Tanglin Halt Demolition - Making Way for Progress

Leaning on our post on the oldest HDBs in Singapore, people wanted to know about the Tanglin Halt estate that was started by SIT, even before HDB. I started this thread of old HDB since housing is a core part of Singaporeans' investment and appreciating the estate's history would be interesting.

Tanglin Halt, a residential area in Singapore, has stood as a testament to the city-state's urban development for decades. This article aims to delve into the various aspects surrounding this contentious issue, examining its historical background, the reasons for demolition, preservation efforts, and community impact.

On one hand, I acknowledge the need for progress and development and the desire for improved infrastructure and modern amenities. Yet, on the other hand, I cannot help but feel a deep sense of loss at the thought of erasing a place so steeped in history and cherished memories.

Historical Background of Tanglin Halt

What is the history of Tanglin Halt in Singapore? Tanglin Halt, named after the Tanglin Railway Halt, was developed as a residential area in Singapore in the 1950s as part of the country's public housing program. It was built to provide affordable housing options for the growing population. Tanglin Railway Halt used for passengers and goods opened on 3 May 1932 as part of the new line from Bukit Timah to Tanjong Pagar via Tanglin and Alexandra.

The area boasts distinct architectural styles and features that reflect the design principles of the era. With its rich history and cultural significance, Tanglin Halt has become a cherished residential enclave based on its timeline I could muster up from various sources:

Year Events
1932 Tanglin Railway Halt was started from Bukit Timah to Tanjong Pagar to transport passengers and goods
1962 Tanglin Halt was built as one of Queenstown's housing estates by HDB and was also known as ‘chap lau’ (十楼) in Hokkien for its ten levels of home
1964 Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate developed
1967 The back of the Orchid Series’ 1-dollar note, released in mid-1967, features the Tanglin Halt flats, which were built in 1962.
1969 Conversion of Tanglin Halt rental flats to leasehold flats
1979 Installation of additional lifts for the flats
1985 Installation of aluminum flashings at kitchen windows
1992 Part of Tanglin Halt Industrial Park vacated
1993 Upgrading works for the park next to Block 50
1996 Upgrading works at Block 24-32 for extended bedrooms
1997 Clusters of homes named Tanglin Grove, Tanglin Halt Green, Commonwealth Green
2001 Repainting of Tanglin Halt flats with vibrant colors
2003 SERS for Block 50-54 (old); Conservation of Block 57, 61, 67-73
2008 SERS for Block 74-80; Completion of Block 88-91
2014 SERS for Block 24-32, 33-38, 40-45, 55-56, 58-60, 62-66 (31 blocks)
2015 Completion of Block 50-54 (new)
2017 Demolition of Block 74-80
2018 Partial closure of Tanglin Halt Close
2022 Majority of flats at Blocks 24-32, 33-38, 40-45, 55-56, 58-60, and 62-66 vacated
2023 HDB sent out notices to remaining tenants in June stating that blocks 47 to 49 within the estate, as well as the market and hawker center at block 48A, have been earmarked for phase two of the redevelopment. They will only be torn down after the construction of a neighborhood town center is completed. As such, tenants have the option to renew their leases till March 2027.

Reasons for Tanglin Halt Demolition

The proposed demolition of Tanglin Halt stems from a combination of factors and motivations.

  • Urban planning and redevelopment considerations come into play, with the need to optimize land use and accommodate Singapore's evolving needs given most of the homes were only 10 levels, also known as ‘chap lau’ (十楼) in Hokkien, high compared to other denser residential zones. 
  • The demolition is envisioned to pave the way for improved infrastructure and amenities, enhancing the overall urban fabric of the area. The land on which Tanglin Halt stands is seen as an opportunity for improving infrastructure and amenities, aligning with Singapore's development goals.

Are there any alternatives to complete demolition? In response to the potential demolition, alternative proposals and compromises have been suggested. These alternatives aim to strike a balance between preservation and development. They may involve preserving certain parts of Tanglin Halt while allowing for new construction or adaptive reuse of existing buildings.

In the face of conflicting interests, alternative proposals and compromises have emerged to strike a balance between preservation and development.

The residents in the SERS exercises had been offered 5 replacement options, 4 in premium areas and 1 in normal areas. 

  • They will also receive a SERS grant of $15,000 for singles or $30,000 for joint singles and families, for the purchase of the replacement flats.
  • The estimated subsidized price range for the new flats at the replacement sites before the SERS grant is $205,000 to $255,000 for two-room units, and $284,000 to $386,000 for three-room units.
  • Larger flats have a price range of $434,000 to $562,000 for four-room units (80 sq m), $461,000 to $590,000 for four-room units (85 sq m), and $601,000 to $748,000 for five-room units.
  • Renovation companies were sprawling the areas knowing the SERS plans. 

Preservation Efforts and Heritage Value

Advocates for preserving Tanglin Halt emphasize its cultural and historical value. The area encapsulates Singapore's heritage and represents an important chapter in the nation's development. Efforts have been made to recognize and conserve the heritage value of Tanglin Halt, with various initiatives aimed at documenting and preserving its unique character.

Are there any efforts to document or preserve the memories of Tanglin Halt residents? Efforts have been made to document and preserve the memories of Tanglin Halt residents. Various initiatives, such as oral history projects, photo exhibitions, and community events, aim to capture and celebrate the stories and experiences of the residents living in Tanglin Halt. For instance, the back of the Orchid Series’ 1-dollar note, released in mid-1967, features the Tanglin Halt flats, which were built in 1962.

Community Impact and Sentiments

The potential demolition of Tanglin Halt holds significant implications for its current residents and the surrounding community. Interviews and testimonials from residents, activists, and experts provide insight into the impact that the loss of Tanglin Halt would have on the community's identity and sense of belonging. Emotions run high as individuals grapple with the potential eradication of a place they call home.

  • Dr. Lily Neo,  a long-serving Member of Parliament set up Tanglin Halt Clinic to serve as a gathering spot for residents, the majority from the lower-income group before moving to share clinic space at Royal Square Medical Suites in Novena, with her gynecologist husband Ben Neo.
  • The woman running Alice's Hair & Beauty Shop surnamed Chen, estimates that she has been losing about $2,500 a month in the past three years. The shop has been operating for over 62 years.
  • Another second-generation owner of a Traditional Chinese Medicine business shared that she signed a lease for a store at Block 38, Margaret Drive, and had planned to move out next week.

Public Engagement and Decision-making Process

The involvement of the public in the decision-making process regarding the demolition of Tanglin Halt is crucial. The role of government agencies, stakeholders, and community engagement initiatives in shaping the outcome is explored. The transparency and effectiveness of the decision-making process are scrutinized, shedding light on the level of public participation and influence.

The potential demolition of Tanglin Halt would have a significant impact on the community. Current residents would face the displacement and potential loss of their homes and the disruption of their established community ties. The demolition could also result in the erasure of a neighborhood with a unique identity and character.

Sky Hoon. Read Full Bio
Website Owner, Twitter-er
He has been trading since 2008. He started this blog to share the journey about option trading. He dabbled in stocks, bitcoin, ethereum (in Celsius Network), ETF (lazy Dollar Cost Averaging) and also built websites for fun. He used this as a platform to share my experiences and mistakes in trading, especially options which I just picked up.

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