SINGAPORE: The Sungei Road Thieves' Market, slated to close for good on Monday (Jul 10), has been given a new lease of life, pending approval by authorities.
The flea market - which has been in existence for close to eight decades - will move to the sixth floor of Golden Mile Tower's car park and will open at noon on Jul 15. As a nod to its history, it will be renamed Sungei Market.
The last-gasp announcement came after the market's vendors' association pushed hard for alternatives to the Government's solution of moving vendors to lock-up stalls elsewhere.
"I'm very happy and satisfied that the stallholders now have somewhere to go," chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods, Mr Koh Eng Khoon, told Channel NewsAsia.
Mr Koh, who took a month to source for the new location, added that 90 out of 200 stallholders have expressed interest in moving there.
While the rental cost of the new space is still "under negotiation", association members are expected to pay S$5 a day for a stall, according to a flyer being distributed at the market.
Once allocated a stall, vendors must pay a S$100 security deposit and commit to the new market for one year. This deposit will be forfeited if they break rules against littering or selling illegal merchandise.
Mr Koh, who struck the deal with Golden Mile Tower a week ago, said the lease for the new space is expected to run for three months, "subject to renewal".
GREENLIGHT NOT GIVEN
But before the new market can begin operations, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the management at Golden Mile Tower must seek Change of Use approval.
"For the roof of the car park at Golden Mile Tower to be put to use as an outdoor market, planning approval from URA is required before the commencement of use,” said Ms Melissa Lee, senior manager of strategic communications and media relations at URA.
“To date, URA has not received any application.”
Mr Koh said he hopes URA is “open to assisting in this process and making it possible for Sungei Road Market to be resituated in Golden Mile Tower”.
“Because the Golden Mile car park is private premises, we are going to test (the new market) out for three months in agreement with the management of Golden Mile Tower,” he said.
“The association has looked into the fire safety precautions, and we hope there could be an opportunity to liaise with the relevant authorities to look at how certain permissions can be fulfilled.”
If the new market opens as planned, second-hand fan seller Peter Chou promises to be there. The 72-year-old has been hawking at the old site for 20 years.
“I will go to the new location at Golden Mile temporarily and see what the outcome is,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be good, because it’s on the sixth floor and I don’t think people will go up there.”
Lamenting the closure of the old market, Mr Chou said he will miss the close-knit relationship that vendors and patrons share.
“We’ve been here for so long and (the authorities) want to chuck some of us at different places that are spread out,” he added. “Those solutions don’t work – there’s no business there.”
Retiree Tony Ho, who visited the market twice a week to buy used shoes and trousers, urged the authorities to find an alternative location for the vendors. “You have to encourage this to carry on,” the 68-year-old said. “You cannot break them up. A lot of them depend on this for a living.”
The Government has said it has reached out to 200 vendors at the Sungei Road Market and extended assistance to more than 60 of them, such as allocation of stalls at hawker centres.
Meanwhile, the crowds were still going strong when Channel NewsAsia visited the market past 9pm. Vendors were treated to packets of bee hoon and a rousing lion dance performance as part of the closing ceremony.
As vendors packed up for the last time, Mr Koh sang along to the song Last Night by Tsai Chin, surrounded by lights and flashing cameras.
"I hope that the new location will be successful," he added. "At least we tried. There would be no hope if we didn't."