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SLA, URA call new tender to rejuvenate former Bukit Timah Fire Station after consortium pulls out

SINGAPORE – The authorities have called a new tender to turn the former Bukit Timah Fire Station into a community node, after a consortium that was awarded the project earlier pulled out in 2022.

On Wednesday, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) called for proposals to turn the 0.86ha site – which sits at the intersection of Old Jurong Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road – into a hub for nature, heritage and adventure lovers.

In September 2021, Homestead Holland won a contract to rejuvenate the site by the second quarter of 2022 into a lifestyle hub that would feature a food street and allotment garden plots.

The consortium, comprising real asset management company Homestead Group Asia and investment firm TE Capital Partners, had clinched the project as part of a global competition called Reinventing Cities, which seeks ideas to transform underutilised sites or buildings sustainably.

Asked why it pulled out, a Homestead Holland spokesman cited challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, including uncertain market conditions and a tight labour market.

“We tried many ways to make things work, but in the end the decision was made to withdraw from the project in 2022,” he told The Straits Times, without elaborating on the challenges.

In relaunching the tender, SLA and URA told ST they are looking for “a compelling proposal to repurpose the state property to promote healthy living, community interaction and integration with nature while featuring environmentally sustainable urban solutions”.

The site comprises seven three-storey accommodation blocks for firefighters, a single-storey residence for the station master, and a main fire station building that was built in 1956 and conserved in 2019.

After the station’s operations ceased in 2005, the site was leased for dining and community uses, with some of the tenants’ leases ending in 2020.

The planned node is about 600m from the upcoming Hume MRT station slated to open in 2025.

It is close to various heritage and nature landmarks in the Upper Bukit Timah area, such as the Former Ford Factory, Bukit Batok Memorial, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Bukit Batok Nature Park, as well as the 24km Rail Corridor and 36km Coast-to-Coast Central Trail.

SLA and URA said the historical buildings will be given a new lease of life, by adapting them to uses that complement the surrounding environment.

“This will contribute to the transformation of the site into a highly accessible gateway that connects visitors to the heritage and nature attractions in the area,” the agencies added. 

National Development Minister Desmond Lee had said previously that the station master’s residence will be repurposed by the National Parks Board into a visitor centre to showcase Singapore’s nature parks.

The authorities will also explore plans to connect the former fire station to the Rail Corridor trail and Bukit Batok Nature Park – situated across the road from the site.

URA noted in 2015 that the former fire station will be among several community nodes along the Rail Corridor. The other nodes are planned in areas such as Stagmont Ring, Buona Vista and Silat.

In response to ST’s queries, SLA and URA said the relaunched tender comes with revised evaluation criteria. For example, the sustainability criteria have been updated to align with the green requirements for tenders launched for state properties.

Previously, tenderers were required to meet criteria set for the global competition.

Proposals should demonstrate clear sustainability goals and outcomes in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030, said the agencies, adding that more weight will be placed on the quality of proposals and the tenderers’ ability to achieve their vision of the site. This includes a proposal’s concept and creativity, as well as the tenderers’ experience, track record and financial standing.

The winning tenderer will get a five-year tenure upfront, renewable for a second term of four years.

The tender is open for eight weeks, and is expected to be awarded in January 2024. The agencies did not say when the project is slated for completion.

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