Sunday 8 June 2014

URA gazettes Master Plan 2014

Flats, social institutions among 75 buildings to be conserved
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2014

WAREHOUSES, public housing flats, a former market, health-care facilities and places of worship were among the latest 75 buildings gazetted for conservation yesterday.

Experts say the list represents a widening of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) conservation net to recognise buildings beyond their architectural merit.

It includes, for instance, residential sites such as five Singapore Improvement Trust blocks in Kampong Silat, and post-war buildings and social institutions such as the Queenstown Library and the former Institute of Health in Outram.

Experts such as architect and urban historian Lai Chee Kien said these buildings are significant as they hold the collective memories of the public. They said the list had progressed from a decade ago, when it would have been full of colonial buildings.

"It is a good list with a good range of buildings," said Dr Lai.

Among them are nine warehouses along the Singapore River, including one now occupied by nightclub Zouk. Used to store goods such as rice, spices and coffee, they played a key role in the development of Singapore as an entrepot.

The gazette brings the total number of conserved buildings in Singapore to about 7,200 today.

A URA spokesman said old buildings are shortlisted after consultations with advisers ranging from architects to tour guides.

The list of 75 buildings come under the Master Plan - the blueprint governing Singapore's development over the medium term - that was gazetted by the URA's chief planner yesterday.

For Mr Kwek Li Yong, the founder of civic group My Community, the inclusion of three Queenstown sites - Alexandra Hospital, the Queenstown Library and the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market - was "great news".

Last year, Mr Kwek and his team lobbied the URA to save these sites in a paper backed by 1,000 residents.

The list also includes 15 places of worship. One is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Serangoon Road, which was founded in 1835. Said temple secretary Selvakumar R., 59: "It is recognition of how the temple has a rich history."

Mr Kwek said: "Hopefully, the URA will conserve more such social institutions in the future. These are the sites that Singaporeans hold dearly in a country dotted with shopping malls."

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