Eye on Siglap: Singapore’s coolest neighbourhood

Residents of the eastern side of our island have long trumpeted the superiority of their end of the country to the west of Singapore. While the western suburbs tend to be a bustle of activity and a blur of crowds, the east side features pleasantly laid back neighbourhoods and hole-in-the-wall food and beverage outlets.

Siglap is one of the most sought-after areas in eastern Singapore, and is populated by upper-middle class families who reside in clusters of landed homes and condominiums. Just a 20 minute drive from the central business district (CBD), the area manages to avoid the pretentiousness that plagues the quickly gentrifying addresses in other parts of Singapore while still remaining a prestigious area.

Siglap’s residential area is comprised entirely of private housing. While four low-rise HDB blocks used to stand at the intersection of Siglap Road and East Coast Road, they were repossessed by the government under the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme, and are slated for demolition sometime in 2016. Former residents of Blocks 1 to 4 are now being relocated to Chai Chee Road.

Siglap’s only public housing blocks still standing were originally built in 1963 for the victims of a fire that broke out close to the former Siglap Market, where Siglap Centre now stands. The culprits of the fire were firecrackers that had been set off during Chinese New Year.

Today, Siglap is a relatively quiet neighbourhood that is still hip enough to attract visitors from all over the island, thanks to strips of restaurants, cafes and bars that line the major roads. The area has been rejuvenated by the explosion of F&B outlets on Upper East Coast Road and at Siglap V, a freehold condominium with retail and dining options on the ground floor.

Some of the most popular cafés in the area include Udders Ice Cream on Upper East Coast Road and up-and-coming Craftsmen Specialty Coffee at Siglap V. Then there are old favourites that long-time residents keep coming back to, like Vie Bar on Upper East Coast Road and BLooiE’s Roadhouse on Jalan Tua Kong.

The newest part of Siglap to get a makeover is the Siglap Canal area, which has been revamped as a community space connecting estates like Marine Parade and Kembangan. An activity plaza where morning tai chi sessions are held has been opened in front of the Kampong Kembangan Community Club, and green spaces and a rain garden have been built over the canal.

No matter where in Siglap you might choose to while away a Sunday afternoon, you won’t hear the click-clack of high heels or catch sight of suited gentlemen staring at their Blackberries. Instead, a mixture of residents and visitors unassumingly clad in casual wear lick the foam off their cappuccinos as they leaf through the Sunday papers, or kick back with a pint of cold beer on a steamy afternoon.

A great place to call home

Residents in the east are already familiar with Siglap, which has long been one of the most sought-after residential areas this side of the island. Part of Siglap’s appeal lies in its proximity to the city and some of Singapore’s most reputable schools.

Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer at ERA Realty Network, is confident that Siglap’s popularity is here to stay. “Siglap has very desirable location attributes. It is within short driving distance from both the CBD and the airport, which is attractive to working professionals and those who need to travel often,” he said. “There are also many established schools in the vicinity, such as Tao Nan School and Victoria School, which appeals to families.

“Public transport-wise, there are many bus services plying the area and with the Thomson East Coast Line, connectivity will be further enhanced. Also, for those who are willing to pay a premium, Siglap is one of the few places in Singapore with a full sea view.”

The residents of Siglap seem to agree. Nirev Shah, a lawyer and Siglap resident, said, “It’s a lovely residential area with cafes and bars that open till quite late like Häagen-Dazs, plus there are nice houses there and it’s well-connected by bus services. The area is becoming livelier, with decently-priced eateries and bars that provide the public with some entertainment.”

In fact, each weekend non-residents flock to Siglap for a treat at tried-and-tested eateries. Etna and Al Forno serve up authentic Italian cuisine, while Indian Curry House and Thai Express are popular with fans of Asian food.

According to Mr Shah, another of Siglap’s draws is that its adjacent neighbourhoods are chock-full of amenities like shopping malls. “It’s smack in the middle of Bedok and Marine Parade, two good areas for shopping, food and other amenities. Katong Mall is also not too far away,” he said.

There’s a generous range of leisure options for residents and visitors alike, whether it’s getting a massage at a spa, picking up groceries at Cold Storage, or scheduling a grooming session for Rover at Pet Lovers Centre.

The Siglap of the future

The Siglap neighbourhood has stood undisturbed for some time, with no major residential development launches taking place in recent years. But this is about to change.

According to Lim, “Under the H2 2015 Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme, a site in Siglap has been placed on the confirmed list, slated for development into private residential units. Located adjacent to Victoria School and within walking distance of the upcoming Siglap MRT station on the Thomson East Coast Line, it will be a project to look forward to when it is launched, possibly in early 2017.”

In fact, while Siglap has always been a popular residential location, some home buyers have been discouraged by the lack of an MRT station in the area. The upcoming Siglap MRT station, which is expected to be opened in 2023, looks set to boost the popularity of the area and raise property values.

“Siglap has always been an established housing estate, one of the few places in Singapore where freehold condominium projects can still be found. While there are not many vacant land parcels left for development, the construction of the Thomson East Coast Line is expected to boost housing prices once completed,” said Lim.

It looks like Siglap’s enduring popularity is about to grow even more.

by Joanne Poh