Ministerial Committee report on 38, Oxley Road

Panel sets out range of possibilities for site

The ministerial committee set up to consider the future of 38 Oxley Road says the decision on which option to take will be left to a future government.

It sketches out three broad options a future govt could look at for home of founding PM Lee Kuan Yew

Could founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's old home one day house a museum or think-tank?

Alternatively, the house could be razed and a public park built there. Or, perhaps, a five-storey residential development of 16 units could rise from where the one-storey bungalow now stands.

The Ministerial Committee tasked to consider the future of 38, Oxley Road threw up these possibilities as among the options that a future government could consider.

It was released alongside a separate report by the National Heritage Board (NHB), detailing the historic and architectural significance of the property. The NHB said the house is associated with key events in Singapore's history, and is a rare and unique type of bungalow from an architectural perspective.

In its report released yesterday, the ministerial panel sketched out three broad options for the house.

The first involves retaining the house. This could take the form of gazetting it as a national monument to accord it the highest level of protection. The state has to acquire the property and rezone the site.

It could be turned into a civic and community site or house an educational institute associated with Mr Lee's legacy, like an LKY School of Public Policy think-tank or LKY World City Prize research centre, suggested the committee.

Restrictions on access could be placed on the house, to take into account the late Mr Lee's wish to protect the family's privacy, it added.

Another way to retain the property would be to gazette it for conservation, which would protect the building itself and the basement dining room where the People's Action Party was founded, said the panel.

Doing so would allow greater flexibility for modifications and refurbishment of its interior, which would "significantly address" the late Mr Lee's concerns about privacy, it added.

On the other end, said the committee, the property could be demolished and redeveloped, either by the state for alternative uses such as a public park or heritage centre - "one way to allow public access to the site" - or by the owner for residential use.

 
 
 

The house is currently owned by Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

The committee noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority has assessed that the site can be rezoned to allow for a five-storey residential development. This means it can yield about 16 units. However, this option "would result in the loss of a historically significant property" and possibly allow it to be leveraged for profit, it said.

There are also intermediate options which would be compatible with the late Mr Lee's wishes and retain the site's heritage value for future generations, it said.

The basement dining room - the most historically significant part of the property - could be gazetted as a national monument, while the rest of the house is demolished.

This is one way to fulfil the founding prime minister's wishes, it said, while adding that there may be a loss of context in preserving a room alone without the rest of the house.

The committee said the retained basement dining room could be housed in a glass house or garden room for guided viewing as part of a park, given that Mr Lee was a strong advocate for the greening of Singapore. Another possibility would be to incorporate the dining room into a new building which could be used as a research or heritage centre.

This would allow public access to the dining room for the purposes of national education, while not revealing details about the late Mr and Mrs Lee's way of life , it said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'Panel sets out range of possibilities for site'. Print Edition | Subscribe