'The old will have to go': Rochor Centre demolition work begins

'The old will have to go': Rochor Centre demolition work begins

Demolition work for the four rainbow-coloured Housing and Development Board blocks which make up Rochor Centre began on Tuesday (Jun 26). Junn Loh joins former residents on a trip down memory lane. 

SINGAPORE: Mr Alex Kwok grew up in one of the four rainbow-coloured Housing and Development Board blocks which make up Rochor Centre, but as demolition work began on Tuesday (Jun 26), he was stoic about the iconic flats being torn down.

"There's nothing we can do," said Mr Kwok, who owns an optical shop on the first floor of Sim Lim Tower. "Things have to change. We cannot keep thinking about the past, but now it's time to think about the future. The old will have to go."

According to Mr Kwok, business has not been affected by the demolition and he expects loyal customers to keep returning.

Rochor Centre 1st day of demolition 5
Demolition work begins at Rochor Centre on Tuesday (Jun 26). (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

When Channel NewsAsia visited the estate on Tuesday morning, parts of the yellow and blue-coloured blocks were covered by hoardings.

Despite the incessant rain, work was already underway, with an excavator spotted tearing down part of the building and some noise emanating from within. Construction workers were also seen entering and leaving the site. 

According to a release by the Land Transport Authority dated Jun 20, the demolition of the four residential blocks will start from the top floors, with the structure progressively brought down floor by floor using machinery. 

Rochor Centre Facade
The facade of Rochor Centre on Tuesday (Jun 26) as demolition work began. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

The blocks will make way for the construction of the North-South Corridor (NSC) and demolition is slated to be finished by April next year.

"It's not something new (to happen) and we've been expecting it," said a 70-year-old retiree, who only wanted to be known as Bernard. "When you expect it to happen, there's no feeling, but when you don't expect it, you say: 'Wow, what a waste.'"

Rochor Centre 1st day of demolition 3
Demolition work began at Rochor Centre on Tuesday (Jun 26). (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

Bernard, who has frequented the area for more than 50 years, said that his friends who used to stay at the estate still meet up at the nearby Albert Food Centre.

"We still have breakfast together," he added. "I was just asking them about their new place this morning."

Residents in Rochor Centre were told to move out by the end of 2016 and were offered relocation benefits similar to those offered under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Construction works at Rochor Centre
A construction worker stands behind a barrier at an overhead bridge linking Fu Lu Shou Complex and Rochor Centre. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

They had the opportunity to move to a new, 99-year lease home and were given a package comprising compensation and rehousing benefits. As part of the acquisition package, they were also assured of a replacement flat at Kallang Trivista.

"I will miss the place," said a retiree at Albert Food Centre, who only wanted to be known as Mr Tan. "But life has to go on and it can't be helped."

Source: CNA/mt(hm)

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