Updated: 08/01/2014 00:10

No immediate redevelopment plans for Blocks 13 and 21 Old Airport Road in Dakota Crescent area



Iconic bent block of flats at Dakota Crescent

Iconic bent block of flats at Dakota Crescent

The Housing and Development Board has revealed that there are no immediate redevelopment plans for Blocks 13 and 21 Old Airport Road in the Dakota Crescent area. 

But residents of those blocks, and 15 other low-rise rental flats will still move out by the 31st of December 2016. 

This follows announcements on plans for future residential development in the area. 

Dakota Crescent is one of Singapore's oldest housing estates. 

938LIVE’s Chew Wui Lynn spoke to two experts about the neighbourhood, which turned out to be full of surprises. 

The sound of military planes pierces the sky every so often here at Dakota Crescent. 

In fact, the place was named after the Dakota DC-3 American transport aircraft, which used to be a common sight at the old Kallang airport that was once in the area. 

The low-rise flats at Dakota Crescent were built in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust - the Housing and Development Board's predecessor. 

Urban historian Professor Lai Chee-Kien told me how the area came into being. 

“From 1955, with the local legislative council, they were thinking about plans to further the city. The Crawford area would have been the city limits towards the east. And it was getting increasingly crowded. With the opening up of the Merdeka bridge in 1955, it was seen as a passage towards the eastern frontiers. There was already the land that was reclaimed and abandoned by the former Kallang Airport. So there was land available. And that would seem like a good area to start developing a new community with new housing.” 

Professor Lai feels that some of the buildings should be conserved as a reminder of Singapore's architectural history. 

He showed me some of their unique features. 

“You see, this wall is not straight. It's slightly curved! And then you see it comes down to these kinds of columns. The last one I remember was in Selegie House and this is probably the last remnants of these kinds of columns.”
Professor Liew Kai Khiun of Nanyang Technological University agrees. 

He's an active member in civil society groups, and he notes that Dakota Crescent is home to many elderly residents who may not be able to cope with moving. 

“If you just look at the environment around here. It’s a lot more spacious, it's a lot less claustrophobic compared to the new HDB estate with towering buildings and congested town centres. So I think for a person who's been staying here for two decades may be quite traumatising. I think we should probably rethink land scarcity in more innovative ways, instead of just widening roads, demolishing flats, building higher. If every building is 50 storeys, it’s going to change the whole character of the place.” 

Irina, whose mother lives in the area, tells me her family has come to terms with having to move. 

“I think it’s a very nice and convenient neighbourhood. So it will be quite a shame for us to leave.” 

Residents have been given priority at an upcoming HDB block at nearby Cassia Crescent, or they can pick a 1 or 2 room flat anywhere they wish. 

Still, long-time Dakota Crescent resident Ryan Kan feels that it won't be the same. 

“I feel I dunno why they should tear down this area. It represents the old time of Singapore. As you can see the atmosphere here and the area where we might move is very different.” 

Jeremy Lau who used to visit friends at Dakota Crescent says the units there are special. 

“The interior is different from those HDB flats. There's balcony, you can sit there. Even though the flat is small, you can have privacy.” 

Ever since HDB's rejuvenation plans for the area hit the headlines, many Singaporeans have come to the area to take photos for posterity. 

As I pass a cafe in the area, I see artist, Paul Wang sketching some of the buildings. 

“It's going to go in two years' time so it's a good time to record what's existing before it goes.” 

Dakota Crescent is also attracting artists of a different genre. 

To my surprise, I also see Singapore's most popular rap singer cycling around the neighbourhood with his entourage. 

It's ShiGGa Shay, behind the iTunes chart-topping local hit "LimPeh". 

And he is doing his part for the neighbourhood, by immortalising it in his new music video. 

“I wanted a place that could represent the HDB residences. And this place is gonna be torn down. So I'm filming the music video here to capture whatever moments are left of this place.” 

Clearly, Dakota Crescent will live on in the hearts of many, across all ages.

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