Singapore / Impact of the Boat Quay Regeneration Project

As stated in Urban Redevelopment Authority’s report “The Singapore River Regeneration Plan” in 1989, and Boat Quay was designated to be the first area. It was proposed that colonial warehouses, shophouses would be preserved for their architectural values, with an economic aim of transforming the district into a recreational area. A set of conservation guidelines and policies were carried out in order to encourage the properties owners to revitalize there buildings, by the same time, the government spent its effort in improving public infrastructure and facilities. The restoration work was carried out well and Boat Quay was officially re-opened in August 1993.

Upon the completion of restoration works, Boat Quay became one of the most a

Alfresco Dinning in Boat Quay at present days, Rough Guides
Alfresco Dinning in Boat Quay at present days, Rough Guides

ttractive recreational area in Singapore. Dinning became the main business in Boat Quay. In 1993, al fresco dinning became one of the characteristic of Boat Quay, over 80% of the shophouses were converted into restaurants (Chian, 1996). In 2000s, pubs and bars started to replace restaurants since they were more profitable, around 56% of Boat Quay shophouses were pubs and bars (Chian, 1996). Because of the high demand brought up by Boat Quay, pub streets even started to emerge along the Singapore River, like Mohamed Sultan Road and Zouk (Wong, 2004). As the first riverside commercial and recreational area, Boat Quay’s uniqueness was appealing to both tourists and local crowds, its prosperous commercial development also enhance the economy of nearby district.

Moreover, the Government’s plan of Boat Quay redevelopment did not stop by the restoration. Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and URA spent their effort in promoting Boat Quay by staging national events there as well as improving the built environments. For instance, the reinforcement of the river and the upgrade of the roadwork were carried out by URA at 1999. By the same time, a continuous 6-km promenade along Singapore River was completed. Campaign such as Romancing Singapore Campaign, Great Singapore Duck Race and the Singapore Busker’s Festival were held annually in Boat Quay. In terms of transportation, night bus services and MTR stations have been provided since 2003. Despite all the subtle works, the continuous government engagements were important to maintain Boat Quay’s status on a global scale.

Great Duck Race held in Boat Quay, Festival Square Circle Pte Ltd
Great Duck Race held in Boat Quay, Festival Square Circle Pte Ltd


However, the threat of conserving heritage building became more worrying with the prosperous commercial development in Boat Quay. The homogeneous business mode of Boat Quay tends to seek for highest profit return. The highly-responsive owners and businessmen led to short term business in the area. Whenever another type of business is more profitable, the owner soon switches to that business and other follows. This led to frequent renovation of building façade and interior, which may damage the heritage buildings permanently. It is ironic that both restoration and destruction of heritage buildings were done by property owners, who aimed at profit-making only.

On another side, the success of Boat Quay encouraged URA to deploy the similar strategy to other part of Singapore River, such as Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. Clarke Quay is a neighboring waterfront area to Boat Quay, it was converted into festival village where large-scale recreational facilities were provided, such as outlets and theaters. While the commercial model of Boat Quay continues in Clarke Quay redevelopment, the redevelopment of Robertson Quay has been led by large private developers, and developed as a residential district. The success of Boat Quay was a cornerstone of the Urban Regeneration Project.


  1. Authority, Urban Redevelopment. 2016. Boat Quay.
  2. Lin, Eunice M. 2016. Adaptive Re-use of the Historic Boat Quay.
  3. Wang Jingyao; Heng Chye Kiang. 2011. Urban Entrepreneurialism in Conservation Redevelopment: the case of the Boat Quay Historic District in Singapore. Singapore: National University of Singapore.

1 Comment on “Singapore / Impact of the Boat Quay Regeneration Project

  1. The redevelopment of Boat Quay not only restored and preserved the existing buildings, it also benefits the local with improvement of transportation system and increase of tourists. However, this also raise discussion on the contradiction between commercial development and conservation. It is upsetting that the society often judge how successful a project is by the profit earned but ignored the damage cause by tourists followed after the redevelopment. As mentioned in the passage, restoration and destruction of buildings facade were taking place at the same time due to frequent change of shop ownership.

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