Neighbourhood Nostalgia: Yishun

Once a gambier and pepper stronghold in the 1800s and early 1900s, Yishun today is a flourishing town that George Varghees, a resident for over 20 years, is proud to call home.

“Yishun has almost every amenity imaginable, including neighbourhood parks, medical centres, and an integrated hub. I especially love Yishun’s vibrant and charming neighbourhood vibes and its laid-back residents,” the 27-year old shares.

George has lived in Yishun since he was a toddler

Creating a Modern Satellite Town

Formerly known as Nee Soon, the town was named after Lim Nee Soon, a banker, businessman, and respected community leader in pre-independent Singapore, who also owned rubber and pineapple plantations in the area.

Yishun’s transformation into a modern town took place over several decades, since urbanisation of the town began in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Yishun welcomed Chong Pang City, its first neighbourhood centre which provided residents with easy access to dining, healthcare, and retail options.

“You can’t talk about Yishun without mentioning Chong Pang City—it is one of the town’s icons!” George smiles. “In the 1990s, Chong Pang City was revamped to include an oriental gateway and concrete pavement which gave it a unique look. The place has a really friendly vibe; residents greet each other like old friends and coffee shops bustle with activities,” he adds.

The refurbished Northpoint is an integrated hub of connectivity and recreation

The 1990s also saw the development of Northpoint, Singapore’s first suburban mall, housing Asia’s first cineplex! Over the years, Northpoint has undergone a series of refurbishments. Today, Northpoint City is an integrated hub offering a range of dining, retail, and recreational options—even a Community Centre— under one roof.

“Northpoint has expanded and been revamped over the years,” George recalls. “The Northpoint I frequented during my secondary school days only makes up a section of the current mall, and is known as the North Wing.”

The Great Outdoors

In 2007, Yishun – by then in its middle age – was one of three towns and estates selected for makeover under the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, along with Punggol and Dawson. Aimed at transforming the heartlands into distinctive and vibrant homes for Singaporeans, the plans are tailored to suit the needs of each town, so that it keeps pace with the changing needs of residents. Since then, Yishun has undergone a major rejuvenation, with one of the focus areas being the creation of more outdoor facilities for residents.

The revamped Yishun Pond as seen from The Spiral@Yishun

Among them, Yishun Park is a popular recreational space with residents, featuring lush landscaping that includes tropical and rubber fruit trees – a nod to Yishun’s heritage. In fact, the park was developed on what was formerly a rubber plantation!

Yishun Pond has also been transformed into an urban oasis with green spaces, exercise stations, and a nature trail to encourage community bonding and active lifestyles. The pond is a natural extension of Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital’s healing environment, complementing its lushly landscaped grounds.

The Spiral@Yishun, a lookout tower that has become an icon of Yishun

Located across the hospital is The Spiral@Yishun, a 12.5m tall lookout tower which has become an icon of the town. “My friends and I visited the lookout tower shortly after it was completed and we really enjoyed the natural landscaping and panoramic view of the town from up there,” George recalls.

A nature lover, George enjoys exploring the green spaces within Yishun. “I love hiking and people might be surprised to find that some of our towns are actually home to great hiking spots. On weekends, I will jog to Lower Seletar Resevoir before taking a short morning hike. The exercise and scenery recharges me,” George shares.

Yishun Park, featuring the 7.5km-long cycling path

In line with his active lifestyle, George also cycles on the 7.5km-long path along Yishun Ring Road.The path connects Yishun and Khatib MRT stations – facilitating seamless travel within, as well as to and from, the town.

“We have a lot more recreational options these days! In the past, I only remember hanging out a lot with the children from the nearby blocks to play street soccer and explore the neighbourhood,” George laughs.

Rejuvenating Homes

In Yishun, it is not only the living environment that has undergone a makeover — homes have been spruced up too. As part of efforts to keep older flats in good condition, Yishun was among the first few towns to be offered the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), a highly subsidised programme that aims to address common maintenance issues in homes. Many blocks in the town have since benefited from the popular programme.

Heritage Garden @ Yishun seeks to preserve the estate’s rich history

Amidst rejuvenation efforts, the Heritage Garden @ Yishun, Singapore’s first and largest outdoor heritage corner, was launched in 2010 to preserve and celebrate Yishun’s rich history. The Garden comprises the Heritage Corner and Heritage Trail featuring 11 historically significant sites within Yishun and Sembawang. Residents were invited to contribute old photos, objects and anecdotes that are displayed throughout the Garden.

George spending time at the Heritage Corner

“Living in Yishun has been made even better over the years, with all the upgrading and improvements,” George grins and continue, “You don’t have to make Yishun great again – because it always has been and still is.”

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