New rules for public space design from April, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

New rules for public space design from April

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Expect amenities like public art, exercise equipment at new malls and office buildings from April

Public spaces on new private properties such as malls and office blocks, which people can access round the clock, will soon be required to have ample seating, bicycle racks and shelter from bad weather.

Additional amenities such as public art, exercise equipment, water features, wireless Internet and phone-charging points will also have to be provided at larger public spaces above 500 sq m, according to a new minimum standards set for public spaces by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

At the entrance, a plaque with the words "Open to public 24 hours" will signal that the space is free to use.

These new rules will kick in on April 24 and apply to all new private developments that are required to have such spaces for public use, such as those under government land-sales (GLS) contracts.

One example is Asia Square at Marina Bay, a retail and office building with a dedicated public resting area that meets the new design guidelines, said a URA spokesman.

Guidelines for public spaces are not new. They were previously mandated at 120 GLS sites near major transportation nodes or pedestrian paths, according to the URA's Parks and Waterbodies Plan.

But "not many private developments" - unless mandated to do so - have provided these covered public spaces on their own, the spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

This may change as developers willing to build public spaces, even if not required to do so, can qualify for a gross floor area (GFA) exemption if the property is frequented by the public or situated on popular routes.

As developers do not have to pay for the floor area occupied by these facilities, this translates into significant savings.

"We hope to see more private developers taking up the GFA incentives to provide such covered public spaces," the spokesman said.

Property developers told ST that they support the new design guidelines.

CapitaLand's Asia development deputy chief and head of design management, Mr Poon Hin Kong, said: "Even before government guidelines, we have catered for community spaces on our properties, which are considered from the start of the development process."

Among others, he highlighted Westgate's main courtyard and Plaza Singapura's outdoor plaza.

Frasers Centrepoint Singapore's chief executive officer, Mr Christopher Tang, believes this is a positive step towards promoting more good quality public spaces.

Such spaces could increase footfalls for malls, while some office buildings may gain from the GFA exemptions too.

But developers must now weigh the pros and cons of such a decision - first-storey floor space is prime real estate that could be leased out to tenants.

Said a spokesman for developer Ho Bee Land: "We would probably need to keep a balance between maximising revenue and keeping sufficient public space to give the project the necessary ambience."