Sunday 29 June 2014

Queenstown area set for biggest SERS project to date

31 blocks in Commonwealth Drive, Tanglin Halt Road to be redeveloped; replacement sites ready from 2019
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2014

THE biggest collective redevelopment for public housing is in the offing for one of the country's oldest neighbourhoods in Queenstown.

Time may be up for 3,480 flats in 31 blocks along Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive, which are slated to be demolished under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, or SERS.

Residents, who found out only yesterday, will be offered new flats in the nearby Dawson estate, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced in a blog post yesterday.

The affected blocks are 24 to 38, and 40 to 45 Tanglin Halt Road, and 55, 56, 58 to 60, and 62 to 66 Commonwealth Drive.

The revamp will also require 157 market and hawker stalls, 50 shops and four eating houses to move out. A new neighbourhood centre will be built, but other redevelopment plans are still pending.

Residents, many of whom have lived in the area for more than 50 years, will be given the choice of relocating to one of the five new sites along Dawson Road, Margaret Drive and Strathmore Avenue, which will have new developments by between 2019 and 2020.

SERS was introduced in August 1995 to rejuvenate ageing Housing Board blocks and has been implemented at 78 other sites, covering 349 blocks. Residents are offered replacement flats.

This is the largest project to date. The flats in question were completed between 1962 and 1963. Ranging from two-room to four-room flats, they are all owned. Residents will be compensated based on market value.

For instance, a three-room flat in the area would fetch between $305,000 and $390,000.

HDB and National Environment Agency (NEA) officers have begun going door to door to inform residents and business tenants of the changes.

Madam Quah Bee Lian, 74, who lives alone in a two-room flat at Block 25 Tanglin Halt Road, cheered the move.

She said: "My neighbours and I are all really happy. Why wouldn't you want a new flat?"

Still, others said they would miss the home they had lived in for decades. "It's very sayang. We've developed feelings for the place," said retiree Alice Lee, who has lived there for about 45 years.

Together with her late husband, Madam Lee raised her two children, who are now in their 40s, in her flat at Block 33 Tanglin Halt Road. She also goes with her neighbours every day to the nearby wet market, which she says she will miss. "But at least we can all move together and won't be alone."

Mr Khaw said: "With every new HDB town becoming more modern and better designed, there is a need to ensure that the older towns do not end up too far behind."

He added: "They will get a new modern flat with a fresh 99-year lease, with greenery on their doorstep, and panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. I am sure they will find this attractive and exciting."

About 3,700 new two- to five-room flats, 30 shops, four eateries, a supermarket and a two-storey hawker centre will be built at these sites, currently vacant land. The new blocks will feature greenery such as sky gardens and landscaped sky terraces.

There will be no replacement units for shop tenants, but those eligible can get a $60,000 ex-gratia payment, a $30,000 relocation grant, and a 10 per cent rental discount on other HDB rental shops anywhere else for their first tenancy term. Market and hawker stallholders will either be allocated a stall at the new hawker centre or neighbourhood centre, or at other centres that have availability.

Cooked food and market stall tenants who wish to wind up their stalls will receive a $23,000 and $18,000 ex-gratia payment respectively from the NEA.

An exhibition on the replacement flats will also run from June 30 to July 13 at the former Queensway Student Hostel.

Redeveloped Tanglin Halt could yield 5,000 new homes: Analysts
By Eileen Poh, Channel NewsAsia, 2 Jul 2014

Flats in Tanglin Halt were built in early 1960s, and are one of Singapore's oldest. In ten years' time, they will be among 31 blocks at Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive that will be cleared under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

Under the Master Plan 2014, the area has been zoned for mainly residential use. And when redeveloped, analysts say it can yield more than 5,000 homes - 50 per cent more than the current number.

Authorities have not said if the site will be used for private or public housing, but some property watchers say new HDB homes are likely to be built in the vacated area.

"We also have to look at the characteristics of the neighbourhood. If the neighbourhood is predominantly HDB, and there is also strong demand for HDB flats in that area, then perhaps the more suitable type of housing could be HDB," said Mr Nicholas Mak, the Executive Director for Research and Consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants.

"But having said that, I would not exclude the possibility that authorities may reserve one or two land parcels to be developed into private housing," he said.

And if the site is put up for private residential development, analysts estimate that it may cost up to S$900 per square foot, according to bids in recent tenders. But developers will be willing to pay, say analysts, as there are not many sites in mature estates offered under the Government Land Sales programme.

Tanglin Halt's location is another draw. Said Mr Ku Swee Yong, CEO of Century 21 Singapore: "It is a short walk to the Commonwealth MRT station, and a few minutes more to walk to Holland Village. The location is a mature precinct and if you were to develop one or two private residential projects there, you could in theory get people who are upgrading from the older HDB flats into the new private residential units." 

Over at Dawson, five new HDB projects will be built, offering some 3,700 new flats which Tanglin Halt residents will have priority to purchase. 

The new projects will have commercial facilities such as a supermarket and hawker centre. Analysts say this will bring more activity to the estate, but it is likely to remain a residential area.

"Unless the authorities were to plan to have, let's say, a major shopping mall located near the area, otherwise it will predominantly be a residential area. But for other types of weekend activities, they may go elsewhere," explained Mr Mak.

The rejuvenation plans also had analysts pointing out possible areas of concern, such as the potential overd evelopment of certain areas, which could affect their original character. "If we were to tear down everything and redevelop it into new things, yes, we would have very nice, new, clean and well-landscaped buildings. But these would be all very high-density, without much character, old-world charm or shared history," said Mr Ku.

"If we could at least preserve one part of Tanglin Halt, especially the town square which existed since the late 50s and has a lot of history, I think that would actually give the old neighbourhood some identity and focus," he added.


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