Retiree Vincent Chan was just a 12-year-old boy when he moved into Dakota Crescent with his family.
Almost 60 years later, he is bidding goodbye to the neighbourhood where he grew up, played soccer with other kids, and eventually started his own family.
"I am going to miss this place so much," said Mr Chan, 70, who lives in a three-room flat in Block 20 with his wife and son.
"I used to play badminton downstairs too and taught at the Mountbatten Vocational School nearby," he recalled as he packed his books neatly into cardboard boxes.
The former teacher and insurance salesman lives in one of the 17 rental blocks in the area that should have been vacated by the end of this year under a Housing Board plan to rejuvenate the estate.
However, about 10 per cent of the 400 affected households are still waiting to collect the keys to their new homes, said the HDB. The rest have chosen another rental unit or bought a flat, with many opting for homes in nearby Cassia Crescent.
Under the relocation plan,affected tenants are eligible for various perks such as priority allocation of rental or purchased flats, and a removal allowance. Responding to queries, the HDB said it would grant some residents extensions on the Dec 31 deadline to move out, for instance, if they need more time for renovation work.
A HELPING HAND
We are working closely with the grassroots leaders and social workers to render further assistance to tenants who need more help in moving out.
AN HDB SPOKESMAN
A spokesman added that the HDB was "working closely with the grassroots leaders and social workers to render further assistance to tenants who need more help in moving out".
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan told The Straits Times that a "large number" of elderly residents without family support have struggled with the transition.
I am going to miss this place so much. I used to play badminton downstairs too and taught at the Mountbatten Vocational School nearby.
RETIREE VINCENT CHAN, who was 12 when he moved into Dakota Crescent with his family.
"Our grassroots leaders have helped them to fix their lights, buy shower curtains and new bedframes," said Mr Lim. "The residents were apprehensive about moving at the start... But many of them are now quite excited about moving into a newer place with newer facilities."
Yesterday, most of the flats were empty. Abandoned items, such as furniture, clothes and crockery, were strewn below the blocks.
Madam Mary Ho Mei Lai, 65, was still packing the last of her belongings. "I can't bear to leave," said the retiree, who has lived in Block 14 for 42 years, and shares a two-room flat with her older brother. "We've had many good memories here. It's so convenient. The Old Airport Road hawker centre and market are just around the corner.
"I am going to miss my neighbours. Some of them will not be moving to Cassia Crescent with us."
Non-residents have also been snapping pictures of the blocks - built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in the 1950s - as well as the iconic dove-design playground.
Marketing executive and photo hobbyist Shawn Low, 31, was there with two film cameras. "We're seeing fewer of such historically significant buildings in Singapore. I really hope they conserve them," he said, referring to the Government.
Residents behind the Save Dakota Crescent campaign have pushed for the blocks to be re-adapted for other uses, and the issue was discussed in Parliament in October.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee said then that the authorities' planners "are open to looking at the different ways in which the area can be redeveloped and rejuvenated, while retaining its distinctive identity and character".
The Urban Redevelopment Authority said it has met with members of the Save Dakota Crescent group and is reviewing its conservation proposal.
Additional reporting by Janice Heng