Old National Aerated Water Co building in Serangoon will be conserved, says URA

The former National Aerated Water Co building in Serangoon Road will be conserved. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The main building of a former bottling factory, the former National Aerated Water Co, will be partially conserved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The main building comprises a two-storey L-shaped structure facing Serangoon Road. Other features that will be retained include its signage tower, a balcony with brick parapets, Art Deco timber transom panels and a concrete sun shading ledge that spirals out of a circular window.

The conserved building will be integrated into a new residential development and kept fenceless along the main road and the river.

The authority said in a release on Friday (Dec 15) that the building's new owner, Selangor Dredging, "is supportive of the conservation efforts and is working closely with URA to keep the building as part of our national history".

Last December, the company sold its freehold site, home to the landmark, to Malaysia-listed developer Selangor Dredging for $47 million. The site has a land area of 31,705 sq ft and an allowable gross floor area of 88,775 sq ft, based on a plot ratio of 2.8. It is near Potong Pasir MRT station and can yield 117 apartments averaging 70 sq m.

Selangor Dredging's managing director Teh Lip Kim said the building will be transformed into a "unique and lively commercial area" located next to a park connector, adjacent to the Kallang River.

"We are keen to contribute to sustainable projects where we can, and will put in our best effort to make these projects distinctive," she added.

The URA said the reconstruction of a corner of the building and its internal floors will be required to facilitate the conserved building's adaptive re-use and to allow vehicular access to the rear of the site.

The authority said it will work closely with the building owner to guide this reconstruction.

News of the sale and potential razing of the historic building that once bottled iconic soft drinks Sinalco, Kickapoo Joy Juice and Royal Crown Cola had caused concern among many in the heritage community. Some heritage enthusiasts had been calling for it to be conserved from as early as 2007.

Last year, the URA said it recognises the architectural and heritage value of the building and its role as a landmark in the area but had to engage its new building owner to explore the possibility of its conservation.

Buildings earmarked for conservation need to follow URA's principles of maximum retention, sensitive restoration and careful repair, among other things.

The latest update was welcomed by heritage blogger Jerome Lim, a naval architect. He said the building has long been a landmark in the area. The factory is part of Singapore's industrial heritage and one of the last remnants of the Kallang River's industrial past, he said.

"Located along a main thoroughfare, many Singaporeans remember it with great fondness and it provides a sense of familiarity in an area that has undergone much change. The factory is also one put up by a home-grown company - a very Singaporean effort at industrialisation," he added.

Experts such as Singapore University of Technology and Design's Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua said the update was "good news".

"It is great that such a visual landmark along Serangoon Road is kept. Hopefully there will be opportunity for members of the public to visit the site after conservation and development."

In 1954, National Aerated Water Co moved into this building that cost $500,000 then, making 48,000 bottles of aerated water a day.

The building sat dilapidated after operations ceased in the 1990s. Prior to the sale, there was a legal tussle over shares in the factory. The firm was set up in 1929 in Jalan Besar and was once owned by three brothers - Mr Ching Kwong Yew, Mr Ching Kwong Kuen and Mr Ching Kwong Lum.

It later moved to Kallang after getting the licence to bottle Sinalco, a German beverage.

According to the online version of the masterplan, the site has been renamed as Jui Residences.

URA's chief executive Lim Eng Hwee said: "This building is not only historically significant as a familiar landmark along the Kallang River, it also holds fond memories for Singaporeans for the popular soft drinks it produced from the 1950s to 1990s.

"We are heartened that Selangor Dredging sees the significance of the building and supports its conservation. The conservation of this heritage-rich building would not have been possible without the support from the owner and recognition of the building's significance from the community."

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