Boon Lay



Boon Lay is located in the western region of Singapore next to Jurong West.1 The area was named after Chew Boon Lay, one of Singapore’s early pioneers who owned extensive rubber plantations in the area during the early 20th century. With the development of the neighbouring Jurong area into a large-scale industrial estate in the 1960s, Boon Lay was developed primarily into a housing estate by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) to provide low-cost accommodation for workers. By the 1970s, Boon Lay was also home to resettled villagers from Tuas and other parts of Jurong whose lands had been acquired for industrial development. With a range of amenities to meet the daily needs of its residents and those from nearby estates, Boon Lay had become an important hub in Jurong by the 1980s. Some of the landmarks in the area include the Tuas Tua Pek Kong Temple, Boon Lay Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station and River Valley High School. An industrial area is located at the southern end of Boon Lay.

Early history
Boon Lay and Jurong West were once collectively known as Peng Kang – a name derived from the Hokkien term for the processing of gambier. In the 19th century, the gambier and rubber plantations in the area played a key role in attracting new settlers.2

A prominent pioneer of the area was Chew, who came to Singapore in the 1870s from Zhangzhou, China. By 1885, he had established gambier and pepper estates in Jurong. These estates were converted into rubber plantations in the early 1900s and used for growing fruits such as duku, langsat and ciku. Chew had so many plantations there that the area eventually became known as Boon Lay.3  

Some of the early roads in the area were named after members of the Chew family. Boon Lay Road, which originally ran from the old Jurong Road through Chew’s estates to the southern coast, was named after Chew himself while Chin Chong and Chin Bee roads were named after his grandsons.4

Chew’s estates were acquired by the colonial government in the 1940s and ’50s. The acquisition led to the growth of Boon Lay Village, which had some 400 residents by the early 1960s.5

When more land in the area was acquired by the government in the 1960s for development, one of Chew’s sons, Chew Hock Seng, requested that his father’s name be preserved. Currently, in addition to the Boon Lay estate, Chew’s name is remembered in a number of roads in the area: Jalan Boon Lay, Boon Lay Avenue, Boon Lay Drive, Boon Lay Place and Boon Lay Way. A number of landmarks and amenities in the area are also named after the rubber tycoon, including an MRT station, bus interchange, shopping centre and several schools.

Public housing
The development of Jurong into a large-scale industrial estate began in the early 1960s.7 To attract labour for the industrial estate, flats were constructed by JTC, which was responsible for developing and managing Singapore’s industrial estates and their related facilities, to provide low-cost accommodation for workers.8 One of the first housing estates developed for this purpose was Neighbourhood I at Taman Jurong, which had consisted of some 10,000 units of flats by 1975.9

By the 1970s, Boon Lay had become home to resettled villagers from Tuas and other parts of Jurong whose lands had been acquired for industrial development. Many Malaysians who were working in the Jurong industrial estate also lived in the area.10

JTC had initially restricted the sale and rental of its flats to industrial personnel working in Jurong. However, with the development of residential estates by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) at nearby Ayer Rajah and Clementi, it was no longer necessary to retain a large reserve of flats for those working in the Jurong industrial estate. Consequently, JTC announced in June 1977 its decision to offer some of its flats, such as those in Boon Lay Gardens, for sale and rental to Singapore citizens living outside of Jurong.11

In a move to make HDB the sole public housing agency in Singapore, the government put the board in charge of building residential flats in Jurong in 1979.12 On 1 May 1982, the management of all existing JTC housing estates, including those in Boon Lay, came under HDB.13

By 2006, flats built by JTC during the 1970s were due to be torn down to make way for new public housing projects. Affected residents were resettled in Boon Lay under HDB’s Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme.14 

Industrial site
To the south of Boon Lay Way lies an industrial site.15 One prominent company located on the site is Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics), the land systems and specialty vehicles arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering.16

The history of ST Kinetics in Boon Lay dates back to 1968 when its predecessor, the Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS), established its factories on the same site. CIS was known for producing the first Singapore-made ammunition and Singapore-minted coins. It was also the first government-owned company to establish its operations in the Jurong industrial estate.17

In 2009, STA Inspection, a wholly owned vehicle inspection subsidiary of ST Kinetics, opened a vehicle inspection centre at the Boon Lay industrial site.18

Other companies currently situated there include Accuron Technologies and its subsidiary, Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing.19

Public transport and infrastructure
Rural bus service
During the 1950s, a rural bus service was started for residents in Tanjong Kling and Boon Lay Road. Operated by the Green Bus Company, the service ran from Queen Street to Tanjong Kling, passing by Bukit Timah, Jurong and Boon Lay roads along the way.20

Boon Lay bus interchange
The Boon Lay bus interchange commenced operations on 1 July 1990, replacing an older bus interchange in Jurong located some 3 km away. The new interchange was sited next to the Boon Lay MRT station to improve commuter convenience.21

In 2006, the bus interchange was demolished and a temporary one built 150 m away. The new air-conditioned bus interchange was completed three years later on the site of the former one. Integrated with Jurong Point mall, the latest Boon Lay bus interchange is Singapore’s fourth air-conditioned bus interchange following the ones built in Toa Payoh, Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio.22

Boon Lay MRT station
The Boon Lay MRT station stands on an area that was once a freshwater swamp forest. As a result of uncontrolled timber harvesting and forest clearance for agriculture, most of the natural flora and fauna in the area had been stripped away by the early 20th century.23

Opened on 6 July 1990, the Boon Lay MRT station was then the last stop on the western end of the East–West MRT line.24 The opening of the station also marked the completion of the original MRT system, which had a route totalling 67 km and comprising 42 stations.25

By 2005, plans were afoot to extend the East-West MRT line beyond the Boon Lay station.26 The track was extended 3.8 km further out west from Boon Lay to two new MRT stations, Pioneer and Joo Koon. The track extension was officially opened on 27 February 2009 and became operational the following day.27

Amenities
By the 1980s, Boon Lay had developed into one of two hubs in Jurong, the other being Taman Jurong. The amenities at the time included a shopping mall, hawker centre, wet market, schools, places of worship, community centre, swimming pool, as well as police and fire stations. These amenities served local residents as well as those from nearby estates.28

Shopping centres
Boon Lay Shopping Centre was completed in the late 1970s. Situated at Boon Lay Place, it was the first shopping and residential complex built by JTC in Jurong.29

Jurong Point, a suburban mall situated next to the Boon Lay MRT station, opened its doors in 1995.30 It housed the first public library to be located in a shopping mall, Jurong West Public Library, which was unveiled in March 1996.31 An extension to the Jurong Point was subsequently completed and officially opened in 2009, making it one of the largest suburban malls in Singapore at the time. In addition, the shopping centre was integrated with the Boon Lay bus interchange as well as The Centris condominium.32

Hawker centre and market
A hawker centre and market began operations at Boon Lay Place in 1976. Both underwent a makeover in 2003 to give it an “Asian village look”. The revamp also saw a reduction in the number of food and market stalls and an increase in the number of seats available to patrons.33

Educational institutions
The Jurong Vocational Institute was built at Jalan Boon Lay in 1969. It was later renamed ITE (Institute of Technical Education) Jurong, and relocated to Bukit Batok in January 2000.34

In 1977, Boon Lay Garden Primary School and Boon Lay Secondary School began classes for their first batch of students.35 Under an urban renewal programme for Jurong and Boon Lay launched in the 1990s, Boon Lay Secondary School moved from 247 Jalan Boon Lay to a new campus in Jurong West in 1999, while Boon Lay Garden Primary School shifted from Boon Lay Avenue to new premises at 20 Boon Lay Drive in 2001.36

In 2010, River Valley High School moved to its current campus in Boon Lay. The 7.6-hectare campus is one of the largest among government schools in Singapore and includes a 500-bed hostel for both local and international students.37

Places of worship
There are two churches in Boon Lay: Church of Christ on Boon Lay Drive and Church of St Francis of Assisi on Boon Lay Avenue. Both churches were built in 1976. The Church of St Francis of Assisi was formed through the merger of Taman Jurong Chapel and Gek Poh Chapel. Taman Jurong Chapel was established in 1967 in a shophouse along Hu Ching Road to cater to workers in the Jurong industrial estate. Gek Poh Chapel was built in 1969 on the former Gek Poh Road.38

Another place of worship is the Tuas Tua Pek Kong Temple. Founded in the 1940s by eight residents of Tuas Village, the Taoist temple shifted from an attap hut to a brick-and-tile building in 1954. As many of the villagers were later resettled in Boon Lay, the temple was reopened at 118 Boon Lay Drive during the 1980s.39

Community centre
Boon Lay Community Centre is one of the oldest community centres in Singapore. Initially located at a temporary site rented from JTC, the community centre shifted to its current premises at 10 Boon Lay Place in the early 1980s.40 It was the first community centre in Singapore to establish a golf club.41

Constituency and grassroots organisations
Boon Lay constituency
Boon Lay was part of the Jurong constituency prior to the 1976 general election, but became a separate electoral division thereafter. At the time, the Boon Lay constituency comprised a housing estate built by JTC and rural settlements inhabited by farmers and squatters.42

While group representation constituencies (GRCs) were introduced in the 1988 general election, the Boon Lay constituency continued as a single-seat ward until 2001 when it became part of the West Coast GRC.43

Grassroots organisations
The Boon Lay constituency established its own citizens’ consultative committee to look after residents’ needs after it was separated from the Jurong ward. During the early 1980s, the committee raised several hundred thousand dollars for the development of Boon Lay’s rural areas. The funds raised were used to build roads and to improve street lighting and drainage.44

In 1978, Boon Lay became one of the first constituencies to establish residents’ committees (RCs) under a pilot RC project that aimed to promote neighbourliness, racial harmony and social cohesion among residents in HDB estates.45  



Author
Cheryl Sim



References
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9.
Waiting time for low cost Jurong flats cut down. (1975, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS])
11.
JTC offers flats to those living outside Jurong. (1977, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 10; Public can now buy JTC flats. (1977, June 7). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
Jurong flats: HDB takes over from JTC. (1979, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
JTC flats: Over to HDB in May. (1982, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Tan, H. Y. (2006, March 23). 1,600 unsold flats offered to families being resettled. The Straits Times, p. 4; Shuli Sudderuddin. (2011, December 30). Boon Lay flats to be replaced under Sers. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
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Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. (2016). Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd (ST Kinetics). Retrieved from ST Engineering website: http://www.stengg.com/about-us/companies/land-systems/st-kinetics  
17.
Richards, A. (1968, April 27). Minister to open mint, ammunition plant. The Straits Times, p. 9; ST Engg completes CIS buy. (2000, February 10). The Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Ee, S. (2009, September 9). STA opens 3rd outlet in Jalan Boon Lay. The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; STA Inspection. (2012). Overview. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from STA Vehicle Inspection website: http://www.stai.com.sg/aboutus.php  
19. Accuron Technologies Limited. (2009). Accuron Aerospace: SAM. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from Accuron Technologies website: http://www.accuron.com/accuron-aerospace.html; Accuron Technologies Limited. (2009). Worldwide offices. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from Accuron Technologies website: http://www.accuron.com/accuron-worldwideoffices.html   
20.
Koh, P. L. (1953, November 17). Rural bus service for 2,000. The Singapore Free Press, p. 3; New bus route planned. (1954, January 9). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
21.
Rohaniah Saini. (1990, June 15). Bus commuters pleased with shift to Boon Lay. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
Chan, R. (2009, December 28). Biggest air-con interchange opens. My Paper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
23.
National Heritage Board. (2015). Jurong heritage trail. Singapore: Author, p. 4. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/~/media/nhb/files/places/trails/jurong%20heritage%20trail%20booklet_13042015.pdf   
24.
Dhaliwal, R. (1990, July 6). Next: HDB estates with MRT in mind. The Straits Times, p. 1; Taiwan-S’pore venture wins Boon Lay job. (1988, May 10). The Business Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
Dhaliwal, R. (1990, July 7). S’pore’s largest project built on time and below budget: Dr Yeo. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Communications & Information. (1990, July 6). Speech by Dr Yeo Ning Hong, minister (communications & information) and second minister for defence (policy), at the closing ceremony to mark the completion of the MRT project and the opening of Boon Lay station at the Raffles Ballroom, Westin Stamford, p. 1. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/  
26.
Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (2005, January 12). Ministry of Transport (Vol. 79). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 47. Retrieved from Parliament of Singapore website: https://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/report.jsp?currentPubID=00004679-WA  
27.
Yeo, G. L., & Goh, Y. H. (2009, February 28). Boon for Boon Lay. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Boon Lay MRT extension opens. (2009, February 28). Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ 
28.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS]); Smartly down the ropes in just six seconds. (1975, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 7; Former police station now a turning point for inmates. (1980, April 11). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
29.
JTC plan for a shopping complex with flats. (1975, November 6). New Nation, p. 4; Another pool for Jurong. (1977, February 8). New Nation, p. 4; MP to open new Boon Lay post office. (1978, October 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.  
30.
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31.
Yeo, S. (1996, January 29). National library’s newest branch to be located in shopping mall. The Straits Times, p. 3; First shopping-centre library opens. (1996, March 23). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.  
32.
Lim, C. (2009, March 10). Biggest suburban mall banks on good service. My Paper. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Teo, J. (2006, March 22). Boon Lay site to have $720m mixed development. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
33.
Perry, M. (2002, March 23). Asian village look for revamped Boon Lay market. The Straits Times, p. 9; JTC market, food centre opens today. (1976, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
34.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS])
35.
Boon Lay school to open. (1976, November 18). The Straits Times, p. 15; 36 ‘new style’ schools to be built in housing estates. (1977, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
36.
Mathi, B. (1997, January 23). Jurong schools face space squeeze… The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Boon Lay Secondary School. (2015). History. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from Boon Lay Secondary School website: http://www.boonlaysec.moe.edu.sg/about/history/; Boon Lay Garden Primary School. (2014). School history (1977–present). Retrieved 2016, May 17 from Boon Lay Garden Primary School website: http://www.boonlaygardenpri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/our-history; Boon Lay Garden Primary School. (2014). Contact us. Retrieved from Boon Lay Garden Primary School website: http://www.boonlaygardenpri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/contact-us  
37.
Ng, J. (2008, January 11). River Valley High to get $79m campus in Jurong. The Straits Times, p. 4; Shuli Sudderuddin. (2010, January 3). River Valley High finds a home. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38.
National Heritage Board. (2015). Jurong heritage trail. Singapore: Author, p. 70. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/~/media/nhb/files/places/trails/jurong%20heritage%20trail%20booklet_13042015.pdf; Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, pp. 30, 35. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS]) 
39.
National Heritage Board. (2015). Jurong heritage trail. Singapore: Author, p. 69. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/~/media/nhb/files/places/trails/jurong%20heritage%20trail%20booklet_13042015.pdf
40.
People’s Association. (2016, March 16). Boon Lay Community Centre. Retrieved 2016, May 17 from People’s Association website: https://pa.gov.sg/Our_Network/Community_Clubs/Locate_CC/Boon_Lay_Community_Centre; Call for more volunteers. (1979, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 9; Long, hot treks to meet the voters. (1980, December 18). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, p. 40. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS])
42.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, pp. 5, 12. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS]); The ten new electoral divisions. (1976, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS]); Team-MP bill gets presidential assent. (1988, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; Teo, A. (2001, October 18). Election seen as early as Nov 3. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44.
Boon Lay: The town the people. (2002). Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, pp. 20, 66. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS])
45.
Leong, W. K. (1996, June 10). How they came about. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg



The information in this article is valid as at 20 June 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
City planning--Singapore
Boon Lay (Singapore)
Land use--Singapore
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places