TUSSLE OVER WIDOW'S FORTUNE

Tussle over widow's fortune: What was once a tranquil garden now worth $50 million

A lap pool and 25 terraced homes now stand in what was once Madam Chung's garden. She and her husband sold part of their garden in 2004 as they found it hard to maintain the large piece of land.
A lap pool and 25 terraced homes now stand in what was once Madam Chung's garden. She and her husband sold part of their garden in 2004 as they found it hard to maintain the large piece of land.ST PHOTO: TOH YONG CHUAN

Cluster housing project stands on part of bungalow's former garden

Ten years ago, the garden of the bungalow along Gerald Crescent had a lily pond as well as durian, rambutan, papaya and jambu trees - a sanctuary for the ageing couple who lived there.

Today, the trees are gone and in their place stand 25 terrace houses, as well as a swimming pool and gym.

Gone also is the idyllic tranquillity that the bungalow once afforded its owners, Madam Chung Khin Chun and her husband, Dr Chou Sip King.

The bungalow is at the centre of a legal battle between Madam Chung's niece and a Chinese tour guide, whom Madam Chung met while on holiday in China.

Madam Chung and Dr Chou sold their 39,000 sq ft backyard garden - about the size of half a football field - to private developer Oaktree Land for $7.6 million back in 2004.

The developer built the terrace houses which were sold for about $1.2 million each in 2004. Based on recent market data, these houses are now worth over $2 million each, making the value of the cluster housing project well over $50 million in total.

Dr Chou and Madam Chung continued to live in their 32,000 sq ft bungalow, after selling off part of their garden, which is hidden away from the main Yio Chu Kang Road. Dr Chou died in 2007.

The gated Gardens at Gerald cluster housing project houses 25 three-storey, four-bedroom homes ranging from 3,300 sq ft to 4,100 sq ft in size. The land has 864 years of lease remaining.

Little of the old garden's fruit trees remained when The Straits Times visited the site yesterday.

"It was hard to keep the trees but we retained the Balinese flavour of the original garden," said Mr Raymond Tan, who was one of the project's architects. He is now a director at Ong and Ong.

The trees that could be preserved were those that line the perimeter of the estate, said the project's landscape consultant Chang Huai Yan, director of landscaping firm Salad Dressing.

Architect Alan Tay of Formwerkz, who was also involved, said the developer could have squeezed in one or two more units, but decided not to "pack in so many units" so as to preserve the tranquil charm of the place.

While the original trees and ponds may have been removed, a resident who was having tea outdoors told The Straits Times yesterday that some of the kampung charm has lingered.

"We get together for parties once a week," said the male resident in his 40s who declined to be named.

Property agent Joseph Lim is trying to sell a unit there for $2.38 million. "The recent publicity can increase awareness of the area," he said, before turning to the reporters to ask: "Are you interested in buying?"

tohyc@sph.com.sg

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg