Former residents bid farewell to Commonwealth Drive estate

People queuing for ice-cream yesterday at the farewell carnival giving former residents of Blocks 74 to 80, Commonwealth Drive, a chance to say goodbye to their former estate. The blocks will be demolished next month for redevelopment.
People queuing for ice-cream yesterday at the farewell carnival giving former residents of Blocks 74 to 80, Commonwealth Drive, a chance to say goodbye to their former estate. The blocks will be demolished next month for redevelopment.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Security officer Samsudin Hassan, 47, speaks fluent Hokkien, while his good friend Danny Ng, 45, speaks fluent Malay.

They call each other brothers and have been friends since they moved into Block 76 in Commonwealth Drive decades ago.

Yesterday, they met other childhood friends once more at a farewell carnival at their estate, before their block and six others are demolished next month for redevelopment.

After the area was earmarked for the Housing Board's Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme in 2008, residents of Blocks 74 to 80 and businesses there cleared out by early last year. As a final hurrah, civic group My Community and Queenstown Citizens' Consultative Committee organised a carnival yesterday.

Mr Samsudin, who lived in Block 76 from 1976 to 2013, said: "I was so sad when I had to move out. This place holds a lot of memories for me. The people here are like my family members. There's a very strong kampung spirit.

"I remember the first day I moved in. I could not sleep because of the sound of the train. But I find it hard to sleep without the sound now."

His block is a stone's throw away from the tracks of the former KTM railway line, which closed in 2011.

Mr Ng, who lived two floors above Mr Samsudin, added: "Nowadays, you don't find places like these, with a lot of open or forested areas."

He also misses the kampung spirit. "In the past, people kept their doors open, and everyone knew everyone. My parents were separated and Mr Samsudin's mother took very good care of me. She was a mother to me," said Mr Ng, who runs an interior design firm.

Mr Hercules Lim, 55, who lived in Block 80 between 1963 and 1967, said he has fond memories of the estate even though he lived there for only four years. "I thought that they could convert it into a hostel. There's a sense of character here, but once you build a condominium or something, it will be gone," said Mr Lim, who is self-employed.

More than 10,000 people turned up at the carnival, which featured a public screening of short film anthology 7 Letters. The public was also given access into the blocks.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, MP for the estate in Tanjong Pagar GRC, said: "Certainly, this is a spirit that defines our community and it would be good to see the same spirit in all other communities in Singapore."

My Community president Kwek Li Yong said: "A lot of residents came down to take pictures of where they used to live and play, and we are very happy that this event gave them an opportunity to say a final goodbye."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Former residents bid farewell to Commonwealth Drive estate'. Print Edition | Subscribe