The First Date Trail

Text by Eugene Tan

So you've finally secured a date with that girl who seems too fine for you. You believe she's already been to Gardens by the Bay, and you probably aren't wrong. Jia lat. Try this: bring her to these 6 buildings that were recently redeveloped. That's right, they aren't around anymore, and that's the point.

Artist's Impression

With the release of the 2013 Population White Paper, it has become necessary for Singapore's built environment to evolve to cater for the new projected population. This is nothing new for us, a country founded on its ability to change.

Between the years of 2011-2013, what we observe is a real estate trend to acquire a number of mixed-use properties in mature estates. This not only calls time on some beloved buildings, but adds a new density and scale to largely residential neighbourhoods. What might have been sleepy but inveterate businesses will be replaced by retail outlets perhaps no different from the ones at your nearest heartland mall. Furthermore, the buildings that once came with generously landscaped surroundings may be at risk of becoming more built-up. Still, these new developments often promise to bring updated amenities such as supermarkets or food courts, potentially better serving local residents' day-to-day needs.

Embarking on this First Date Trail will be your chance to demonstrate that you are sensitive to these issues, that the gentrification of these residential estates is somehow a cause for reflection. This will, in turn, allow you to find out more about her. For instance, if she says "the new cafe is great, I've always preferred Caramel Macchiato to kopi gau siew dai" or "there probably won't be adverse effects on the microclimate even though the new building will be 10 storeys higher than its predecessor", then you'll know what type of cat you're dealing with.

Start at the site of the old HONG LEONG GARDENS SHOPPING CENTRE which was purchased by Oxley Holdings in 2011. Redeveloped as NEWest, it will rise 12 storeys high, up from the 4 of the former Hong Leong Gardens SC. There will also be 141 retail units, up from the previous 66.

Next, head towards Ulu Pandan Road before turning off at Holland Grove Road where HENRY PARK APARTMENTS was once located. Visit in 2015 and you will find that said building is gone, but nothing has yet replaced it. With purchase tender closing before new cooling measures kicked in, developer Far East Organization is not required to build and sell the project within 5 years of a site's acquisition, allowing it to hold out for more favourable market conditions before building its new property.

While on your way to the next site, stop over at Sunset Way for a bite at Balmoral Bakery (105 Clementi Road Street 12 ), established in 1965 and known for its 'old school' English pastries. Then continue north along Clementi Road until you reach the Bukit Timah Road junction. There you will find the site of MCDONALD'S PLACE. Despite the outcries of many regulars, it seemed inevitable that dollars and cents would triumph over the will of a sentimental public, and the wrecking ball hit in early 2014. Co-opting the name by which McDonald's Place was affectionately known, KAP is expected to be ready in 2017.

Head east along Bukit Timah Road towards the former NOVENA VILLE. Back in the day (well, prior to the en bloc in 2012) you would be able to dine at institutions such as Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurant (1987), or The Vines Seafood and Steak Restaurant (1998). The former has moved to United Square, while the latter has consolidated its operations at its sister restaurant in Cantonment Road. The new development is slated to open in 2017.

The next two sites are a little different and were public housing projects rather than private developments. The first of them is 25 OWEN ROAD, demolished in 2012. The last building left standing from the Singapore Improvement Trust's Kampong Java 3-year development plan, the plot remains vacant in 2015. On your way out of the area, stop by Beach Road Scissors Cut Curry Rice (229 Jalan Besar) for some highly inelegant, but seriously tasty rice meals.

Finally, make a stop at EAST COAST ROAD BLK 1-4, the fringe development of the 1960’s East Coast Reclamation Scheme. Only set to be demolished in 2015 after residents move into replacement flats in Chai Chee Road. Redevelopment plans for this site have yet to be announced. Hurry, and you might be able to actually visit one of the buildings on this trail :)


Hong Leong Gardens SC

Known for its offerings of Japanese food and distinctive blue tiles, Hong Leong Gardens Shopping Centre was an exemplar of the architectural geometric explorations of that time, employing hexagons in almost all facets of the building.


Henry Park Apartments

Once a popular haunt for both the students from nearby schools as well as Holland's many residents, Henry Park Apartments was a unique property that was built around a park.


McDonald's Place

The legendary hangout for Millennials from numerous nearby schools, McDonald's Place (or KAP) was the place to see and to be seen - if you were about 15 in the year 2000.


Novena Ville

Nestled comfortably in the verdant Thomson Road, Novena Ville, as it stood, was a haven for foodies of the local community. 


25 Owen Road

The last building left standing from the Singapore Improvement Trust's Kampong Java 3-year development plan which once stretched from Dorset Road to Moulmein Road, there was a sense of history to this unassuming building.


East Coast Road Blks 1-4

The demise of four blocks of public housing at the junction of East Coast Road and Siglap Road occurs in 2015. Blocks 1, 2, and 3 came under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) in 2011, while Block 4, consisting of rental flats, will also be redeveloped.