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

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  

Cheryl Sim

1. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., Singapore Island & City Map ([Hong Kong]: Periplus Editions, 2009) (Call no. RSING 912.5957 PER); Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: Mighty Minds Pub., 2015), maps 60–61, 80–82. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSSD-[DIR])
2. “Jurong Heritage Trail,” National Heritage Board, 2015, 2, 47.
3. National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 14, 48.
4. National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 48; Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, “My Grandfather’s Road... Really,” New Paper, 11 June 2012, 4–5. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “The Family Behind Boon Lay,” Straits Times, 16 November 2003, L3 (From NewspaperSG); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 59. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
6. Boon Lay: The Town the People (Singapore: Boon Lay Citizens’ Consultative Committee, 2002), 12, 14. (Call no. RSING q959.57 BOO-[HIS]); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 59; National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 48, 58.
7. Paul Jansen, “Jurong Town,” Straits Times, 14 February 1980, 6. (From NewspaperSG) 
8. Parliament of Singapore, “Budget, Ministry of Finance, vol. 36 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 21 March 1977, col. 1398; Jurong Town Corporation, Annual Report (Singapore: Jurong Town Corporation, 1969), 1–2 (Call no. RCLOS 352.0072 JTCAR); Jurong Town Corporation Act 1968 (Act 5 of 1968), Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 45. (Call no. RCLOS 348.5957 SGGAS)
9. “Waiting Time for Low Cost Jurong Flats Cut Down,” Straits Times, 22 June 1975, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Boon Lay, 12.
11. “JTC Offers Flats to Those Living Outside Jurong,” Straits Times, 4 June, 10; “Public Can Now Buy JTC Flats,” Business Times, 7 June 1977, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Jurong Flats: HDB Takes Over from JTC,” Straits Times, 2 June 1979, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “JTC Flats: Over to HDB in May,” Straits Times, 19 April 1982, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Tan Hui Yee, “1,600 Unsold Flats Offered to Families Being Resettled,” Straits Times, 23 March 2006, 4; Shuli Sudderuddin, “Boon Lay Flats to Be Replaced under Sers,” Straits Times, 30 December 2011, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Boon Lay, 29–30; Mighty Minds Singapore Street Directory, map 81.
16. “Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd (ST Kinetics),” Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, 2016.
17. Arthur Richards, “Minister to Open Mint, Ammunition Plant,” Straits Times, 27 April 1968, 9; “ST Engg Completes CIS Buy,” Business Times, 10 February 2000, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Samuel Ee, “STA Opens 3rd Outlet in Jalan Boon Lay,” Business Times, 9 September 2009, 19 (From NewspaperSG); “Overview,” STA Inspection, accessed 17 May 2016.
19. “Accuron Aerospace: SAM,” Accuron Technologies Limited, accessed 17 May 2016; “Worldwide Offices,” Accuron Technologies Limited, accessed 17 May 2016.
20. P. L. Koh, “Rural Bus Service for 2,000,” Singapore Free Press, 17 November 1953, 3; “New Bus Route Planned,” Straits Times, 9 January 1954, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Rohaniah Saini, “Bus Commuters Pleased with Shift to Boon Lay,” Straits Times, 15 June 1990, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Rachel Chan, “Biggest Air-Con Interchange Opens,” My Paper, 28 December 2009 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
23. National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 4.
24. Rav Dhaliwal, “Next: HDB Estates with MRT in Mind,” Straits Times, 6 July 1960, 1; “Taiwan-S’pore Venture Wins Boon Lay Job,” Business Times, 10 May 1988, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Rav Dhaliwal, “S’pore’s Largest Project Built on Time and below Budget: Dr Yeo,” Straits Times, 7 July 1990, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Yeo Ning Hong, “The Closing Ceremony to Mark the Completion of the MRT Project and the Opening of Boon Lay Station,” speech, Raffles Ballroom, Westin Stamford, 6 July 1990, transcript, Ministry of Communications and Information (1985–1990). (From National Archives of Singapore document no. ynh19900706s)  
26. Parliament of Singapore, Addenda, Ministry of Transport, vol. 79 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 12 January 2005, col 47,
27. Yeo Ghim Lay and Goh Yi Han, “Boon for Boon Lay,” Straits Times, 28 February 2009, 32 (From NewspaperSG); “Boon Lay MRT Extension Opens,” Today, 28 February 2009. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
28. Boon Lay, 18; “Smartly down the Ropes In Just Six Seconds,” Straits Times, 13 November 1975, 7; Paul Jansen, “Former Police Station Now a Turning Point for Inmates,” Straits Times, 11 April 1980, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
29. “JTC Plan for a Shopping Complex with Flats,” New Nation, 6 November 1975, 4; “Another Pool for Jurong,” New Nation, 8 February 1977, 4; “MP to Open New Boon Lay Post Office,” Straits Times, 18 October 1978, 8. (From NewspaperSG)  
30. “Jurong West’s Biggest Shopping Centre Is for the Family,” Straits Times, 17 March 1995, 21. (From NewspaperSG) 
31. Stephanie Yeo, “National Library’s Newest Branch to Be Located in Shopping Mall,” Straits Times, 29 January 1996, 3; “First Shopping-Centre Library Opens,” (1996, March 23). Straits Times, 23 March 1996, 30. (From NewspaperSG) 
32. C. Lim, “Biggest Suburban Mall Banks on Good Service,” My Paper, 10 March 2009 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Joyce Teo, “Boon Lay Site to Have $720M Mixed Development,” Straits Times, 22 March 2006, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Margaret Perry, “Asian Village Look for Revamped Boon Lay market,” Straits Times, 23 March 2002, 9; “JTC Market, Food Centre Opens Today,” Straits Times, 16 July 1976, 21. (From NewspaperSG.)
34. Boon Lay, 41.
35. “Boon Lay School to Open,” Straits Times, 18 November 1976, 15; “36 ‘New Style’ Schools to Be Built in Housing Estates,” Straits Times, 30 January 1977, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Braema Mathi, “Jurong Schools Face Space Squeeze…,” Straits Times, 23 January 1997, 42 (From NewspaperSG); “History,” Boon Lay Secondary School, accessed 17 May 2016; “Our History (1977–Present),” Boon Lay Garden Primary School, accessed 17 May 2016; “Contact Us,” Boon Lay Garden Primary School, accessed 17 May 2016.    
37. Jane Ng, “River Valley High to Get $79M Campus in Jurong,” Straits Times, 11 January 2008, 4; Shuli Sudderuddin, “River Valley High Finds a Home,” Straits Times, 3 January 2010, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
38. National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 70; Boon Lay, 30, 35.  
39. National Heritage Board, “Jurong Heritage Trail,” 69.
40. “Boon Lay Community Club,” People’s Association, accessed 17 May 2016; “Call for More Volunteers,” Straits Times, 24 December 1979, 9; “Long, Hot treks to Meet the Voters,” Straits Times, 18 December 1980, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
41. Boon Lay, 40.
42. Boon Lay, 5, 12; “The Ten New Electoral Divisions,” Straits Times, 24 July 1976, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
43. Boon Lay, 5; “Team-MP Bill Gets Presidential Assent,” Straits Times, 1 June 1988, 1; Anna Teo, “Election Seen as Early as Nov 3.” Business Times, 18 October 2001, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
44. Boon Lay, 20, 66.
45. Leong Weng Kam, “How They Came About,” Straits Times, 10 June 1996. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

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.

Land use--Singapore
Boon Lay (Singapore)
City planning--Singapore
Streets and Places