Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park

Feb 9, 2018

I am very happy to join you this morning for the ground breaking ceremony for the redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park.

We are gathered here as what many would regard as the heart of our CBD. In the 60s, this was where the most crowded and expensive office spaces would be found in Singapore. The whole district around this place was shaped like a shoe, and hence the name “golden shoe”.   

In the 70s, the government started the process of urban renewal to create more office space here. Old shophouses and buildings made way for skyscrapers, and then Golden Shoe carpark opened in 1984. The parking lots helped to ease the demand for parking space in the city, and the hawker centre proved to be very popular with office workers in Raffles Place. I didn’t work in Raffles Place. When I started work in the mid-90s, my office was at the Treasury Building, but I had many friends who worked in the CBD and in MAS nearby – not so far away. I remember we would sometimes gather here at the hawker centre for lunches, and the hawker stalls were indeed very good. Some of the first few hawkers were the street hawkers plying their trade at Market Street, and so they opened up shop at the hawker centre here, and the nasi lemak was very good, and the mee pok was not bad too. There are all these stalls which many would have fond memories of.

Since then, our city has continued to evolve. Our CBD has been transformed and we have extended it to Marina Bay. This process of continual urban renewal and transformation is one of Singapore’s key competitive strengths. Throughout history, you can see cities rising and falling. But the most enduring cities are the ones that are able to adapt and change; to renew and transform; to stay relevant to changing times and needs. This is what we have done in Singapore, and this is what we must continue to do.  

We are now embarking on an important phase of urban transformation across our entire island. We have major plans coming up over the coming decade. We are building Changi Terminal 5 in the eastern part of Singapore. We are building a new Tuas Mega-port in the western part of Singapore. We are also developing new regional centres outside of the downtown area. We already have Tampines in the east.   We will soon have Jurong Lake District in the west, which will be anchored by the High Speed Rail link between Singapore and KL. We will have Woodlands in the north, which will also be anchored by another train connectivity, a rail transit link between Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Bahru in Malaysia.  We have clusters like Paya Lebar and Punggol Digital District all around the downtown area as well. All of this will be taking place over the coming decade, a major transformation plan to renew our city.

Even as we develop new areas all around Singapore, we must not neglect our CBD. It must remain an attractive centre for businesses, and continue to provide good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. So we have taken steps to rejuvenate our city centre. There are new sites for development within the CBD, such as Asia Square and Tanjong Pagar Centre. And I am very happy that CapitaLand has initiated this redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park, it will be a vertically integrated development, a new building which will redefine the skyline of our CBD.

Buildings are important, but buildings alone do not define a great city. I say this with all due respect to the architects and engineers who are here. They have done a wonderful job, and I am sure that they will build a beautiful and human-scale development here. But I am sure all of us agree, when we visit places and describe the city that we enjoy, we rarely talk about the buildings when we come back and talk to our friends about the city.  We often describe the intangible qualities of the place – the buzz, the vibrancy, the community, the charm, the unique characteristics of the place. That is what attracts people. Our challenge is not just to build a good city in Singapore, but to build a truly great one that is distinctively Singaporean – that reflects our culture, our character, our heritage, and our identity.  

Doing so would have to be a collective endeavour – close partnership between the public and private sectors at all levels. It is not going to be easy, but I will share some reflections on this, particularly with regard to this new development.

First, I’m very happy that the hawker centre will return in the new development. I think that is the most important thing! Because if there’s one thing that reflects our multi-cultural society, it is our food, but it is importantly our hawker centres that captures the diversity of our cultures. I hope some of the favourite stalls that we all enjoy will come back to the new hawker centre. And it will also attract a new generation of hawkers to open up stalls in this new food centre. It will continue to be a popular place for all of us to have a good meal together.

Second, Singapore is already a Garden City, so we must continue to enhance our City in a Garden, and make this one of the greenest and most beautiful cities in the world. I am very glad to hear that CapitaLand will be converting part of Market Street into a new 1,000 square metre pocket park, and this will be the second key public space within the precinct aside from the main Raffles Place Park. CapitaLand will also be installing a 30-metre lush sky garden that will house meeting facilities, an amphitheatre, and quiet corners for people who may wish to work outdoors or simply take a break. These are excellent enhancements that will make this place a green oasis in the heart of our CBD, and it will truly enhance Singapore as a City in a Garden.  

Third, if the original Golden Shoe was remembered as a place for cars, I hope the new Golden Shoe will become known as a place for people. This must be a people-friendly district. We must work hard to enhance our streetscape and transform this area into a vibrant people-friendly zone. This means wider footpaths and sheltered linkways connecting buildings so that you can get around from building to building, dedicated cycling paths connected to the wider cycling network that we are building nationwide. All of this so that it is easier to get around, go out and cycle within the CBD. It is also important to have well-designed public spaces for people to interact and get together. Besides the new park and sky garden, I am very happy to hear that CapitaLand is also building a new City Room at the ground level. It will offer spaces for a wide range of community activities and events. I would encourage CapitaLand and all other stakeholders to not just put this place out for people to rent, or to make use of, but to do active place-making – programming all year round, so that we can inject life and vibrancy into this space.  

So all in all, when these enhancement works are completed, there is so much that we can look forward to – a new hawker centre, a new park and greenery, more public spaces, and importantly, seamless connectivity across the various developments in the vicinity and to the MRT station. We hope that Raffles Place will be an area that is not only bustling with the working crowd in the daytime, but will also be a place where people will want to visit to gather and interact at night.

Finally, in conclusion, I would like to I commend CapitaLand for its efforts, and I wish it and its JV partner Mitsubishi Estate all the best in this new exciting project. It is a shining example of what we can do together to rejuvenate and transform our city. I look forward to fostering more of such collaboration and exchange of ideas with the industry. Let us work together and realise our vision for a better Singapore. On that note, thank you very much, and since the new year is coming, I would just like to wish all of you good health and happiness in the Year of the Dog.