Forum: Maximise potential of old fire station site

Bukit Timah fire station (pictured) was Singapore's fourth after the Central Fire Station and suburban stations in Geylang and Alexandra.
Bukit Timah fire station (pictured) was Singapore's fourth after the Central Fire Station and suburban stations in Geylang and Alexandra.ST PHOTO KHALID BABA

I read with great excitement the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) call for proposals to give the recently conserved 1956 Bukit Timah Fire Station a new lease of life (Old fire station site ready for spruce-up, Jan 20).

Meanwhile, the site has been submitted by the authorities for an international competition, called Reinventing Cities, which encourages the sustainable repurposing of under-utilised spots in a city.

The National Parks Board has done a good job partnering the URA in creating parks and connectors throughout the island, integrating city development with green spaces in an "eco-based" approach. Parks such as Bishan Park, East Coast Park and Sembawang Park are all well loved by Singaporeans.

The Bukit Timah Fire Station is at the nexus of many nature and heritage attractions, and will be served by Hume MRT station on the Downtown Line from 2025. We should maximise the potential of the site - as a recreational node and a base to explore surrounding attractions like the Rail Corridor, Coast-to-Coast Trail, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Dairy Farm Nature Park, Former Ford Factory and Bukit Batok Memorial.

The suggestion to create a Dempsey Hill-like environment with boutiques and food establishments that draw on the relationship with nature would make the site a wonderful destination for Singaporeans and tourists to spend quality time with family and friends.

Nevertheless, the site may pose some challenges to re-adapt, particularly the relatively small units within the seven blocks.

While the former fire station, together with the six-storey tower, should be restored to its original glory as a visual marker, the seven three-storey blocks may be replaced by more functional buildings, such as a single-storey space that can accommodate food and beverage operations with greater ease.

There are also adjacent spaces between the site and the proposed Hume MRT station. The URA should consider awarding these extra spaces to the developers to enlarge the 0.83ha site, which would make the planning and redevelopment of the site a more feasible undertaking.

We are blessed to have such a beautiful site next to Bukit Timah Hill in our land-scarce country, it will be immensely satisfying when we transform this place into a well-loved community node.

Chen Seh Choong

There are also adjacent spaces between the site and the proposed Hume MRT station. The URA should consider awarding these extra spaces to the developers to enlarge the 0.83ha site, which would make the planning and redevelopment of the site a more feasible undertaking.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2020, with the headline 'Maximise potential of old fire station site'. Print Edition | Subscribe