News: Future still uncertain for old Circuit Road flats

Jun 14, 2017

View of one of the HDB blocks at Circuit Road in MacPherson.

The opening of Downtown Line 3 in October this year, which passes through the MacPherson area, has once again put the spotlight on a small HDB estate at Circuit Road.

Considered one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, the chap lau (“10-storey” in Hokkien) flats were built in the 1960s and are home to many elderly residents and those living in rental flats.

Although the HDB blocks were previously upgraded, the estate now looks old and shabby.

Its strategic location near commercial and industrial clusters in Ubi, Paya Lebar and Tai Seng has led some to call for the area to be redeveloped to make better use of the land.

Some analysts even think the flats could be picked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

In March, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that SERS is only offered to sites with high development potential. This could apply to the Circuit Road flats.

“Based on the Master Plan, the site currently has a plot ratio of 2.8 and is most likely under-utilised,” said Wong Xian Yang, Head of Research & Consultancy at OrangeTee.

With the nearby Paya Lebar Central set to become a vibrant commercial hub with offices, shops and public spaces, he thinks the area could play a complimentary role in terms of residential and retail / F&B use.

Height restrictions

However, a redevelopment plan is unlikely to be announced anytime soon as Paya Lebar Airbase is only five km away, meaning there are height restrictions which may prevent it from utilising its full plot ratio.

And while the government announced it will relocate the airbase to Changi, this will only happen after 2030, noted Wong.

There are also other factors to consider before flats can undergo SERS, such as the availability of suitable replacement sites for residents and the government’s financial resources.

“The SERS potential for the estate is undeniable, but SERS may only occur in the distant future,” Wong said.

Strong community bonds

One former resident who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she liked living in the area because it is quiet, has good food options and a strong community feel.

However, she believes that future redevelopment is inevitable. “I’ll be sad for those (who have lived) there for most of their lives,” she said.

Project manager Yvonne Kua, 28, has lived there for the past 15 years. She told PropertyGuru that there is convenient access to public transportation and many nearby amenities. “It is like a town on its own…and I think it would be a waste to demolish it,” she said.

“I think the flats here are good as they are. (The estate) was upgraded about 15 years ago with an extra toilet and a balcony for the units.”

Meanwhile, one long-time resident in his 70s, who declined to be named, said there have been many rumours over the years about the estate being torn down, but this was just speculation.

“I feel that the government will not redevelop this place so quickly as an MRT station is being built nearby for the convenience of residents,” he said, adding that its demolishment is only likely to happen 20 to 30 years from now.

“I will probably not be around by then,” he laughed.   

 

Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, wrote this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email romesh@propertyguru.com.sg

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