Residential or commercial property may replace iconic Queenstown cinema

Hoardings went up around the dilapidated former Queenstown cinema and bowling centre last week, signalling to heritage buffs the disappearance of yet another iconic Singapore building.

Built in 1977 and closed in 1999, the building at 250 Commonwealth Avenue is purported to be structurally unstable.

It is privately owned by Crescendas Group which has interests in real estate, manufacturing, technology, logistics and hospitality.

The group declined to comment on the fate of the light blue and white building but The Straits Times understands that it may make way for either a residential or commercial property. It was zoned for commercial use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2008 Master Plan.

Across from it stands Singapore's first branch library, while the surrounding vacant land used to be occupied by Block 39A, shophouses, an emporium and a hawker centre - all since demolished.

A HDB spokesman said details of an upcoming public housing project in front of the library "will be announced when plans are confirmed".

The area today is unrecognisable from the thriving, bustling neighbourhood it used to be in the 1970s and 1980s, said architectural historian Lai Chee Kien of the National University of Singapore.

He said more should be done to preserve the memories of older estates. "Towns can start museum spaces to allow the younger generations to understand the collective history of maturing towns by sharing and displaying artefacts and photographs of, for example, the former cinema and bowling centre."

In its heyday, queues would form at the cinema as movie- goers lined up for tickets. The building also housed a bowling centre, fast-food restaurants and private karaoke lounges.

The 18-lane bowling centre and the 1,715-seat cinema were favourites among residents in Queenstown and students from secondary schools nearby.

Some residents told The Straits Times they will miss the building.

"We would take evening strolls, pop in to watch a movie or bowl. It was convenient and served us residents well," said retiree Catherine Lim, 75, who used to live in Block 39A.

But Mr Kenneth Ng, 36, the director of an education company, believes progress is the way to go. "It's an eyesore. Once they tear it down it will free up the area and can possibly make way for developments that can serve the community today," he said.

Founder of civic group My Community, Mr Kwek Li Yong, 24, hopes more buildings and spaces in Queenstown can be conserved, such as its public library.

"Queenstown, Singapore's first satellite estate, has been rather under the radar," he said. "It contains a lot of memories and we hope that more can be done to recognise that it has an important place in Singapore's history."

Ms Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, 39, co-author of Singapore: A Biography, said: "The community is looking for spaces they can relate to and for a landscape that isn't merely dotted with skyscrapers."

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