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Govt acquires Thomson Road mixed-use building due to safety concerns over North-South Corridor works

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has acquired a 57-year-old mixed-use building on Thomson Road for safety reasons, after it found that the building would not be able to withstand the construction of the North-South Corridor nearby, it said on Friday (April 16).

A four-storey building (pictured) along Thomson Road and the freehold 776-sqm site that it sits on were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, the authorities said.

A four-storey building (pictured) along Thomson Road and the freehold 776-sqm site that it sits on were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, the authorities said.

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has acquired a 57-year-old mixed-use building on Thomson Road for safety reasons, after it found that the building would not be able to withstand the construction of the North-South Corridor nearby, it said on Friday (April 16).

The four-storey building — which had 12 residential units and four ground-level commercial shops — and the 9,999-year leasehold site that it sits on were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act on the same day. 

The building will be demolished by the end of the year.

Only two of the residential units were occupied by their owners. The rest were leased to tenants.

The building, at 68 to 74 Thomson Road, was built on a shallow foundation in 1964. Part of the foundation was later modified in the 1990s owing to the demolition of an adjacent building.

LTA said that the building thus sits atop a mixed foundation on soft ground, which would not be able to withstand the excavation works needed for the North-South Corridor project six metres away.

When the alignment for the 21.5km North-South Expressway — as the project was previously known — was conceived in 2013, engineers had assessed that the impact on the building would be manageable.

The North-South Corridor, connecting northern Singapore to the city-centre, is set to be the longest transit priority corridor, with dedicated bus lanes, cycling routes and pedestrian paths.

There are no other buildings with mixed foundations along the North-South Corridor alignment.

The underground corridor was largely planned along existing roads to minimise the need for land acquisition.

An impact assessment last year determined that because of the mixed foundation of the building as well as uneven movements in the soft ground over the years, the foundations needed to be strengthened.

LTA said that the occupants of the building were temporarily vacated in September last year to carry out the necessary strengthening work.

By February, all occupants had moved out of the building and secured other places of residence or business.

Later, a concrete-strength test showed that the building’s concrete was at lower levels than what was needed to carry out the strengthening work to its foundations.

As a result, the building will have to be acquired by the Government and demolished for excavation work to start, LTA said.

The owners are expected to hand over their units by the end of July. The demolition of the building is not expected to delay the North-South Corridor’s completion, due in 2027.

LTA said: “The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has gazetted the acquisition of the affected land today. SLA and LTA will work closely with the affected owners and assist them through the acquisition process.”

They will be compensated based on market rates at the time of the acquisition. The compensation amounts may vary for individual units.

The authorities did not give a ballpark figure, but said that a professional valuer would be appointed to appraise the units.

ONE OWNER UNHAPPY WITH DECISION

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Roger Ting, 63, who owned a residential unit there, said that he is deeply unhappy and shocked by the decision. Residents learned about it only on Friday morning, he said.

He also questioned the need for the authorities to invoke the Land Acquisition Act to take back the entire 776-sqm site.

“Why can’t the owners be allowed to return and rebuild after the demolition is complete? As an architect, I think there is quite a lot of potential to rebuild a new residence on the site,” Mr Ting, an architect of three decades, said.

“I have spoken to quite a number of fellow owners and many of them agree with me that there was no need to acquire the land.”

Mr Ting has owned the unit for a decade and claimed to have invested around S$1.5 million on the flat, including renovation works and furnishings.

He did not live in the flat and leased it to tenants instead until February, when all units were vacated at the authorities' request so that it could carry out strengthening works for the building’s foundation.

Until Friday, the owners had the impression that this was a temporary move until the strengthening works could be completed, Mr Ting said, adding that his furniture is still in the unit. 

He said that he would have made other arrangements to move out if the Government had informed them of the decision earlier.

With the acquisition order in place, the owners now have until the end of July to surrender the property to the Government.

TODAY reached out to other owners at 68 to 74 Thomson Road, but several declined to be interviewed.

Other land and properties that had been acquired by the Government in order to build the North-South Corridor includes a strip of land in the Thomson 800 condominium opposite MacRitchie Reservoir in 2011. 

The condo residents later tried, and failed, in a bid to increase the compensation amounts in court.

TODAY has contacted the LTA, SLA and the Building and Construction Authority for further comments regarding Mr Ting’s concerns.

REBUILDING MAY LEAD TO OWNERSHIP COMPLICATIONS: LTA

Responding to TODAY's queries on Saturday, LTA said it had earlier helped the building’s owners, tenants and businesses to temporarily relocate in order to ensure their safety during the planned strengthening works.

"Based on the earlier assessment of the condition of the building, LTA had planned to strengthen the building and return it to the owners," said a spokesman.

But it decided to demolish the building after further tests — which could be conducted only after the occupants had left.

Qualified persons appointed by the LTA, and the Building and Construction Authority, had assessed that it would be “impractical and risky” to carry out the strengthening works needed on the building to withstand the excavation for the nearby tunnel, said the spokesman.

LTA added that rebuilding the strata title property after demolishing it “may give rise to complications in resolving issues of ownership over the different parts of the rebuilt building amongst the different subsidiary proprietors”.

The authority said it conveyed the technical and safety reasons to the affected owners on Friday. The owners were also informed of the acquisition and acquisition process by the SLA, said the spokesman.

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