Simei



Simei is one of the five subzones of the Tampines planning area located in the eastern region of Singapore. It is bounded by the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), Upper Changi Road East and Bedok Park Connector.1 Measuring 225 ha in size, Simei makes up 11 percent of the total land area of Tampines New Town and is largely residential in nature.2 Public housing development in Simei began in 1984 and its first residents moved in 1986.3 As at 2015, it houses a population of 42,710 residents.4 Simei estate has a wide range of amenities including a hospital, primary to tertiary educational institutions, retail outlets and a community centre.5 While Simei is supported by its own commercial and shopping establishments, residents also tap on existing facilities available in the neighbouring Tampines town centre.6

History
“Simei” (四美) means “four beauties” in Mandarin and the estate’s four main streets were originally named after the four great beauties of ancient China: Xishi, Diaochan, Guifei and Zhaojun.7 However, because Simei residents found it difficult to pronounce the hanyu pinyin street names, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) renamed them as Simei Streets 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively in 1987.8 Wall murals depicting each of these four legendary beauties adorn the void decks of HDB blocks along these respective streets. The murals were designed and painted in late 1987 at a cost of S$800 each.9 Hexagonal and diamond-shaped motifs common in traditional Chinese architecture were also incorporated into some of the HDB block designs in the estate.10


Other sources have contended that the estate was originally named Soo Bee, a dialect term for “Simei”, after a minor road called Jalan Soo Bee located near the junction of Simei Avenue and Upper Changi Road. The estate was subsequently renamed Simei in the 1980s during the height of the Speak Mandarin Campaign, which saw dialect place names converted to Mandarin ones.11

Housing
Design and Build Scheme
Prior to urbanisation in the 1980s, Simei was a sprawling, sparsely populated rural area.12 It was one of the first estates where the early iteration of what became known as the HDB’s Design and Build Scheme was carried out.13 Under this scheme, construction companies were invited by the HDB to submit tender proposals for public housing projects. The planning, construction method and management of the project was then left to the selected contractor. The aim of the scheme was to encourage the use of highly mechanised new building technology for public housing developments so that they would be completed quickly and efficiently using less labour.14

In 1984, local firm Lee Kim Tah won a S$75.6-million contract to construct 2,300 flats in Simei.15 A year later, French construction firm Société Générale d’Enterprises (SGE) was awarded a S$88.8-million contract to construct 2,436 four- and five-room pre-fabricated flats in the same estate.16

Construction work on the 110-hectare Simei public housing estate started in December 1984. The first 16 blocks of HDB flats comprising 6,120 units were scheduled for completion in late 1986. At least 4,592 flats in the estate were built using modern pre-fabrication methods.17 The pre-fabricated flats slashed construction time by some 30 percent because around two-thirds of the work, such as formwork and steel reinforcement, was done at the factory. Only the task of pouring the concrete was carried out at the construction site. Not only did this construction method require less manpower, it also eliminated the need for construction props.18 The initial batch of flats in the estate were built such that residents living on the higher floors had an almost unobstructed view of the eastern coastline.19

Condominium-style flats
In 2009, the HDB launched Parc Lumiere, a new condominium-style estate on Simei Road. Unlike other projects under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) which required balloting, interested buyers for this project were able to secure a flat on the spot. Designed, built and sold by private developer Sim Lian, which also pioneered the first DBSS project in 2006, the estate comprised eight 12-storey blocks with 120 four-room flats, 240 five-room flats and an elevated landscape deck. Flat prices ranged from S$378,000 to S$575,000.20

Despite being equipped with conventional condominium-style fittings such as balconies and built-in wardrobes, Parc Lumiere retained many aspects of public housing estates. It was ungated and did not offer amenities common in condominiums such as pools and barbeque pits. Public housing rules also applied to the development, such as a monthly household wage ceiling of S$8,000 for potential buyers, an ethnic quota and a five-year minimum occupancy period.21

Although the project was slated to go on sale from 21 April 2009, hundreds of potential buyers started queuing overnight four days before the launch in the hopes of landing a unit as the sales were made on a first-come-first-served basis. The overwhelming response prompted Sim Lian to start accepting bookings two days before the official launch date.22 Within that duration, 306 out of 360 units were sold.23 Along with the popularity of other condominium-style HDB flats, Parc Lumiere was regarded as an indicator of a boom in the local housing sector despite the economic slowdown Singapore was experiencing at the time due to the global financial crisis.24 Construction work for the project was completed on 2 April 2011.25

Amenities
Eastpoint Mall
Located next to the Simei MRT station was Eastpoint Mall, a six-storey suburban mall that opened in 1997.26 It was the first of its kind to house a wading pool with a fountain on the top floor for use by children under the age of eight.27 Designed by architect Tang Guan Bee, the mall does away with the typical uniform and sanitised appearance of modern shopping centres for a more carnival-like atmosphere akin to shopping bazaars of the 1960s and ’70s such as Beauty World.28 With its use of vibrant shapes and colours, as well as the integration of natural lighting with materials such as glass and steel, the mall clinched several accolades, including the SIA/ICI Colour Award (Gold) in 1997 and the 5th SIA Architectural Design Award in 1998.29 The mall underwent an extensive renovation in March 2013 and reopened in December 2014 with a greater variety of eateries and a 24-hour NTUC FairPrice supermarket.30


St Andrew’s Community Hospital
In 2005, Singapore’s first community hospital, St Andrew’s Community Hospital, relocated from Siglap to Simei.31 The 11-storey, 200-bed hospital building became the first of its kind to be located next to an acute-care hospital, Changi General Hospital, in order to provide seamless rehabilitative care for its patients.32


Changi General Hospital
CGH was officially opened by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 28 March 1998. Costing S$380 million to construct, it was the first of Singapore’s modern regional hospitals. These hospitals were developed as part of a three-tiered national healthcare network in an effort to drive down the costs of healthcare, streamline medical services, alleviate overcrowding and reduce waiting times for patients. The hospital offers affordable treatment and services for more general medical cases, while referring those patients who require more costly and specialised treatment to upper-tier facilities such as tertiary hospitals and national centres.33

Serving 750,000 residents living east of the Kallang Basin, CGH was built to replace two older hospitals: Changi Hospital, which opened in 1935 as the Royal Air Force Hospital, and Toa Payoh Hospital, which was established in 1959 as Thomson Road Hospital.34

Educational institutions
Simei is home to four educational institutions: Changkat Primary School, Changkat Changi Secondary School, Metta School and ITE (Institute of Technical Education) College East.35


ITE College East
This Institute of Technical Education (ITE), located at 10 Simei Avenue, was the first of three regional campuses to open its doors in 2005 under the consolidated “one ITE system, three colleges” model that replaced 10 smaller institutes.36 The other mega campuses are ITE College West in Choa Chua Kang and ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio. The scheme, launched in 2001, entailed upgrading institute facilities and infrastructure to standards comparable with polytechnics as well as offering administrators greater freedom in running operations and deploying resources. Spanning 10.7 ha in size, the ITE College East campus cost S$240 million to develop and is equipped with facilities such as an indoor basketball court, an Olympic-size swimming pool, street soccer courts as well as centres for arts performances and multimedia learning.37 ITE College East specialises in nursing, life sciences and logistics management courses.38

Transportation
Bus interchange

The bus interchange in Simei Avenue was opened in 1982. The interchange, together with new roads in Simei Avenue between Tampines Avenue 5 and Upper Changi Road, provided residents with direct transportation access to the PIE and the eastern part of Singapore.39

MRT station
Together with the Tampines and Pasir Ris stations, the Simei MRT station was officially opened on 16 December 1989, which together form part of the last segment of the MRT’s eastern line.40


Intra-town cycling paths
Changi-Simei was one of the HDB towns selected to be included in the National Cycling Plan, which was launched in 2010 to introduce cycling infrastructure within towns to improve connectivity between key transport hubs.41


As part of the plan, some 2.3 km of new cycling paths were added to the existing one-kilometre network in the estate.42 The new cycling route also intersects with the Simei Park Connector, a two-kilometre-long pavement that passes through Simei estate and links the Simei MRT station with other neighbouring landmarks such as ITE College East and the Singapore Expo.43

Electoral history
Previously part of the Changi Single-Member Constituency, Simei was regrouped into the Changi-Simei ward under the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) during the 1997 general election.44 The ward subsequently came under the East Coast GRC for the general elections held between 2001 and 2015.45


The Changi-Simei ward is currently under the administration of the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council and represented by member of Parliament Jessica Tan Soon Neo of the People’s Action Party (PAP).46



Author

Kong Yen Lin



References
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The information in this article is valid as at 19 September 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
Streets and Places
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