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Coming to Queenstown: A museum, heritage corners and galleries

With several initiatives that celebrate the neighbourhood's heritage even as the estate is being redeveloped, Queenstown may turn out to be a case study for balancing conservation and development in Singapore.  

SINGAPORE: Queenstown, one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, will have its history and heritage preserved even as it undergoes a major makeover. Initiatives highlighting its heritage are in the works, under the My Queenstown Heritage Blueprint 2020 developed by civic group My Community and the Queenstown Citizens' Consultative Committee. 

Named after Queen Elizabeth II, Queenstown was established in 1953 and was dubbed Singapore's first "satellite" estate. Its amenities included Queenstown Public Library - the first branch library in Singapore, opened in 1970 to promote reading at a time when most could not afford books.

To help more learn about its history, a heritage marker has been installed just outside the library - one of 18 markers throughout the estate. The one outside the library features information gathered from interviews with residents, as well as old photographs that they contributed.

Queenstown was also home to one of Singapore's most iconic bands - The Quests. It was formed in 1961 by frontman "Jap" Chong and guitarist Raymond Leong, who both studied at Queenstown Secondary Technical School.

To re-live memories of the band, residents will be able to view music scores and other mementoes at a museum. Scheduled to be completed by 2020, the museum will serve as a repository of residents' shared memories. 

Following the success of the inaugural Queenstown Festival in 2013, the festival will now take place biannually, and feature exhibitions, concerts and performances inspired by Queenstown or performed by residents. Academics, policymakers and residents will also have a platform to discuss heritage and development issues in the "My Queenstown Symposium" series.

"Although Queenstown is small in size, our stories are big in heart and soul, and certainly speak volumes of life in the 1960s and 1970s," said Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar Chia Shi-Lu. "There are many interesting built and also natural heritage here. But I think we are not only just going to focus on these things. We're also looking at things like artistic and community heritage."

There will also be guided tours to landmarks in the neighbourhood, and a new guided tour of the Princess and Mei Ling neighbourhoods will be launched in March 2015. These initiatives comes as the estate is being redeveloped.

Earlier in June, the authorities announced that 31 blocks at Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive would be redeveloped under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. Residents from affected blocks will be re-located to new flats at Margaret Drive, Dawson Road and Strathmore Avenue, which will be ready by 2020.

Said Social and Family Development Minister and Tanjong Pagar MP Chan Chun Sing: "If we can do this well in Queenstown, it will be a testimony on how we can do things on a larger scale in Singapore - balancing conservation and development at the same time. I never believe that it is either or. With new technology, with the power of the community, we can do both."

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