Kranji’s growing needs

Kranji’s growing needs 

Farmers need more help to thrive if area is to fulfil its potential as a countryside draw

By Tan Hui Yee  


Trying to get out of the Kranji countryside without a car of your own used to require a mixture of charm and luck. Since there were no bus services, and no taxi driver would take a booking from that far-flung corner of Singapore, I had to beg for rides out from other farm visitors.

Today, the farmers run a minibus service from the nearby Kranji MRT Station, and growing public interest has been mirrored by increasing development of farms that incorporate facilities such as farmstays and cafes.


To cap it off, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) unveiled plans last week for 21ha of new parkland, walking trails as well as more farming plots with space for leisure facilities there. It declared that the 1,400ha Kranji and Lim Chu Kang area – dotted with 115 farms – has potential to be ‘a unique countryside destination close to nature’.


But farmers from the Kranji Countryside Association will tell you that it has been a long, hard slog to get the authorities to recognise the gem in this north-western district – and how, despite this recent vindication, it will continue to be so.


They tried selling this concept of ‘agri-tainment’ to the authorities in 2003. This marriage of agriculture and entertainment on farmland, they said, could be used to bolster farms’ income and nurture greater interest in local produce.


In 2005, the URA eased its rules to let farms open shops and restaurants, and offer farmstays. The Singapore Land Authority followed that up the following year by putting up new farmland for tender for ‘agri-tainment’ uses.


By then, the farmers’ continual promotion – driven by the flamboyant former Netball Singapore chief Ivy Singh-Lim and fourth-generation farmer Kenny Eng – had generated enough attention for even listed firms to muscle in on the action.


HLH Agri R&D, a subsidiary of mainboard-listed PDC Corp, is now developing 20 farm villas, a restaurant and beer garden just behind Mrs Singh-Lim’s organic vegetable farm, Bollywood Veggies, off Neo Tiew Road.


But the grand plans to turn Kranji into a rustic haven belie the continual problems the farmers face.


There is still no proper bus service. SMRT service 925 – the only one that goes anywhere near – ventures only to the tip of the farming area in Neo Tiew Crescent on Sundays and public holidays.


The association’s farmers pay about $7,000 a month to run an hourly minibus service plying the inner sections of the countryside. They charge $2 a ride, which barely covers half their costs.


A bus service is a lifeline for lower-income folk who otherwise cannot afford to visit the area. But the farmers’ repeated appeals for a proper service, which they have offered to subsidise, have not borne fruit.


Until the authorities and bus companies relent, they will have to dig deep into their pockets to keep that private service going.


Indeed, up till last week, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Kranji farmers were pretty low on the nation’s priority list.


The area was unceremoniously picked for a granite stockpile last year to stabilise the supply of construction materials after Indonesia imposed a ban on land sand exports and detained barges shipping granite to Singapore.


Explaining its move, the Building and Construction Authority said the area was ‘away from built-up areas’ which, ironically, was one of the main reasons for its appeal to locals and tourists alike.


The stockpile remained, despite a 1,000-signature petition and a protest by 20 farmers. And the signs are that it will stay even in view of the longer-term plans to develop Kranji as a leisure destination.


Perhaps an even bigger issue is the short lease of farmland in Singapore. While developers downtown have the luxury of 99-year leases, farmland is leased out for 20 years at a stretch. This policy betrays the transient nature of farmland in Singapore – and bolsters the perception that land can be used for agriculture only until a more pressing or profitable use comes along.


While it is hard to justify shielding farmers from rising land costs when the rest of Singapore feels the pinch, it wouldn’t hurt to give them a greater sense of certainty now that Kranji has been earmarked as a countryside destination.


It need not be a massive gesture. Simply letting the farmers renew their leases a few years before they run out – similar to letting owners of downtown developments ‘top up’ their 99-year leases before a collective sale – can help spur hesitant farmers to develop more visitor facilities.


It would also help stave off developers with deep pockets but little interest in farming who snap up land to build commercial facilities surrounded by token planting.


Agriculture is the lifeblood of Kranji, and the farms need to thrive if the area is to fulfil its newly minted role as Singapore’s next big countryside attraction.


Lose them, and we will be left with nothing but a theme park.


Source: Straits Times

Malay Village’s demise: ‘It’s time’

Malay Village‘s demise: ‘It’s time’ 

Community says place has seen its best days, but hopes redevelopments will retain area’s traditions

By Tan Dawn Wei and Nur Dianah Suhaimi 


After years of being branded a ‘white elephant’, the death knell has finally sounded for the Malay Village in Geylang Serai.


No one seems particularly upset to see it go – not even those who mooted the idea or some of its current tenants.


‘There’s no point keeping it if we’re not able to sustain it. It has become an eyesore. Each time I pass by the place, I feel my heart breaking,’ said Major Ibrahim Bulat, 63, who was one of five members of the Malay Village advisory committee set up in 1992.


Since the 2.2ha development – about the size of two football fields – was first approved by the Ministry of National Development in 1981 to showcase Malay traditional kampung living, it has been plagued with problems and never lived up to its billing.


Of the 80 shop units, fewer than 10 are open daily even though Malay Village Pte Ltd, its current management company, said 70 of them are leased out.


Many of them are used as storage facilities by businesses.


About 1,800 tourists visited its museum last year, said Malay Village. But when The Sunday Times dropped in on Friday, its doors were shut. A security guard appeared after we told him over an intercom that we wanted to tour it.


Visitors who step into the two- storey museum, are often greeted by a whiff of cat urine and bat droppings on the floorboards as they pass dusty artefacts such as old musical instruments, cooking appliances, traditional games and a replica of a Malay wedding hall.


The guard, who doubles as the museum’s guide, said the place is kept locked unless a visitor drops in. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee of $5 and a tour of the museum takes about an hour.


Mr Dai Foh Chin, 80, one of the village’s few tenants who stay open, lamented: ‘People call this the Malay Village; I call this place a holiday resort. I open my shop from 7am to 7pm daily, but there are hardly any customers,’


The provision shop owner, who has been there for a year and pays under $3,000 in rent, said he has been making a loss of $1,000 a month.


Business is so bad that he gets his children to take his goods to be sold elsewhere.


A more recent addition to the village is Ms Siti Suhaila Yahya, 30, who opened a foot spa there three weeks ago. She spent $250,000 to set it up, but was unperturbed by news that the place will be demolished.


‘It is the norm in the retail industry for the tenancy period to be three years with no guarantee of subsequent renewal. The fact that I have until 2011 is already beyond the normal duration of tenancy,’ said Ms Siti who is already shopping around for a new location within the Geylang Serai area.



Revamp in the works


Under a new draft Master Plan unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last Friday, the Malay Village will make way for a new civic centre and plaza as part of the Government’s efforts to rejuvenate the area while preserving its local character.


The civic centre – which could take on Malay design elements – will house a community club, Community Development Council offices and possibly a library and gallery showcasing the area’s history.


Proposed pedestrian malls leading up to the Paya Lebar MRT station will also mean more space for bazaars and cultural performances.


Going too, will be Tanjong Katong Complex farther up from Malay Village.


The URA told The Sunday Times the development date for the complex, a state property managed by the Singapore Land Authority, has not been fixed but will take place after the current leases – all short-term – run out and when the land is needed.



Crucial to retain culture


But with village’s demise, will a slice of Malay history also be lost?


At least one person spoke up for the beleaguered landmark.


Associate Professor Hadijah Rahmat, head of the Malay language department at the National Institute of Education, thinks the concept behind the Malay Village is still valid and the authorities may be too hasty in wanting to demolish it.


There is a need to show how rural Malays used to live and the Malay Village still fulfils the criteria, she said.


‘But we should study how the place can be made more vibrant and dynamic. Heritage centres cannot be 100 per cent commercially run. Usually, the authorities will give a helping hand.’


The company behind the project, Malay Village Pte Ltd, still believes it can make a go of it and may appeal to have its lease extended beyond 2011.


General manager Jeffrey Chan, 35, said the company’s plans for a $50 million revamp of the village are on hold until he sees the URA blueprint for the area.


He said he had submitted a draft proposal to the authorities last month to rebuild it with a similar ‘kampung ambience’ and with 20 per cent more retail space.


At least half of the 40 Geylang Serai residents, shopkeepers and hawkers The Sunday Times spoke to said they hoped to see some elements of Malay tradition preserved in the redevelopment.


Just as many, however, said they want a mall in its place, with a supermarket; even better if it comes with a movie theatre.


‘The place was supposed to remind people of the kampung days so that our future generations will know what it was like in the old days,’ said Malay grassroots group Majlis Pusat president and former MP, Mr Zulkifli Mohammed, 60. He was also was one of the MPs who supported the idea of setting up the Malay Village.


‘Now, they will probably have to go to Malaysia or the Riau Islands to see what a kampung looks like.’


But he did agree that it is no longer viable to keep the Malay Village as it is.


‘It has not achieved the objective of showcasing Malay culture. I think the Malay Heritage Centre in Kampong Glam has taken over that role,’ said Mr Zulkifli.


He held out hope that the proposed gallery at the civic centre would offer a link to the area’s history.


The MP for the area, Dr Fatimah Lateef, 42, said while redevelopment is necessary, new structures that will be introduced, be they malls or civic centres, should ‘keep the Malay identity to a certain extent’.


Beyond incorporating Malay aesthetic elements into the designs, she hopes the new civic centre can exhibit Malay culture amid its other necessary functions, like a library and community club.


Referring to the Malay Heritage Centre, she said: ‘People may not specifically go to look for it. But if you reach out to them at the civic centre where they go to for community services, you’re bringing it out to the community rather than keeping it within four walls.’


Source: Straits Times

‘Kitschy’ Chinatown, authentic Little India

‘Kitschy’ Chinatown, authentic Little India 

By Tan Dawn Wei and Becky Lo 




The Singapore Tourism Board’s latest numbers show that Chinatown ranks as Singapore’s second most popular free attraction after Orchard Road, drawing 51 per cent of all visitors in 2006.


Little India was third with 36 per cent while Kampong Glam, Singapore’s other Malay and Islamic enclave, drew 8 per cent.


While Chinatown is certainly more successful than the Malay Village, its critics have accused it of being too artificial following the nearly $100 million spent revitalising it in the late 1990s.


Famous architect Tay Kheng Soon, for instance, had described it as ‘kitsch’.


While facades of pre-war shophouses from Mosque Street to Neil Road were preserved under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s conservation movement, many lament that the enclave has lost its original flavour and soul.


Today, souvenir shops and stands dot the focal areas in Pagoda Street and Trengganu Street while the other streets are filled with outlets like restaurants, antique shops and beauty parlours.


A Chinatown Heritage Centre, food street and night market are also frequented by mostly tourists.


Nearly all 10 shopkeepers interviewed agreed Chinatown no longer retains its character.


‘It’s too tailored for tourists. We go overseas, to Malaysia and China, to find the Chinese ambience,’ said Mr Gary Kor, 33, who runs Isle boutique in Pagoda Street.


Tourists say that they do not get a sense of local Chinese heritage.


Said South African tourist Gus Greeff: ‘The shops are too similar, and I don’t think they are really helpful in improving my knowledge of the Chinese culture here.’





Keep the old trades, let businesses sprout on their own, cater to locals and tourists. That is its success formula as an ethnic enclave.


Mr A. Jothilingam, 30, owner of textile shop Nalli, said Little India works because of its variety of traditional trades and goods and its celebration of Indian festivals.


‘The Indians will always have a reason to come back, to buy flowers and traditional textiles for weddings,’ he said.


Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association chairman Rajakumar Chandra hopes to retain the area’s buzz, while it is being spruced up with pedestrian streets and improved sidewalks. There are also plans for a heritage centre.


‘We don’t want it to become like Chinatown with those umbrella shops,’ he said about plans to turn Campbell Lane into a pedestrian street.


Even without a heritage centre, Mr Rajakumar, in his late 40s, feels the area showcases local Indian culture.


He said: ‘You still see the old Indian goldsmiths at work, merchants grinding spices…It looks untidy but it adds colour to the area.’


As for the $180 million Tekka Mall, touted as ‘the jewel of Little India’ by its owner DRB-Hicom, it has not lived up to expectations.


Businesses were supposed to have a distinctly ethnic flavour. Instead, Sheng Siong supermarket and Guardian Pharmacy are there.


Ms Sakunkhala Elizabeth, 51, who has run a beauty salon there since the mall opened in 2003, said business at her Buffalo Road outlet is brisker. ‘There’s nothing uniquely Indian about Tekka Mall.’


It is understood DRB-Hicom plans to spend between $4 million and $9 million to rebrand the six-storey mall located between Serangoon and Sungei roads.


Source: Straits Times

Trustee should distribute sale proceeds according to terms

Trustee should distribute sale proceeds according to terms


Q I read your advice on how to claim a share of an estate, and I have some queries.


If there is a piece of land in the name of a trustee:



Is it possible for the trustee to sell it without the knowledge of the descendants of the person who entrusted it to him?


And if so, does the trustee get to keep all the proceeds?


How can we check if a transaction has been made and if the proceeds have been paid out?


A A trust is set up when a settlor gives an asset to a trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. The trust can be set up immediately, during the settlor’s lifetime or, if it is stated in the settlor’s will, it will take effect only upon the settlor’s death.


The trustee holds the legal title to the asset, while the beneficiary will inherit the asset.


It is possible for the trustee to sell the asset (in this case, the land) without the knowledge of the beneficiary.


However, under the law, whatever the trustee does, he has to ensure that everything is done for the benefit of the beneficiary and according to the terms of the trust.


The trustee will, therefore, have to distribute the proceeds of the sale according to the terms of the trust and should not keep all the proceeds – unless he is one of the beneficiaries under the trust, in which case he is entitled to keep his share according to the terms of the trust.


You can check with the Singapore Land Authority to find out whether the piece of land has been sold and, if so, to whom and for how much.


Alternatively, you may wish to engage a lawyer to do the necessary searches for you.


Note also that the beneficiary has the right to ask the trustee for an account of the income and expenses of the trust to date.


Ang Kim Lan


Law Corporation


Source: Straits Times

Kallang River surroundings poised for boom time

Kallang River surroundings poised for boom time 


Waterside district with lush greenery has potential to be leading residential enclave, say analysts, pointing out its proximity to town and good public transport

By Fiona Chan, Property Reporter 


Finally, a bit of news to cheer the ailing housing market: The drab, neglected area north of Kallang River is to be Singapore’s next lifestyle hot spot.

Four thousand new waterfront homes, all to be built by private developers, are slated to come up in the area in the next 15 years.


They will offer cool green living in a lush park setting, as well as resort-style beachfront housing near the water’s edge.


Kallang Riverside will also be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.


All this was announced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday as part of its latest Master Plan, which guides Singapore’s land use policy in the medium term.


Property consultants say the new Kallang district, bounded by Lavender and Kallang MRT stations on the northern corners and the Kallang River to the south, has the potential to become a premier residential enclave.


‘The area is near town, yet next to the beach, it reminds me of places like the Gold Coast,’ said Mr Danny Yeo, the deputy managing director of property firm Knight Frank.


He lauded the exclusivity of the area, which is bounded by waterways on all sides except for Kallang Road to the north.


‘It’s resort living on the fringe of the city. Many people will want to live there.’


Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL)’s head of South-east Asia research, Mr Chua Yang Liang, called the area ‘a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa’.


Over the last couple of years, demand for waterfront homes has strengthened and the limited supply of such properties has led to their prices surging to a level beyond the grasp of many Singaporeans, he said.


‘This new district may help make similar projects available to the man in the street.’


Mr Karamjit Singh, the managing director of property consultancy Credo Real Estate, drew a comparison with Novena, another prime city-fringe area, instead.


He highlighted the fact that Kallang is served by two MRT stations, making it a very desirable residential and office location.


‘Kallang has the potential of becoming the new Novena, purely because it’s that close to town.’


Lots to choose from


A range of housing options will be available in Kallang Riverside, if all goes according to the Master Plan.


Most of the homes will be set on the western bank of the river in an area called The Green, which will have a park running down the middle.


Low-rise apartment blocks will face the park, with high-rise condominiums soaring behind them.


The Government has set aside several plots for high-density housing here, with varying plot ratios for different building heights, noted Mr Li Hiaw Ho, the executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research.


This will allow for a ‘step-down’ range of storey heights that descend towards the waterfront, enabling residents in the top floors of each building to enjoy views of the water.


Homes that are directly fronting the park or the river will also be encouraged to go ‘fenceless’ to create a seamless blend of parkland, beachfronts and buildings, said the URA.


Landed homes may also make an appearance nearer the beaches, said JLL’s Mr Chua.



City-fringe prices


Kallang may sound like a first-class place to live, but expect to pay top dollar for homes there.


Property values are expected to soar in the area, especially for the planned new homes. The surrounding residences will not feel any impact for the next few years, but prices may rise once the area starts taking shape, predicted property experts.


Most of the housing estates nearby are made up of HDB flats.


Currently, the only condominium in the area is the upcoming Riverine by the Park, along Kallang Road near the river. Nearby is Citylights, at Jellicoe Road near Lavender MRT station.


Units were recently sold at Riverine for $1,600 per sq ft (psf) and at Citylights for $1,000 to $1,300 psf.


Across the river, condos in Tanjong Rhu have been sold for as low as $750 psf at Tanjong Ria Condo and for more than $1,600 psf at Casuarina Cove.


Knight Frank’s Mr Yeo believes home prices in the new Kallang will be ‘a shade below those in Orchard, and probably comparable to those in Newton and Novena’, with waterfront homes costing even more.


Mr Chua expects prices to be about 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower than those currently commanded by Marina Bay and Sentosa, which range from $1,700 psf to $2,700 psf.


‘The plans will bring the population back into Kallang and increase demand for the surrounding properties,’ he said.


Already, buyers are being drawn to HDB flats in the area because of the high prices of private homes and the conservation charm of Kallang, Mr Chua said.


‘It’s still a little sleepy town now, and there won’t be much short-term impact, but in the medium to long term, we should see price movements there.’


Under the URA’s latest Master Plan, Kallang Riverside will be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.


Knight Frank’s Mr Danny Yeo likens the area to city-fringe resort living, as it reminds him of Australia’s Gold Coast, with the district being near town and yet next to the beach.


Jones Lang LaSalle’s Mr Chua Yang Liang calls the area ‘a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa’.


Source: Straits Times

Kallang property prices set to go up?

URA Draft Masterplan 2008 to turn Kallang Basin into mini Sentosa Cove


Kallang property prices set to go up?


A BUSTLING beachfront precinct with waterfront homes, offices, hotels, shopping malls and entertainment outlets.


By Desmond Ng



25 May 2008


A BUSTLING beachfront precinct with waterfront homes, offices, hotels, shopping malls and entertainment outlets.


Think Sentosa Cove, but on a smaller scale. And perhaps, not so pricey.


That will be the new face of Kallang Basin in years to come.


This makeover is one of the initiatives of the Draft Master Plan 2008, launched by Minister of National Development Mah Bow Tan yesterday.


For property speculators and homeowners in that area, this makeover can spell only one thing -higher property prices.


The one thing some residents want to know is: how much is the value of my place expected to rise?


There are two small Housing Board (HDB) estates with less than 20 blocks in that area, and both overlook Kallang Basin.


The Riverine, a 96-unit apartment project which was launched a year ago, will be the first private residential project to be completed in Kallang Riverside.


Auditor Justin Lee, who lives in a four-room HDB flat there, said: ‘The redevelopment sounds exciting. At last, they’re going to spruce up this area. I think this place has potential, since there’s a beach here and it’s near to town.


‘It’ll be a while before the whole place is revitalised and, by then, I’m sure the value of my place would have gone up.’


Mr Lee, who is in his 30s, paid more than $200,000 for his place some two years ago.


Property-watchers we spoke to agreed that property prices in that area will certainly head up once construction there starts.


But it’s still early days yet, especially for those hoping to cash in now.


PropNex’s chief executive Mohamed Ismail said: ‘There won’t be any immediate impact on prices today. If anything, the value of homes there will hold well now because of the news.




‘We may not see the price increase today, tomorrow or a few months to come. But in a few years’ time, this place will command a premium because of the transformation. ‘


He reckoned that when construction begins, buyers can be expected to pay a premium of 10 to 15 per cent above its usual price.


The proximity to town, the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, and the new Sports Hub will bode well for homeowners there, he said.


‘People who want to invest in that place now will not be wrong in the long run. When things start coming up, such as the Sports Hub, the new MRT station and basic infrastructure, rentals and prices in that area will go up too,’ he added.


Mr Eugene Lim, an assistant vice-president with ERA Realty Network, also believes that one can expect a run-up in terms of property prices there.


But don’t expect a 10-per-cent increase in price now because nothing is concrete yet, he said.


‘It’s a 10 to 15 years’ project and will not happen straightaway.


‘But when plans are more concrete, land parcels are sold and developers start to announce their projects, prices in that area will increase. In 15 years’ time, prices there could even double what it is today.’


The Kallang Riverside area today is a quiet neighbourhood, home to a few flatted factories and a hangout for wakeboard enthusiasts.


While some are relishing the thought of a mini Sentosa Cove by their doorstep, others are not so hot about it.


Fishball noodle seller Tan Boey Khim, who lives in a four-room HDB flat just opposite the Kallang Basin, would prefer the area to remain status quo.


Mr Tan has been selling his noodles in a market there for the last 30 years.


The 66-year-old paid about $190,000 for his flat two years ago.


Right now, he enjoys an unblocked, picturesque view of the Kallang Basin all the way to Tanjong Rhu, the Marina Bay area, East Coast Park and even the Singapore Flyer.


For him, redevelopment means more noise, dust and traffic inconveniences from the construction.


Mr Tan said in Mandarin: ‘The plans don’t matter to me. I don’t even know if I will still be around when this whole area is redeveloped. Anyway, it’s still too early for me to think about selling this place for a profit.


‘I like the area, the view and proximity to town. I just hope it doesn’t become too crowded.’





The changes


·  More than 4,000 private homes withwaterfront views west of Kallang River.


·  Office, hotel, retail and entertainmentspace.


·  Hotel cluster with some 3,000 rooms.


·  Old Kallang Airport conserved, sold and adapted to new uses.


·  Promenade along Kallang River andRochor Canal to be upgraded.


·  Kallang Riverside Park to the west ofKallang River will be upgraded withabeachside lagoon.


·  Integrated second-storey linkway from Kallang MRT station to the new Sports Hub, with shops lining the way.


·  Sports Hub will have new National Stadium, Aquatic & Water Leisure Centre, Multi-Purpose Indoor Arena, the Singapore Indoor Stadium.





The Draft Master Plan


·  More homes


Punggol and Sengkang to be further developed.


New housing options in Queenstown, Bukit Merah, Bedok, Clementi and Yishun.


·  A business magnet


New growth areas in Tanjong Pagar, Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor to be developed.


Commercial hubs outside the city to offer alternatives for businesses and provide jobs closer to homes.


This includes Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central.


·  An exciting playground


The Leisure Plan showcases a range of facilities, including a150km round-island route forjoggers and cyclists.


The Draft Master Plan 2008 is open for public viewing and comments from 23 May to 20Jun 2008.


The exhibition is at the URA Centre on Maxwell Road.


Source: The New Paper

Circle Line work causes cave-in off Holland Road

Circle Line work causes cave-in off Holland Road


By Jamie Ee Wen Wei , Nur Dianah Suhaimi , Aw Cheng Wei


When the Sperling family went to bed on Friday night, a steel sheet had been laid across cracks in the street just outside the driveway of their bungalow, off Holland Road.


By dawn yesterday, a 8m by 7m stretch of Cornwall Gardens had disappeared into a 3m-deep crater.


No one was injured, neither were any homes in the area damaged when the ground sank at about 4.45am, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.


But water supplies to three homes were cut off as the pipes snapped when the road crumbled. Phones, computers and cable TV links were also out at one of the homes because of damaged cables.


The LTA said it arranged for the homes to be supplied drinking water and provided temporary telecommunication links.


The Sperlings, whose driveway was blocked by the repair work, have been put up at Shangri-La Hotel and provided two rental cars.


Yesterday’s cave-in was linked to tunnelling work taking place 22m below ground for a section of the Circle Line, connecting new stations at Holland Village and Farrer Road.


All tunnelling work has been stopped as repairs are carried out, the spokesman added.


The cave-in happened because of ‘loose ground’, said LTA. Its engineers and the contractors for the tunnelling work had been preparing to stabilise the soil in the area when it sank.


Residents in the area say they have experienced vibrations as tunnelling work moved through the area in the last two months.


The Sperlings, who moved into 14 Cornwall Gardens six months ago, said they could hear a constant ‘low rumble’.


Housewife Jane Sperling, 46, who resides in the bungalow with her investment manager husband and three sons, said the rumble was sometimes strong enough to throw open the ceiling vents.


There were other signs.


Another resident in the area, Mr Stephen Wisely, 46, who works in an oil and gas construction company, spotted a small sinkhole in his driveway two months ago, which was later filled in by LTA contractors.


More recently, Ms Mhel Bueno, 35, a domestic help who lives at No.12, had noticed water overflowing from a pipe near the cave-in site.


The LTA said its ‘engineers inspected monitoring instruments that had been installed at the houses and on the ground in the vicinity, and are satisfied that the houses and surrounding area are safe’.


By yesterday evening, most of the crater had been filled in and work was being carried out to strengthen the ground. Repairs to affected utility lines would also start soon.


The LTA apologised for the inconvenience to residents and motorists and said that the stretch of Cornwall Gardens is expected to reopen to traffic by Tuesday.


The sinkhole is the latest setback for the project, the most severe being the 2004 cave-in at the Nicoll Highway tunnel, which killed four.


Last year, four stop-work orders were issued, including for a stretch of a tunnel in Telok Blangah, when part of the road sank.


The LTA said the Cornwall Gardens repairs are not expected to delay progress of the Circle Line which is expected to be completed in stages from 2010 onwards.


Source: Straits Times

Foodies hail Thomson V

Foodies hail Thomson V


Lower rentals and good weekend crowds have turned a once-sleepy stretch of Upper Thomson into a restaurant row


By Tiffany Fumiko Tay


ALMOST everyone has heard of Holland V, but what about Thomson V? That’s what foodies are calling a stretch of Upper Thomson Road that has become something of a restaurant row.


The once-sleepy stretch of shophouses between Thomson Plaza and Long House food centre now houses 34 eateries, eight of which opened up the last year.


They are Miss Clarity Cafe, Herbs & Spices The Euradian Restaurant, Barnsburry, Pho 24, Sari Indo, Cheeky Chocolates, Earth Cafe and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice.


These savvy shop owners say they zoomed in on the area because of its laid- back feel and the throngs which descend on weekends.


More importantly, they say the rent is not as high as in Holland Village, or Holland V, as people like to call it.


Mr Richard Lu, 22, who helps his father run the six-month-old Indonesian restaurant Sari Indo, says the rent on the 2,500 sq ft unit is about $5,000 a month, less than the five-figure sums shopkeepers at Holland Village pay.


‘We found that this place has the potential to be a food centre, and it’s a good place to start a new business with the manageable rental,’ he says.


Other entrepreneurs feel the same way.


Mr Jason Wong, 49, co-owner of the two-month-old Earth Cafe, says he scouted for locations with lots of pet owners for his eatery, which caters to people and their pets.


He decided on Upper Thomson after looking at places such as Holland Village and Bukit Timah.


It’s proving to be a good decision as his business is doing well.


‘While many of our customers are Thomson residents, we even have people driving here from as far as Woodlands,’ he adds.


Another entrepreneur, Mr Augustine Koh, 35, opened what he calls an ‘Euradian’ restaurant, which serves a mix of European and Indian food, after hearing that the place was developing into a food hub.


Herbs & Spices The Euradian Restaurant opened six months ago.


Mr Koh says: ‘I also liked the ambience, the fact that it’s casual and not uptight fine-dining. It’s unique in its own way – there is the old-world charm and the different cuisines.’


Recent New York University graduate Aaron Choy, 25, says setting up his first shop at Upper Thomson is a good opportunity to test the waters.


His cafe and chocolate shop Cheeky Chocolates opened barely a month ago.


Mr Choy says: ‘I wanted to build a customer base and get the feel of what they like and dislike before expanding my business and fighting with the big boys.’


People may also be getting too jaded with the town area, he adds.


‘I think people are looking for a different experience,’ he says.


Even restaurant chains are seeing the market potential.


Vietnamese noodle chain Pho 24, with over 60 outlets in Vietnam, opened its second one in Singapore along Upper Thomson five months ago. It has an outlet at Millenia Walk.


Its Singapore franchise owner Paul Tan, 39, says: ‘People are starting to draw comparisons between places like Holland Village, Upper Serangoon Road and here.


‘Upper Thomson is no less exciting or titillating than these areas, and we’re giving them a run for their money.’


Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, with five outlets in Singapore, opened its newest one at Upper Thomson just three weeks ago.


Mr Ethan Lee, in his 20s, who helps to run the family business, says: ‘The draw here is the cosiness. We’ve just opened and already we’re packed on weekends.’


And restaurateurs are not the only ones who are happy.


Business from the eateries is spilling over into the non-food businesses, such as Al-Salam Malay Barber.


Owner Haji Salam, 68, says: ‘There are a lot of people here, especially on weekends, so when the restaurants next to me have business, I also have business. I welcome the restaurants. ‘


One major bane though, is parking or the lack of it. Restaurateurs say that if Upper Thomson is to become a food haven, more parking spaces must be created.


Earth Cafe’s Mr Wong says that he, along with many of his customers, sometimes gets fined for parking illegally.


‘The nearest place is Thomson Plaza, which is a 10-minute walk away. I’m planning to write a letter to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to work out a plan to serve the businesses in this area,’ he says.


Sari Indo’s Mr Lu suggests the construction of a multi-storey carpark nearby.


‘We can’t reach the larger market because customers from other areas might not find it convenient to park so far away,’ he says.


A spokesman for the URA says it cannot justify building new carparks when the two facilities nearby are not fully utilised.


These would be the basement carpark at Thomson Plaza and an open air carpark next to Long House, a food centre.


The spokesman said: ‘It’s not that there isn’t enough parking, it’s just a matter of convenience for people.’


Ms Devagi Sanmugam, 54, chef-owner of Devagi’s Restaurant, says that fine-dining restaurants will not be able to survive if parking spaces are not available nearby.


‘Most of their customers will be driving, and won’t want to walk a long way from the carpark to get to the restaurant,’ she says.


For now, non-residents of Thomson will have to be content with walking, but it’s well worth it, according to computer engineer David Lai, who lives in Marsiling.


He goes there at least once a fortnight to try out the new restaurants, and parks at Thomson Plaza.


‘It is a bit of a long walk and the parking’s not great, but Singaporeans will go to any length for good food, me included,’ he says.


Upper Thomson residents seem resigned to the fact that their neighbourhood is drawing more people.


Copywriter Nicholina Chua, 25, who lives in Thomson Ridge, says: ‘The jams can get quite annoying, but the noise isn’t really an issue. I’m used to it.


‘While I hope it won’t get overrun with crowds, I’m just appreciative of the fact that I don’t have to go far for a good meal or to chill out.’


Source: Straits Times