We're going to Geylang.

What sets one neighbourhood in Singapore apart from the other? For many Singaporeans, it’s the food. Prata from this neighbourhood, chicken rice from that one, satay from another one. But besides food, what else distinguishes neighbourhoods in Singapore from each other?

Placemaking is important in creating a sense of identity and belonging, and that’s why The Afternaut is excited about this project we’re embarking on with our clients MEIR Collective in Geylang.

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Besides durians, late night supper joints, religious institutions, and other “alternative” activities, what else is there to Geylang?

Geylang — A Singapore Story

Geylang is such a centrally located neighbourhood — it connects the Central Business District to the east of Singapore. Indeed, when Singapore was a young nation, many of the people who built our country and worked in its industries lived around Kallang and Geylang. It was the wealthy who lived in the more famous shophouses in Joo Chiat, Telok Ayer, and Emerald Hill.

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Row of shophouses and eateries in Geylang.

The shophouses in Geylang were built by ordinary, regular Singaporeans. They could run a business to make a living on the ground floor space and live above, hence the term “shophouse”. Therefore we feel Geylang is a key character in the Singapore Story of how good, honest, hard work can help build a livelihood for ourselves and our families.

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The part of Geylang we’re starting from is the central part — a busy road lined with shophouses on both sides.

Sparking wholesome energy into Geylang

It was only in the 1990s that vice became rampant in Geylang. During the pandemic when these alternative activities had to shut down, we serendipitously met MEIR Collective. Geylang was always full of bustle — from the labourers who worked there in the past, to the vice, nightlife, and late night supper scene. Therefore, together with MEIR Collective, we set out to spark a “cleaner” kind of vibrancy and energy back into Geylang.

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Diners at one of the many famous food establishments in Geylang.

How do we do this?

We wanted to honour the heritage of the neighbourhood while making it a meaningful and relevant place for present and future residents. That’s why we began our placemaking efforts to “celebrate the ordinary” — the ordinary, everyday folks who lived in Geylang while building Singapore, and the regular folks who live there today.

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483 Geylang Road — one of the first spaces to spark a new kind of energy in Geylang.

The idea of placemaking isn’t tangible but design is — people need to be able to feel and experience placemaking through the output design. That’s why we are proud to be designing one of Meir’s properties at 465 Geylang Road. We’re helping to shoutout about the other sites too because we think that together, these can spark exciting energy in Geylang.

Afternaut’s role is mainly to help to bring the community together — the different players — real estate owners, F&B, service providers, community members, residents — to simply enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate the unique characteristics of Geylang.

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Stay tuned — the exciting new space by The Afternaut at 465 Geylang Road, ready in 2024.

People attract people, that’s why we’re bringing in new fresh blood in the form of the new community members who can meet the long-time dwellers and bring energy back to Geylang again.

Thus through these placemaking efforts, the community in Geylang can feel connected to the place, and both Geylang and its community are given a sense of identity, belonging and pride. This is why the Afternaut feels that placemaking provides more than monetary value or marketable unique selling points (USP) to the real estate industry.

As the place grows from strength to strength, it creates a long-sustaining value for all — the community, the place, and the built environment industry players.

Geylang is a place to be proud of, not made fun of

Placemaking here is not a top down or bottom up approach, it is where both sides — the existing residents and businesses, and the newcomers — come to meet each other in the middle to reach an equilibrium. Together, we hope to make Geylang a place people can be proud of — that Singaporeans are proud to visit, and proud to bring their friends from overseas to. Majulah Singapura!