Sunday, 7 September 2014

Dakota Crescent

5 things to remember about Dakota Crescent
Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) HDB flats at Dakota Crescent

The former Kallang Airport has been home to the People’s Association (PA) since 1960

Tian Kee provision shop in Dakota Crescent has been turned into a cafe that retains the feel of the old place 

A blue dove playground sits prettily in the quiet Dakota Crescent estate. Designed in-house by HDB and estimated to have been completed in 1959, it has all the elements of an old-fashioned playground: an elevated bridge, sand pit and swings made of rubber tyres

Block 62 Dakota Crescent, which won the Cleanest Block Competition in Marine Parade Town for two years consecutively

Bidding farewell to a precious piece of Singapore's history is always difficult.

Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates, will be vacated by the end of 2016 to make way for new developments under Mountbatten's estate renewal plans.

The cosy block of flats just off Old Airport Road has been a sleepy refuge for the Singaporeans who call it home.

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Dakota Crescent, a suburb where time stands still

A swanky new National Stadium rises in Kallang. Two years ago, the nearby Goodman Arts Centre opened its doors to a hip young crowd. One street away, a new condominium has been built on the site of Housing Board flats.

But amid these changes, time has passed by Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest HDB estates, located off Old Airport Road. The 17 blocks of low-rise flats have hardly changed since being built in 1958.

No wonder, then, that their retro architecture and old-school playground make them a hot spot for photographers and artists.

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Dakota Crescent set for redevelopment, residents to leave by end-2016

On Wednesday (July 23) evening, the Housing Development Board (HDB) issued notices stating that 17 blocks in Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest neighbourhoods, have been earmarked for redevelopment. About 400 households there will have to vacate their homes by end-2016. Affected flat types range from one- to three-room units.

The area is planned for future residential development, according to HDB, and the date for development has not been confirmed.This estate was formed in 1958.

Two-thirds of the households have one or more elderly member who is at least 60 years old. The majority of the residents are living in rentals flats, paying between $60 and $75 a month. HDB says those who wish to continue renting will be given priority in the rental of flats in other parts of Singapore, subject to availability. Those who wish to remain in the area can opt for new or rental flats at nearby Cassia Crescent, which will be completed by the third quarter of 2016.

Critically endangered

With the recent death of the neglected but beautiful dove in the island’s west, there is only one that’s left to remember one of several terrazzo and mosaic creations that many who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s would have had fond memories of playing in. The dove, is one of several playground designs – the work of the Housing and Development Board’s Mr Khor Ean Ghee, with a uniquely and very distinctly Singaporean flavour that decorated Singapore’s public housing estates in the late 1970s and through the 1980s and 1990s.

The dove at Dakota Crescent is one which although well worn and exhibiting obvious signs of age, is remarkably preserved – a testament perhaps to play structures put up in times when they were built to last. Still with its sand-pit, a feature of the playgrounds of the era, it does also feature rubber tyre swings and a slide. There are several more of these structures left behind, including the well-loved dragon of Toa Payoh, which many hope will be preserved, not just to preserve the many memories there are of happy childhood moments, but also because they are structures which we can quite easily identify with Singapore, from a time when we did not yet forget to express who we are.

What is also nice about the very last dove, is that it resides in a rather charming old neighbourhood, one Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) built flats which came up in the late 1950s, well before the dove was put there. The estate it is in, Kallang Airport Estate, was developed in the area at the end of the extended Kallang Airport runway – land which was freed after 1955, when the airport was closed. Some 21 seven-storey and 20 four-storey blocks were built from 1956 to 1959. The estate was officially opened in July 1958 and the cluster of flats the dove finds itself in the midst of, are amongst the few that have survived.

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Dakota Crescent

Located opposite the Old Airport Road Hawker centre, Dakota Crescent stands as one of the oldest, quietest and ultimately most charming of neighbourhoods left in Singapore.

Built in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the name Dakota was derived from the aircraft Dakota DC-3, a common plane that landed at Kallang Airport back when it was in operation from 1937 to 1955. More unfortunately, it may also have been named to commemorate an air disaster on 29 June 1946, when a Dakota aircraft crashed at Kallang Airport, killing all on board.

The Dakota Beauty - Upon stepping into Dakota, one does get a sense that there’s a seemingly unexplainable charm about the area. The vast open spaces are free of unnecessary urban installations, the architecture undoubtedly different thanks to SIT, and the residents, perhaps too old to get around constantly, keep to themselves in houses that have Renaissance like balconies styled to fit a Singaporean’s taste.

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2016 'expiry date' for Dakota Crescent flats
Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates, is making way for developments under Mountbatten's estate renewal plans

Residents of the 17 low-rise rental blocks off Old Airport Road must leave by end-2016. Those who choose to buy a new flat anywhere else will get a relocation grant of up to S$15,000.

Only about 400 of the 648 units, built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958, are occupied and about two-thirds of the households have at least one member aged 60 and above.

Retiree Lee Choong Hian, 68, who lives alone in a two-room rental flat, will miss the estate where he has lived for 20 years. "The environment is good. At night it's peaceful, and transport is convenient," he said.

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Please Do Not Tear Down Dakota Crescent Flats
The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has announced that one of Singapore’s oldest HDB estate will be erased to make way for development under its estate renewal plans

The 55-year old Dakota Crescent flats, built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1958, consist of 17 blocks off Old Airport Road.

The SIT is the precursor to the HDB, and operated between 1929 and 1959 while Singapore was under British rule.

Residents who currently live in the flats at Dakota Crescent will be moved to flats in nearby Cassia Crescent, and those who wish to continue to rent the flats there will be given priority and their current rent rates will remain, the HDB said.

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Dakota Crescent Provision Shop

The provision shop at Dakota Crescent is manned by an old couple, toiling from dawn to dusk and serving the quiet estate well for more than 50 years.

Tucked in the corner of block 12, the provision shop’s antique signboard catches the eye easily. The rusty spring-loaded metal gates are also remnants of the past.

A variety of biscuits are sold in separate metal containers, while drinks, syrups, eggs, instant noodles, onions and potatoes are displayed in their respective shelves and baskets. Other goods are packed neatly in the old shop with limited space. To advance with time, the provision shop also sells ice-cream in a chiller nowadays.

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Residents in Dakota Crescent have been told to move out by the end of 2016 as their homes are being demolished and redeveloped. In total, about 400 households are affected

Many of the residents have lived there since the blocks were first built in the 1950s but they were told on Wednesday that they would soon need to move out.

The area has been marked for redevelopment of taller residential complexes.

While a number of residents saw the move coming given the age of the flats there, many are still saddened by the fact that they have to move away from their long-time homes.