SINGAPORE - Wider walkways and accessibility ramps - these are some new elderly-friendly features that the newly renovated Bukit Merah View Food Centre and Market has.
And for long-term patrons like Mr Francis Tan, 80, these features mean a much easier trip to get his cup of coffee and breakfast every morning. The retired businessman uses a mobility scooter as he is unable to walk well, after a heart bypass surgery.
“The whole place is newer and fresher and it is wide enough so I can go through easily,” he said.
The Bukit Merah View Food Centre and Market celebrated its reopening on Saturday (Dec 30) after two months of closure.
It started operations again in November, after closing in September.
The hawker centre was refurbished under the Town Council’s Repairs and Redecoration programme. The programme is usually carried out every five years.
The newly opened centre, which has been standing for over 40 years, has upgraded facilities, such as free Wi-Fi.
It has about 84 cooked food stalls and over 70 market and lock-up stalls.
The renovated centre also has more senior-friendly features so elderly residents like Mr Tan can find it easier to move around when they do their marketing or buy food. Some of these features include more barrier-free access and wider ramps. Slip-resistant flooring was also installed to provide better grip and support.
“The design and improvement works to the food centre and market were the result of close collaboration between Henderson-Dawson Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC), Bukit Merah View Merchants’ Committee, the hawkers and Tanjong Pagar Town Council,” said the Henderson-Dawson Constituency Office in a statement to the media. “Core considerations on improvement works and aesthetics were based on feedback and suggestions from the residents and hawkers.”
Some of the changes include having a new exterior information panel on the facade of the market to tell people what it sells. This was suggested by stallholders who gave feedback that patrons did not know which stalls were inside the market, affecting their business.
The place was also repainted with awnings extended to prevent rainwater. Residents and some stallholders had said that rain sometimes splashed into the market. More fans were added because some said heat from the sun shining in made the place too hot.
Grassroots advisers Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Ms Joan Pereira, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, were present to commemorate the centre’s reopening.
Mr Chan said: “To do up a hawker centre that is nice, functional and safe...it takes the feedback and actions of the people.”
He added: “The Government and the Town Council, using the resources that we have, will try to continuously upgrade the facilities to give our residents a better life. But we can only do half the job. The other half comes from people...who contribute ideas and actions. We can build the buildings and the houses, but more importantly, we need you to help us to build the homes."
While the renovations slightly affected stallholders’ businesses, Ms Pereira said that people will return once they realise the place has been reopened.
“We have informed residents that it has opened again during home visits. The period of closure also coincided with the year-end lull when people prepare to go on holiday, so when the New Year comes around, I think residents will be back to the centre.”
She said that the free Wi-Fi has also “excited” young residents, which will encourage young people to come to the centre as well.
For housewife Madam Yeo Ah Sai, 88, resident of Bukit Merah View and regular patron of the market for the last decade, the changes are a marked improvement from the past.
She said: “It used to be narrow and the floor at the wet market area could be very slippery. Now, it feels safer to walk and much more comfortable.”
Mr Tan Tek, 70, Chairman of the Bukit Merah View Merchants Committee, explained that the area has more elderly people because it is an old estate, which makes the senior-friendly facilities especially important.
He added: “With the free Wi-Fi and improved facilities, we hope to create a more enjoyable dining experience for the diners and our residents, and make the area a familiar marketplace for all.”