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Limited land, unlimited space: SLA's chief on why Singapore's lack of land does not equate to a lack of space in Singapore

Ask any Singaporean if they believe there is enough land space in Singapore, and the answer is likely to be no.

Yet, this prevailing perception does not deter Colin Low, Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) chief executive, from his steadfast mission to create unlimited spaces.

In a behind-the-scenes look at how SLA functions, Low describes the paradox of having "limited land, unlimited space", and explains how it pushes his team to continuously reimagine spaces in our little red dot.

How does SLA function?

In a country where land is precious and scarce, we may be most familiar with SLA's role in being the custodian of Singapore's properties.

In essence, when leases on places like army camps or school buildings expire and return to the state, SLA assumes responsibility for them. If there are no redevelopment plans in place, it falls upon the team at SLA to figure out how to optimise these spaces for the community.

However, that is just one aspect of SLA's governance. In fact, there are three pillars that encompass SLA's functions: land and properties, regulatory, and geospatial.

Want to find out more? Watch our above interview with Low to learn how each pillar impacts the way SLA works on improving Singapore.

Not just for economic development

Aligning needs is pivotal to SLA's strategy for repurposing land. Low cites 100 Henderson Road, where our interview took place, as a prime example of places reimagined to serve multiple purposes.

Once a secondary school, it now houses a childcare, an elderly care dialysis centre, as well as a plot for urban farming, creating opportunity for inter-generational interaction in a single place.

"It's about trying to fulfil different requirements, to push ourselves to have unlimited imagination," he adds.

Going beyond the box

During our interview, Low discussed how his past experiences in the private sector prepared him for his role at SLA.

Leveraging his experience, he encouraged his colleagues at SLA to connect with various vendors and parties in the private sector to better understand the community's needs.

Low also initiated a Brown Bag engagement series featuring professionals from the private sector, to inspire SLA staff to explore fresh perspectives. These networking sessions encourage the team to think beyond conventional boundaries, allowing them to identify emerging trends and opportunities.

"We are a very small country, 730 square kilometres," Low points out. 

"It's really up to our imagination to see what kind of spaces can be created from the little land that we have," he says.

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