Ensure Farrer Park's sports heritage is retained in a sensitive way

The plot of land at Farrer Park where the now defunct Farrer Park boxing gym was located.
The plot of land at Farrer Park where the now defunct Farrer Park boxing gym was located. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

I cannot help but take National Development Minister Lawrence Wong's remark on the importance of heritage conservation with a pinch of salt.

After all, if I recall correctly, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) initial plan for Farrer Park and Dakota Crescent was to demolish all existing structures, several with heritage value, and erect another sterile development of housing and ancillary services in their place (Farrer Park to make way for redevelopment, March 31, 2018; and Former residents cheer decision to retain parts of Dakota estate, Dec 12, 2017).

Only intervention from true heritage lovers as well as those who understand what it takes to make a city come alive stopped the URA and other related agencies in their tracks.

While the URA's decision to retain a Farrer Park pool which served as training ground for many of our swimming champions is welcome, its plan to erect new sporting facilities in a nod to the area's history would probably end up looking contrived and academic (URA plan to retain Farrer Park's sports heritage cheered, April 1).

The once idyllic Farrer Park, with its walk-up public apartment blocks along Race Course Road overlooking the expansive pitches and stadium for various sports, is long gone. It can never be recreated even if the authorities wanted to, given the structural and demographic changes that have taken place in the area and our society since then.

It is at the Kallang Basin and Marina East precincts that our authorities should curate and construct a global sports-related lifestyle and tourism metropolis with the Sports Hub at its heart, as opposed to another characterless neighbourhood of mixed and residential developments at Kallang, according to URA's existing plans.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Ensure Farrer Park's sports heritage is retained in a sensitive way'. Print Edition | Subscribe