Under the URA Draft Master Plan 2019, future public housing will be planned around the six former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) blocks and the iconic courtyard space at Dakota Crescent.
I was driving past the Dakota Crescent area just the other day. The empty playground, with the boarded-up flats stirred something in me, and I decided to make a U-turn and take a look at this small estate before it makes way for another new development, as with the fates of several other aged developments in Singapore.
Dakota Crescent area comprises rental flats previously developed in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust, predecessor to HDB. In 2014, it was announced that Dakota Crescent was to be redeveloped. Residents were able to relocate to a nearby estate of new HDB flats as the flats in Dakota Crescent had aged over time. Like Tiong Bahru, her more famous Singapore Improvement Trust cousin, Dakota Crescent is one of few estates built by HDB’s colonial predecessor to remain. Both estates are relatively low-rise and are located short distances from the city centre but that are where similarities end.
To meet the needs of a growing population, there is always pressure on the government to tear down older developments to create newer and better townships. Notwithstanding, old buildings and architecture embody with them fond memories we carry with us from young. I do remember bussing past Dakota Crescent after my weekend NCC (Land) trainings at the NCC Haig Road Camp (which has also given way to new developments). With the passage of time, I do have difficulties recollecting the ex-buildings that I used to interact with. There used to be a MPH at Stamford Road that I visited after going to the National Library. There was also the Van Kleef Aquarium I went as a young boy.....
For Dakota Crescent, I believe what stirred in me was an empathy, and perhaps a brooding realisation that the passage of time coupled with the quest of modernity will ravage everything; buildings, people and all. And if we can, let's pause and see Dakota Crescent one more time, before it disappears and eventually fade from our memories too.