playgrounds, wall murals, as well as educational boards across the town.

For example, the upcoming Alexandra Vale BTO development will feature a mural bearing a swordfish motif, inspired by local folklore about how Redhill got its name. HDB will be asking for your views on how to best design some of these heritage elements around the town, and I encourage you to share your memories and participate actively in these engagement sessions.


These are exciting plans which will take time to realise. We can expect to see some of them taking shape in the next 5 years. I believe it will be worth the wait, so please bear with us as we work to create better homes and build the best possible living environment for us and our children.

I encourage you to walk through the exhibition, study the plans, and share your views actively, because you know your town best. If your family members and neighbours are not here today, do share the plans with them and encourage them to come by and visit the exhibition.

As we are approaching the Mid-Autumn festival, there are also several exciting activities held today in conjunction with the exhibition. I hope you have a chance to join in some of these activities. A big thank you to the Bukit Merah Central Merchants’ and Hawkers’ Association and NTUC Fairprice for contributing to this festive event.

Please enjoy the exhibition, and the rest of the event today.