Some history buffs are upset by plans to demolish the old Paya Lebar Police Station in Upper Serangoon, which will be replaced with the new Forest Woods condo. (Photos: PropertyGuru)
Tucked away behind large trees in a corner of Lorong Lew Lian in Upper Serangoon is a cluster of colonial buildings and shophouses, which will soon be removed to make way for the recently launched Forest Woods condominium.
The news has upset some history buffs. In response to email queries from PropertyGuru, the team behind heritage blog Remember Singapore (RemSG), which ran an online article about the site in 2012, called the impending demolitions “a loss to our heritage”.
Although the website’s administrators and bloggers couldn’t be identified, despite PropertyGuru’s efforts, data from SimilarWeb shows it has seen close to 70,000 visits in the past month.
Built in the 1930s, the buildings housed the former Paya Lebar Police Station until the late 1980s.
Last November, a consortium led by City Developments Limited (CDL) was awarded the 150,711 sq ft site located near Serangoon MRT station and Nex shopping mall, after submitting the top bid of $321 million.
When PropertyGuru visited the site last week, large hoardings had already been erected.
“These are more than 80-year-old pre-war buildings that have played a significant role in the local police history,” said the RemSG team, adding that the buildings could be refurbished and converted into condominium clubhouses.
The team cited the example of the historic Matilda House in Punggol, which was restored by developer Sim Lian Group and turned into a clubhouse for residents at A Treasure Trove condo.
But unlike Matilda House, the Paya Lebar Police Station is not designated for conservation.
When contacted, a CDL spokesperson said while there was no requirement for any of the buildings to be conserved under the sales conditions released by the government, it had looked at different ways in which the existing structures could be saved.
“CDL assessed the orientation of the existing structures and planning parameters,” said the spokesperson. “One of the site planning constraints is the 570 sq m police station building, which is situated in the middle of the development site. Due to its large scale and complex orientation, conserving the old quarters was infeasible.”
The spokesperson also added that CDL has conserved and integrated existing buildings within some of its other developments. For instance, at the Spring Grove condominium in Grange Road, a 150-year-old two-storey bungalow was converted into a clubhouse.
More recently, the South Beach mixed-use development along Beach Road integrated a few heritage sites, namely three colonial army blocks and the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Club.
In Singapore, building conservation is overseen by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Responding to queries, a URA spokesperson wouldn’t comment about the Upper Serangoon site, but said other old police stations have been conserved, including prominent landmarks at Maxwell Road, Eu Tong Sen Street, Beach Road and Joo Chiat Road.
“In total, we have conserved close to 7,200 buildings and structures in more than 100 conservation areas, including entire historic districts of Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India,” noted the spokesperson.
The many competing demands for limited land resources means it isn’t possible to keep every building. As such, the agency takes a selective and practical approach to conservation, and considers various criteria, the spokesperson said.
“We look at the building’s architectural, social and historical significance, rarity, and contribution to the environment. Additionally, views are sought from the building owners and an independent panel comprising members from a cross-section of the community, before a decision is made,” added the spokesperson.