It wasn’t too long ago when the old estate of Dakota Crescent was still a familiar name among the older generations of Singaporean.
Today, the crowd is gone.
The residents have left for their new homes after the estate was chosen for the Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme. What’s left behind are the dilapidated blocks of flats, empty playgrounds and sounds of silence from the past.
An important part of Singapore’s housing development history
The old Dakota Crescent estate was built in 1958 before the independence of Singapore, making it one of the oldest estate in Singapore. Developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust, a government organisation set up in 1927 by the British Colonial government to address the housing needs of the people in the early days. Dakota Estate was one of the developments undertaken and it was modeled after British towns.
Gone were the glory days. Let’s take a walk down the memory lane to indulge in the past of this beautiful little estate.
Should the Old Dakota Estate be conserved?
In the URA Master Plan 2014, the old Dakota Crescent Estate is zoned under residential use with a plot ratio of 2.8. The 15 blocks of flat are sitting on a big piece of land with an estimated land area of around 450,000 sq ft to 500,000 sq ft and if the entire plot of land is redeveloped into high rise residential development, there could potentially be 1,600 to 1,900 new residential units. If the land is sold for private condominium development, it could easily fetch between S$1.1 billion to S$1.4 billion for the government. From a dollars-and-cents perspective, the answer is obvious, isn’t it?
But what will we be giving up on for the sake of a S$1.1 billion to the government coffers? A unique piece of architecture work will be gone. A place that brought many nice memories to Singaporeans, will be gone. A place where families, bonds and kampong spirit were built, will be gone.
Most importantly, we will lose an important part of our heritage and history.
Is it worth it?
What can we do to conserve the Old Dakota Estate?
As much as we would like the estate to be conserved, a full conservation of the entire estate might not be the most efficient use of a prime piece of land if we put ourselves in the shoes of the planning authorities. Can a partial conservation be done so that government can extract the highest and best use of the land and yet keep the heritage and history of the old Dakota Estate intact?
The land where the old Dakota Estate sits on can be sub-divided into 3 plots. The biggest plot is the one along Old Airport Road and in between Dakota Crescent and Jalan Enam. In terms of land utilisation, this plot is the least utilised among the 3 plots, due to the generous greenery space in between the blocks. This piece of land is regular in shape and makes it easier for a developer to build. Hence, a lot of value and dwelling units can be created by redeveloping this piece of land.
The L-shape land beside the Mountbatten MRT entrance would probably be too precious to be used for conservation, given its strategic location. In the event, that government decides to rezone the park to residential use, it can be amalgamated with the L-shape land to form a bigger plot of land for development.
The last plot would be the one that is along Geylang River. This plot might probably be the most suitable for conservation. The 2-storey block 12 can be used for lifestyle and F&B retail trades with outdoor sitting along the river and the 7-storey block 18 can be refurbished and operate as a serviced apartment or hostel. Block 18 can also be used as a hub for the creative and art sectors due to its proximity to Goodman Arts Centre and National Arts Council. The small public carpark beside Block 12 can be retained for the retail/F&B customers.
The remaining block 26, 28 and 32 can be redeveloped into a small-scale residential development but it will be an added bonus if these 3 blocks can be conserved as well!
Let’s hope that our voices to conserve the old Dakota Estate are heard by the government and one day, the Dakota Estate can return to its glory days again!