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Residents of ‘identity nodes’ hope for end to congestion woes

SINGAPORE — They are glad that a slice of their past will be preserved for posterity. But some residents in estates earmarked as “identity nodes” under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) latest plans also hope to see an end to a more current problem: Congestion woes.

SINGAPORE — They are glad that a slice of their past will be preserved for posterity. But some residents in estates earmarked as “identity nodes” under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) latest plans also hope to see an end to a more current problem: Congestion woes.

Under the draft Master Plan 2013 announced yesterday, Jalan Kayu, Serangoon Garden and Holland Village — famed for their eateries and shophouses — have been added to the URA’s list of identity nodes, which means the character of these places will be preserved and enhanced even after redevelopment.

The housing estate at Jalan Kayu, famed for its roti prata stalls, draws crowds of people in cars on weekends. On weekdays, heavy vehicles drive through a one-lane road to a new aerospace park in Seletar, generating noise and dust.

Mr Ong Ah Chong, a 61-year-old resident, hopes that urban planners can cap the number of eateries at the Jalan Kayu shophouses due to the noise, smoke and heavy traffic past midnight.

On weekends, cars owned by non-residents occupy the scarce parking spaces in the estate.

“You can have preservation, but you shouldn’t have eateries,” the retiree said, pointing to six chimneys belonging to eateries behind his home. “All the washed laundry is affected.”

Another long-time resident, 85-year-old M Sinniah, hopes the shophouses can be preserved as they are the only surviving buildings from his younger days as a Royal Air Force store superintendent at Seletar Air Base. “The buildings are ... like my children,” he said, referring to the shophouses.

At Holland Village, shop owners and residents felt that more needs to be done to preserve the heritage of the area.

Mr Sam Thambi, whose family has been operating a magazine store there since the 1940s, said there used to be an open-air theatre in the 1980s.

“There were also mango trees, rambutan trees. But, with time, suddenly there are so many tall buildings. It feels like a city ... no more kampung atmosphere,” said the 39-year-old.

Like Jalan Kayu’s Mr Ong, he complains about congestion problems, noting that there are not enough car park lots. “Sometimes, my store becomes a drive-through magazine store. Customers just sit in the car, ask for a magazine and drive off,” Mr Thambi said.

For several other residents, preservation is not only about keeping old buildings intact — it also involves maintaining the ties among neighbours.

Serangoon Garden resident Low Moi In is worried that familiar faces will disappear from the estate if it undergoes redevelopment.

The 70-year-old said that for people of her age, “if we can keep the (things of the) past, it is the best”.

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