A bit of bohemian buzz for sleepy Wessex Estate

A bit of bohemian buzz for sleepy Wessex Estate


Art studio, bar and eateries will be added to new town square in artists’ enclave


By Hong Xinyi


THE sleepy hollow of Wessex Estate, off Portsdown Road, will soon get a gentle jolt of bohemian buzz with the launch of a new town square.


In April, the 10,000 sq ft Wessex Village Square, which includes cult restaurant Colbar, will see four new stores open: an art studio, a pizzeria, a cocktail bar and a dessert cafe.


More than that, the three F&B outlets will also serve as gallery spaces for homegrown artists to showcase their work, further shaping Wessex Estate as an artists’ enclave.


JTC Corporation has been trying to push the area in this direction since it assumed master tenancy in 2004.


The off-the-beaten-path vibe of the 28-ha estate was felt to be conducive to the arts and creative industries. Among the moves made in this direction was the conversion of 24 apartment units into loft spaces suitable for studio use by the likes of photographers and textile designers.


Currently, 40 per cent of the tenants at Wessex Estate, which consists of 214 black-and-white colonial walk-up apartments and semi-detached houses, are in creative fields. They include Cultural Medallion winners such as sculptor Han Sai Por and painter Tan Choh Tee.


Wessex falls within JTC Corp’s 200ha one-north innovation and research hub, which includes upcoming science and technology research centre Fusionopolis and biomedical research centre Biopolis.


Within the hub are lifestyle and retail enclaves such as Wessex Estate and Rochester Park. Another one-north neighbourhood, Nepal Hill, has 16 black-and-white bungalows that are currently being refurbished for ‘adaptive use’, said a JTC spokesperson, who declined to elaborate.


JTC assistant chief executive Philip Su hopes that, in the long run, Wessex will become ‘the soul of the neighbourhood’, where scientific and creative minds can interact.


‘One-north is about how many new labs we can attract, how many new intellectual properties and start-ups can result from that,’ he said.


Wessex is a similar sort of experiment in innovation, he believes. ‘We don’t know what the end state of this community will be. It might take a while to find out.’


He hopes to see events like flea markets and art exhibitions held at the Village Square further down the road.


But the plan is to let the estate develop ‘organically, rather than prescribe what kinds of activities should be held’, he said.


‘What we are trying not to do is to let it become like SoHo in Manhattan or Sante Fe in New Mexico, where wealthy residents eventually displaced the artists.


‘We want to engage with people who appreciate such a space. It’s very quiet, there’s a lot of greenery, there’s only one bus, and we want to keep it that way – a bit untidy, but not dilapidated.’


The development here is a ‘cost-recovery’ project, according to Mr Su – it is not meant to reap huge profits, but serves more of JTC Corp’s social mission, he explained.


Painter Praema R. Gilbert, 67, shares an art studio in Wessex with five other artists and thinks exhibiting artworks at the new Village Square is a ‘fabulous’ idea.


‘It’s very quiet here, which is perfect for painting, but we also need some exposure,’ she said. ‘And knowing us Singaporeans, where there is food, there will be people.’


Source: Straits Times

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