To visit Rochor Centre in early 2016 is to visit a mortally wounded kaleidoscope. The end is nigh for the buildings, tenants, and businesses and everyone knows it. It oozes inevitability and sadness. The four beautifully and happily coloured apartment blocks hide sadness and anger at the impending closure and demolition of one of Singapore’s landmark public housing complexes.
Sitting alongside the viper’s nest that is Sim Lim Square (I personally love it), Rochor Centre stands out like a massive paint colour sample sheet. On the first couple of floors you have the strangest array of shops you may ever see side by side. Haemorrhoids acting up? No problem. Need a hinge for the bathroom closet? No problem? Need a traditional Chinese burial urn? I know a place.
That is, until all the stores started closing and relocating en masse.
You see, in Singapore, for progress and change to happen then bad things probably need to happen in the process…of things. Rochor Centre stands slap bang in the middle of the proposed North-South Expressway and this road isn’t going to divert around so Rochor Centre will be demolished, its people relocated, and all that will remain are the memories in the minds and photographs of the people who have lived and visited there. Residents will be relocated to a new complex near Kallang MRT station with these stipulations:
(a) Compensation for the existing flats based on prevailing market value;
(b) Assured allocation of new flats at the designated site if eligible;
(c) Purchase of new flats at subsidised prices frozen as at the date of gazette;
(d) Additional 20% price discount (up to $15,000 for singles and $30,000 for joint singles and families), if eligible, for the purchase of the new flats;
(e) Option to sell the existing flat with relocation benefits in the open market to eligible buyers;
(f) Option to apply for a flat elsewhere with relocation benefits;
(g) Exemption from the payment of resale levy for the existing subsidised flats;
(h) Incumbent flat owners who are first time Singapore Citizen/Singapore Permanent Resident households are exempted from paying the $10,000 premium on top of the purchase price of the new flat;
(i) Concessionary housing loan for the new flats for eligible flat owners, subject to credit assessment; and
(j) A comprehensive financial package to ease the cash flow for purchase of the new flats.
So all in all, apart from the gut wrenching removal from your ancestral home, not a bad deal. Yes.
Walking around Rochor Centre the mood is serene yet morose. Pigeons have long since claimed their territories around the buildings and will, one would assume, be also put out by the demolition of their expansive coop. Dolefully I pondered that Rochor Centre should probably close on the principal on having a thousand pigeons who have free reign to do what pigeons feel like doing around the buildings.
The people I walked by had an aura of acceptance and tiredness. The elderly man playing his Chinese flute in one of the void areas added to the air of melancholy.
Rochor Center has many areas that have a surreal feeling mainly due to unexpected spaces and angles of buildings around you. The vibrant colours of the buildings add to this.
I spent a few hours wandering around the buildings and going up to the top floors to see how people lived there while looking over to the other buildings. It truly is a unique experience to observe life in a Singapore HDB through the many windows. Alfred Hitchcock would have a field day here. As you enter a new corridor on each floor it’s always interesting to see how the corridors have been transformed into personal gardens; it’s a common theme in Singapore HDBs.
So after a while I left Rochor Centre with a heavy heart but with a sense of grudging acceptance that that’s just the way Singapore will evolve; progress beats historicity.
As always, click pics for larger. Yo.