Simei: Small estate with big potential
Simei, named after the Four Beauties of ancient China, has an allure that is attracting locals and expats alike to call it home.
Once upon a time in the 1980s, Xishi, Diaochan, Yang Guifei and Zhaojun – the Four Great Beauties of ancient China – lent their names to the four main streets of the then-new town of Simei (“four beauties” in Mandarin). It was only when residents complained that they were too difficult to pronounce, that the Housing Board (HDB) renamed them Simei Streets 1, 2, 3 and 4 in 1987.
Nevertheless, these ladies have since been immortalised in the town through wall murals at the void decks of some HDB blocks. However, another – more boring – story tells that the town was named after Jalan Soo Bee, located near the junction of Simei Avenue and Upper Changi Road. And so “Simei”, the Mandarin translation of “Soo Bee”, was adopted during the Government’s drive to replace dialect names with hanyu pinyin ones.
Whatever its roots, Simei hits the sweet spot for many shopping for a home in the east. One of the five subzones of the Tampines planning area, it measures 225ha, or just 11 per cent of the total land area of Tampines New Town. HDB started developing flats there in 1984, with the first residents moving in two years later. Growing popularity Acclaimed lawyer Rajan Chettiar, who wrote about his first HDB flat-hunting experience back in 2004 in an article for
The Singapore Law Gazette, recalled that he and his wife favoured Simei over Tampines (too crowded) and Pasir Ris (too vast and obscure). “(Simei) was the most ideal location – I have always wanted to live in a small housing estate. It is quiet. There
are no maddening crowds and yet there is a sufficient level of activity and life to make the place interesting,” he wrote. Years later, however, he lamented that Simei became too crowded.
As of 2015, Simei is home to 42,710 residents. Among them are proud homeowners of Parc Lumiere, a 360-unit Design, Build & Sell Scheme (DBSS) project completed in 2011. The condostyle HDB project, designed with bay windows and spacious balconies, made the news as the first DBSS project to go on sale via a walk-in selection basis instead of through a ballot. Hundreds of eager buyers queued overnight to book a unit, priced from $378,000 for a fourroom flat, to $575,000 for a five-room flat. Today, a resale four-room unit is marketed at $650,000.
Another testament to Simei’s popularity: private property developers paying top dollar for a piece of the action.
In 2010, CEL Development – a property arm of Chip Eng Seng – outbid 17 other competitors with the highest offer of $152.7 million for a residential site on Simei Street 3, just across Simei MRT station and Eastpoint Mall. At $523psf per plot ratio, it was much higher than analysts’ earlier predictions of $295 to $410. This resulted in the 301-unit condominium My Manhattan, completed in 2014. Since then, units have transacted between $1,123 to $1,330psf. Landlords are banking on its prime spot to justify high rent; a 400sqf shoebox unit was recently put up for lease at $1,850 per month. For home buyers on a tighter budget, Eastpoint Green – completed in 1998 – is about 420m away from Simei MRT station and commands substantially lower prices than My Manhattan, despite being on the same street. A 1,119sqf three-bedder was recently marketed at $860,000, or just $768.54psf. Over the years, Simei, with its close proximity to Changi Business Park, has been attracting more expats, particularly Indians. A 2012 article in Tabla! even described Melville Park condominium, where the community regularly organised cricket games and exchanged curry recipes, as “Simei’s Little India”. A variety of conveniences Simei offers sufficient amenities to meet residents’ needs, with its crown jewel being the expanded six-storey Eastpoint Mall near Simei MRT station. It underwent an extensive facelift and reopened in December 2014, with an extra 12 per cent of space dedicated to food and beverage areas.
A popular cycling town, Simei also boasts a new Changi-Simei cycling path network, which allows residents to get around safely on pedal power. It is part of the Land Transport Authority’s plan to build intra-town cycling path networks spanning over 700km in all HDB towns, by 2030. There are several parks and playgrounds in Simei, such as Meragi Road Park, Simei Park, and Sunbird Circle Playground.
In addition, the Simei Park Connector, which runs along ITE College East and Singapore Expo, offers the first fitness corner to comply with standards set by Exercise Is Medicine Singapore. This programme by the Changi Sports Medicine Centre promotes exercise as a key way of preventing and treating diseases. Besides the usual equipment like parallel bars, chin-up bars and steps, the fitness corner includes instructions to help users, including those with chronic illnesses, to customise their workout to match specific health needs.
Providing medical support to the town are St. Andrew’s Community Hospital and Changi General Hospital, while the purpose-built Orange Valley Nursing Home offers eldercare service. The Changi Simei Community Centre is another facility well utilised by residents. Besides the usual activities and facilities, it is also home to Dennis Gym and Dynasty Seafood, a zichar restaurant popular for its signature fish-head hotpot. While Simei doesn’t boast any brand-name primary or secondary schools, it is well served by Changkat Primary School, Changkat Changi Secondary School, ITE College East and the Metta Development School, which caters to students with mild intellectual disabilities and mild autism spectrum disorders. Just off Simei Road is the new campus of the Singapore University of Technology and Design in Somapah Road, completed in 2015. With programmes offered in partnership with prestigious institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University and Singapore Management University, it is our fourth public university and the only one located in the eastern part of Singapore.
Perhaps the only things Simei lacks are its own wet market and hawker centre.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources confirmed last year that there are no current plans to build one, as “there are sufficient eating establishments and commercial facilities within the Simei estate”, said minister Masagos Zulkifli, listing Tampines Round Market and Food Centre as a nearby alternative.
For many, like civil servant Ang LK, a hawker centre will be a plus, but the lack of one certainly doesn’t diminish Simei’s attractiveness. “We hope to take advantage of the current privateproperty price decline and upgrade from a HDB flat to a value-for-money condo in Simei. Anyway, Simei is just one MRT stop away from Bedok and Tampines, in case we need anything else!”
1 The newly completed ChangiSimei cycling path network has better equipped Simei as a cycling town.
2 My Manhattan condominium offers owners and tenants great convenience with its easy access to Eastpoint Mall and Simei MRT station across the road.
3 Fun fact: in 2015, the Changi Simei Community Club made it into the Singapore Book of Records for the “Largest Logo Made of Push Cakes”, when residents baked 1,406 push cakes to form an SG50 logo measuring 2.3m in diameter. Talk about kampung spirit!
4 The first DBSS project sold through a walk-in selection basis instead of balloting, Parc Lumiere sparked overnight queues during its launch in 2009.
5 The Singapore University of Technology and Design’s new campus in Somapah Road offers residents the opportunity for tertiary education near home.