Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Remembering Rochor Centre

Sea view and all...
A passerby taking snapshots of the iconic colourful blocks at Rochor Centre. These colourful blocks will be slated for demolition at the start of 2017.TNP FOTO: GARY GOH

While almost all of the residents have moved out, those left have until the end of this week to hand over the keys. TNP speaks to one resident, Mr Tan Chai Hock, who had lived there since it was built. He recalls how much it has changed in 40 years.

From only the 7th storey of the Rochor Centre, you could have a clear view of the sea. Hard to believe these days.

Back in the 70s, Mr Tan Chai Hock never thought that he could own a flat, let alone one in a prime area like the Rochor Centre.

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Rochor Centre blocks leaving colourful memories behind
Yap Boh Kiat, 68, has been living in Rochor Centre since it first opened 39 yrs ago

Today marks the end of the road for the 4 iconic rainbow-coloured blocks at Rochor Centre.

The blocks, which have been around for 39 years, are to make way for the 21.5km long North-South Expressway.

On Nov 15, 2011, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) announced the acquisition of the four blocks at Rochor Road.

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Rochor Centre soon to be vacated
The multi-coloured residential blocks will be demolished to make way for the 21.5km long North-South Corridor

Most of the residents at Rochor Centre have relocated, while the few remaining ones have until the end of this week to move out, according to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in a report by TODAYonline.

The iconic estate, known for its multi-coloured residential blocks, will be demolished to make way for the 21.5km long North-South Corridor, an expressway which will link the city centre with towns in northern Singapore.

On Thursday (29 December), the HDB said nearly all the 567 households there have obtained the keys to their replacement flats, with 504 families opting to resettle at Kallang Trivista in Upper Boon Keng Road.

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10 things to do at Rochor Centre before it closes
It’s time to say goodbye to one of the oldest residential areas of Singapore – but not before getting to know it one last time

Oh 2016, you have saddled us with relentless heartbreak. After a slew of news announcing the end of memorable landmarks such as Fish & Co’s Glasshouse, Dakota Crescent and Sungei Road Flea Market, we now have to face the impending demolition of the iconic government flats of Rochor Road.

The Centre will give way to a section of the new North-South Expressway, which runs from Admiralty Road to East Coast Parkway.

To cope with this looming loss, our feature writers trotted down to rediscover Rochor Centre. We unearthed the true character of Rochor Centre beyond (and beneath) its four colourful residential blocks, and dug deep into the heart of this cluster of more than 180 shops and eating houses:

  • Buy old-school wares and decorations
  • Eat famous roasted pork from the Philippines
  • See local life from a different perspective
  • Find out where your favourite stores have relocated to
  • Gather your friends for rooftop futsal
  • Relive your childhood… Almost
  • Check out the Community Quilts
  • Visit a vintage clinic
  • Watch the day go by
  • Hunt out old-school icons

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Leaving colourful memories behind at Rochor
Mr Tan Chai Hock sharing a light moment with his wife Madam Ong Li Jin & his grand daughter Ms Claire Lee at the roof top garden located on the 4th level of the iconic Rochor Centre. TNP FOTO: GARY GOH

When The New Paper visited Rochor Centre yesterday, retiree Lee May Eng, 71, was still in the midst of packing her belongings.

Madam Lee & her husband have lived in Block 4, which is red, since its construction.

She said in Mandarin: "There are just so many things to move & I recently suffered a hand injury, so it is difficult for me to pack my belongings.

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Rochor residents bid painful farewell to iconic estate
Long-time resident Mdm Tay, 70, leaving with her belongings after handing over the keys of her 4-room flat at Rochor Centre yesterday. foto: Jason Quah

For 70-yr-old Madam Tay, having to leave the rainbow-coloured Rochor Centre — her home for the past 3 decades — was such a painful affair that she delayed handing over the keys of her 4-room flat to the authorities until yesterday.

Residents of the iconic landmark, known for its four colourful blocks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, have until the end of this week to vacate their units. The estate has been acquired by the Government to make way for the 21.5km long North-South Expressway, which will connect towns in the northern region to the city centre.

As a long-time resident, Mdm Tay, who declined to give her full name, said she enjoyed having the little chit-chats with her neighbours whenever she walked along the corridor of her flat, and the convenience offered by the many amenities nearby, such as hawker centres and coffeeshops in the Bugis area.

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Long-time residents bid goodbye to Rochor Centre: 'Each neighbour is worth a million bucks'
"I honestly thought I would live here until the end of my days," says Mr Ng, 73, who lives with his wife in a 3-room flat where he raised his three children. ST FOTO: DESMOND FOO

Every day at 5:30am, retiree Victor Devan, 70, wakes up to the sound of the azan sounding from the nearby Abdul Gaffor mosque.

The Rochor Centre resident of 25 years - a familiar face to many in the area - has never needed an alarm clock.

Instead, the retired oil trader & father of 2 grown-up daughters relies on the Islamic call to prayer as the call to start his day.

Come September morning... iconic Rochor Centre becomes a memory
Counting down to the end of Rochor Centre

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City stories: Rochor Centre

Goodbye, yellow-bricked HDB flat. Soon, the iconic Rochor Centre – in red, blue and green stripes, too – will be another casualty claimed in the name of development. From its ashes will rise the North-South Corridor, a 21.5 kilometre expressway slated for construction in 2017 that will have a dedicated lane for express buses as well as pedestrian and cycling paths.

Built in 1977, Rochor Centre was originally white with red bricks – it was painted over during upgrading works in the early ’90s – and comprises both residential and commercial properties. Apartments stack atop 3 storeys of kopitiams, offices and heartland-esque stores that hawk hardware, handphone accessories and traditional confectionary. And in a rare feature in today’s HDB estates, Rochor Centre’s ‘void deck’ can be found on the fourth level, similar to the one in Bras Basah Complex.

Before Rochor Centre breathes its last, head over to capture these vibrant blocks on camera. Go late in the afternoon for the best light – and set aside a few minutes to grab a bench on the ground floor to watch residents bustling around. If you’re keen to explore deeper into the estate, make your way to the void deck at Block 4. There, you can view Community Quilts, a photography project by Ivan Tan, Juliana Tan and Samuel He. It’s a series of eight vertical panels, each a superimposition of three to four photographs, depicting various neighbourhoods and everyday scenes of city life.

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Rochor Centre
Rochor Centre from Rochor Canal

Rochor Centre is group of buildings in Singapore built by the Housing and Development Board. It was built and completed in 1977 and consists of 4 blocks painted yellow, green, red and blue. It is slated to be demolished in September 2016 to make way for the construction of the North-South Expressway.

Rochor Centre is bounded by Rochor and Ophir Roads and Queen Street. It is located near the Bugis MRT Station, just outside the Central Business District. There are a total of 4 blocks (Blocks 1 through 4). The first three floors consist of shophouses and offices. The fourth floor is a void deck, and residents stay from the fifth floor onwards. The top floor is level 17. Rochor Centre has over 180 shops that sell a wide variety of goods. Rochor Centre is listed as a landmark by the Urban Redevelopment Authority

On 16 Nov 2011, the Land Transport Authority and Singapore Land Authority announced that Rochor Centre would be demolished to make way for the construction of the North-South Expressway. Residents were offered new replacement blocks at Kallang Trivista, located near the Kallang MRT Station. The flats were to be completed in January 2015 with all the residents expected to move out by December 2015. As of December 2016, 504 of the 567 households who were living in Rochor Centre at the time of its closure had accepted apartments in the Kallang Trivista complex. As of January 2016, 106 shops (out of the original 183) had closed while 36 households (out of 567) had moved out. On 31 March 2016, it was reported that shop tenants would be required to move out by 30 September 2016

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