ST heritage correspondent Melody Zaccheus on covering the story of Dakota Crescent

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SINGAPORE - The iconic dove playground, "butterfly" blocks and the large courtyard.

The Straits Times heritage and community correspondent Melody Zaccheus had made repeated visits to Dakota Crescent, after the Government said in 2014 that the estate would make way for developments under renewal plans. She interviewed longtime residents and documented the last days of Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates.

She also broke the story on a group, led by architect Jonathan Poh, who pieced together a detailed conservation plan which was later submitted to Parliament.

Said Ms Zaccheus: "As the heritage reporter, I was trying to find out what the ground sentiment was really like.

"I get to speak to residents and relay their stories to Singaporeans who might not otherwise venture into these different spaces."

The area off Old Airport Road, which has 17 low-rise blocks with 648 units, was developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 as a public rental housing estate. It was handed over to the Housing Board in 1960 - the year the statutory board was formed.

It was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, a model of plane that used to land at Kallang Airport.

In December 2017, the Government announced that new public flats would be built there. However, it decided to retain the estate's courtyard and iconic dove playground, along with the six blocks around them.

The move was welcomed by those advocating the conservation of the estate.

"It was a victory for the heritage community and also for Singaporeans at large," said Ms Zaccheus. "I am glad that ST played a part to help retain this iconic neighbourhood."

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