SINGAPORE'S largest estate Bedok is in the middle of a makeover, and residents are cheering the move, saying they hope their estate can finally shed its jaded image.
The centrepiece of the transformation is Bedok Mall, which opened last week.
And the estate will be enlivened further by upcoming amenities including an airconditioned bus interchange, a town plaza for community events with a heritage corner within, and a new hawker centre with an adjoining multi-storey carpark.
Long-time residents The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the changes, with nary a hint of nostalgia for the cosy charms of Bedok's past.
Bedok is Singapore's largest estate with around 300,000 residents. ''It's more convenient and lively now,'' said housewife Loh Voon Keow, 72.
''We have a wet market, clinics, banks and four supermarkets, including the new FairPrice Finest at Bedok Mall.''
Thanks to the new facilities, her Bedok three-room flat is now worth more than $400,000, double the price she bought it for, 14 years ago, she added.
Civil service officer Ong Gim Chwee, 33, who has lived in Bedok for 32 years, said: ''Bedok Mall helps to change the image of Bedok. People tend to think that it's an old area.''
At the popular Block 207, New Upper Changi Road hawker centre, tenants said they have also benefited from the new mall.
''I've had better business because workers from the mall will eat here. The food inside (the mall) is expensive,'' said Madam Yoong Lam Heng, 54, who runs Tian Seng drinks stall.
The hawker centre itself will also be undergoing a revamp. Next year, most tenants will move to a new and bigger hawker centre, which will be built next to the current one.
The latter will be demolished to make way for the town plaza. Tenants of popular stalls such as Teo's Noodle and Inspirasi Stall will be making the move.
''Of course I'll miss this place. I'm not sure if business will be as good at the new hawker centre,'' said Madam Lee Siew Feng, 43, who has been running a nasi lemak stall at the centre for 19 years.
But at Bedok Point, a shopping centre just a five-minute walk away from the much larger Bedok Mall, tenants are feeling the heat of competition.
The four-storey mall, managed by Frasers Centrepoint Malls, opened in 2010 and is about a third of the size of Bedok Mall.
Business at Manhattan Fish Market has dropped by at least 20 per cent since Bedok Mall opened, said outlet manager Dalson Chui, 26.
''Big players such as Yoshinoya and Subway have moved out. There are hoardings around the mall because some tenants are renovating,'' he said. ''Some customers think the mall is closed because of the hoardings.''
At another tenant, Gong Cha, daily takings have fallen from $1,300 to about $800, said Ms My Linh, a 26-year-old worker at the bubble-tea shop.
But Ms Valerie Tang, owner of plus-sized female clothing store BignBeautiful, is optimistic that the crowds will return.
''The crowds will definitely go to places that are new,'' the 38-year-old said.
''The management (of Bedok Point) has assured us that the new stores here will be unique and attractive.''
And Bedok Point has plans to fight back.
A spokesman for Bedok Point said new eateries, such as halal Japanese restaurant Hei Sushi and Korean barbecue restaurant SsikSin, are setting up shop.
Next year, hair removal salon Musee Platinum and Tokutokuya, a shop selling Japanese-inspired products for $2 each, will also open at the mall.
While Bedok residents cheered the new amenities, some, like Mr Wu Kai Cheng, 30, lamented that there are no plans for a new cinema.
After the curtains inside Princess Cinema fell for the last time in 2008, movie buffs in the estate, which used to boast three cinemas, had to go further afield to catch a flick.
Mr Wu, a sales account manager, said he has to pay more for cab fare if he were to catch a midnight movie either in nearby Tampines or in the city area.
''That means I have to pay about $30 to $40 to watch a midnight show.''
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 13, 2013