Forum: Keep Caldecott site zoned for civic, community use

The Caldecott Broadcast Centre at Andrew Road.
The Caldecott Broadcast Centre at Andrew Road.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

It is disappointing that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has granted an outline approval to redevelop the 752,015 sq ft Caldecott Broadcast Centre site into two-storey bungalows (Mediacorp's former Caldecott Hill home put up for sale, Oct 15).

Allowing for the development of an exclusive and gated community serves to accentuate the rich-poor divide.

It was mentioned that URA may also be prepared to consider a proposal for the site to be redeveloped into a retirement village.

The concept of a retirement village has not taken off, and locating it on a hilltop will pose accessibility issues for the elderly. A recently proposed dementia village in Sembawang also failed to take off, receiving only one bid, which was rejected as the offer price was deemed too low.

Perhaps inspiration can be drawn from other similar hilltop sites. Take, for example, Fort Canning with its hilltop capped with a colonial-era service reservoir. Pearl's Hill City Park also features another service reservoir.

The hilltop site in Caldecott can maintain the current zoning for civic and community institution use, coupled with the incorporation of a sizeable park and a service reservoir to increase Singapore's water catchment as we strive further to be more self-sufficient in our water sourcing and needs.

Another idea would be to consider the site for a second infectious diseases centre, surrounded by lush and sizeable parkland, to expand upon the current success of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

The past has shown us that hilltop sites are preferred for hospital developments for ease of disease containment and treatment. Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital are both set on top of hills.

An alternative is to expand the Mount Alvernia Hospital campus located just across the road as the current site has reached its development potential and space constraints.

The authorities could launch a design competition for ideas and to seek local architecture firms' input and creativity to harness the maximum potential of the site.

This would be better than the land owner's appointment of its preferred architect to plan out the space for the development of good class bungalows, which excludes any public engagement and does nothing to bridge the rich-poor divide.

Shakthi Vikram

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Keep Caldecott site zoned for civic, community use'. Print Edition | Subscribe