Old bottling factory to be partially conserved

The two-storey L-shaped building of the former National Aerated Water Co in Serangoon Road will be retained, while the shed at the back will make way for residential development. The new owner "is supportive of the conservation efforts and is working
The two-storey L-shaped building of the former National Aerated Water Co in Serangoon Road will be retained, while the shed at the back will make way for residential development. The new owner "is supportive of the conservation efforts and is working closely with URA to keep the building as part of our national history", said the authority.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Heritage lovers welcome move; retained portion to be integrated into new residential development

A defunct bottling factory that formerly produced soft drinks like Kickapoo Joy Juice and Sinalco will now be conserved partially, a development welcomed by heritage lovers who had earlier feared that the factory would be torn down.

Yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced that the main building of the former National Aerated Water Co in Serangoon Road will be conserved.

The factory's two-storey L-shaped building will be retained, while the shed at the back of the site will make way for residential development.

The authority said the conserved building will be integrated into a new residential development and kept fenceless along the main road and river, to give the public a chance to "get up close and personal".

Key features of the main building will be kept, including its signage tower, balcony with brick parapets, art deco timber transom panels and concrete sun-shading ledge that spirals out of a circular window.

The news comes after the factory site was sold last December to a developer. The heritage community was concerned that the building might be razed.

The URA said then that it recognises the factory's architectural and heritage value, but had to engage its new owner to explore the possibility of conservation.

  • Soft drinks plant that fizzled out

  • In 1954, home-grown National Aerated Water Co marked its 25th year in business by moving into a new factory off Serangoon Road that cost $500,000.

    It produced 48,000 bottles of aerated water a day back then.

    The company was set up in 1929 in Jalan Besar and was once owned by brothers Ching Kwong Yew, Ching Kwong Kuen and Ching Kwong Lum.

    The factory was part of the booming industrial scene in Singapore and produced popular soft drinks such as Kickapoo Joy Juice and Royal Crown Cola, both from the United States, as well as Sinalco from Germany.

    But the business started to run into challenges as a result of higher production costs, due in part to rising fuel prices.

    It did not help that the health authorities had also reportedly started discouraging the public from taking carbonated drinks in the 1980s.

    The company ceased operations in the 1990s. The factory, now disused and dilapidated, is one of the last remaining reminders of Singapore's industrial past.

Yesterday, the authority said 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".

The freehold site with a land area of 31,705 sq ft is near Potong Pasir MRT station and could potentially yield 117 apartments averaging 70 sq m each, it was reported last year.

Yesterday, Selangor Dredging managing director Teh Lip Kim said the building will be transformed into a unique and lively commercial area next 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.

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

The URA said yesterday that a corner of the main building and its internal floors have to be rebuilt for its adaptive reuse 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.

The URA's latest announcement, which follows news earlier this week that part of the historic Dakota Crescent housing estate will be retained and repurposed, was welcomed yesterday by heritage enthusiasts.

Singapore University of Technology and Design's Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua said: "It is great that such a visually iconic landmark will be retained for people to appreciate as they travel from the city towards Upper Serangoon."

Heritage blogger Jerome Lim, a naval architect, also welcomed the news, noting that the factory 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 added.

He said the factory, which is along a main thoroughfare, 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.

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

URA chief executive Lim Eng Hwee said the building holds fond memories for Singaporeans for the popular soft drinks it produced from the 1950s to 1990s.

He said: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Old bottling factory to be partially conserved'. Print Edition | Subscribe