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How he’s making creative use of space to elevate S’poreans’ lives
Marcus Yoong SLA scholarship
Mr Marcus Yoong, an assistant manager in the Land Development Division at SLA, is working on the Chong Pang Integrated Development project. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

This SLA scholar is rethinking compact living, enabling residents to enjoy amenities such as swimming pools and hawker centres close to home

In Mr Marcus Yoong’s case, it would be right to say that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

With both his parents involved in the real estate business, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he, too, would follow in their footsteps. 

“Whenever we went out, they would point at a building and state several facts about it,” recalls the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) scholar. “They were telling the unknown story of a building – and by extension, of Singapore.”

These experiences deepened his understanding and appreciation of the process of land development in Singapore and made him more aware of the difficulties that the nation faced regarding its scarcity of land resources.

“The main reason for Singapore’s success is how it managed to – and continues to – optimise its land resources,” says the 25-year-old. 

More on this topic:
Mapping the future: She’s using geospatial technology to better lives
Helping Singapore optimise her land resources

Gaining a global education

Marcus Yoong did his undergraduate degree in Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Mr Marcus Yoong (fourth from left) with his friends during his time at the London School of Economics and Political Science. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARCUS YOONG

Inspired by SLA’s vision of “Limited Land, Unlimited Space”, Mr Yoong applied for the SLA Undergraduate Scholarship when he chanced upon an advertisement in the newspaper.

The SLA Undergraduate Scholarship is one of the three scholarships offered by the SLA, alongside the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship and Singapore Geomatics Scholarship. 

Under the scholarship, Mr Yoong was able to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and received financial sponsorship to complete a Master of Science in Real Estate Development at Columbia University in New York, United States.

“After LSE, I decided on the US for my further studies as I felt it was important to learn how attitudes towards real estate differ across continents,” he says. 

In the US, he explains, perspectives on real estate are entirely different from the rest of the world, given the amount of land that developers have access to there.

“This results in a lot more creativity in their decisions and attitudes, even in cities with limited land,” he says. 

While doing his master’s in New York, Mr Yoong had the opportunity to visit well-known buildings such as One World Trade Center (pictured here). PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARCUS YOONG

He was able to witness the creativity first-hand when he visited iconic New York buildings such as 432 Park Avenue – one of the tallest residential towers in the Northern hemisphere – and One World Trade Center as part of his postgraduate curriculum. 

He also attended seminars with the architectural and engineering teams responsible for their construction.

His university education was packed with such opportunities, but he still feels like his learning journey has just begun. 

“Even though I condensed a lot into the past four years in university, there is still so much left to discover,” he admits.

Learning on the job

Now an assistant manager in the Land Development Division at SLA, Mr Yoong works on multiple integrated developments across Singapore.

Scholars returning from their tertiary education have ample opportunity to indicate interest in which field they would like to enter, generally within land, legal or geospatial operations.

“Integrated developments are a great representation of our land optimisation efforts – it is the reason I embarked on a career with SLA in the first place.”

Mr Marcus Yoong, recipient of the SLA Undergraduate Scholarship

His dual background in economics and real estate naturally led Mr Yoong to gravitate towards integrated developments, which he has been working on for the past seven months. 

“I was so happy to be posted here,” he says. “Integrated developments are a great representation of our land optimisation efforts – it is the reason I embarked on a career with SLA in the first place.”

In his current role, he works on Chong Pang Integrated Development in the north of Singapore that incorporates amenities such as swimming pools, fitness facilities and shops, plus a hawker centre and market into a single plot of land. It is slated for completion in 2027.

Chong Pang City Integrated Development
Chong Pang City Integrated Development offers residents a home with a gym, swimming facilities, hawker centre and a wet market. PHOTO: SINGAPORE LAND AUTHORITY

Putting his knowledge into practice, he checks in with the project’s consultants and contractors to ensure that everything is going according to schedule and budget. 

On the real estate side of things, he is also responsible for conducting regular consultations with prospective tenants and stakeholders – including residents – before incorporating their feedback into the overall design and development plan.

Mr Yoong says he enjoys working with a diverse team of architects, engineers and quantity surveyors, all of whom contribute in their own ways to ensure the project’s success. 

His team’s knowledge base is so extensive that Mr Yoong says he feels like he gets a free lesson in real estate and land management every day. 

Despite their different responsibilities and job scopes, he points out that every team member is dedicated to residents’ well-being. 

“The purpose of a building is, at its core, to serve residents,” he says. 

Citing incorporating barrier-free entryways into the integrated development as an example, he says that these accessways “ensure our spaces remain inclusive, improving the user experience for all”.

This people-driven approach is what drives the day-to-day operations at SLA, adds Mr Yoong. 

“When you have the mandate to make something as good as possible for residents, you become the custodian of their wants and needs.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that the building is the best it can be, for as many people as possible.”

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