“I will never forget how excited and nervous we felt, the first time we took the lift to our flat on the 10th floor,” Alice Lee recounts. “That 3-room flat in Tanglin Halt was our first matrimonial home, and we had never lived in such a tall building before!”
Today, high-rise living has become part and parcel of everyday life for Alice – especially having recently moved to a new home in nearby Dawson, where blocks are almost 50-storeys tall. Alice and her neighbours had relocated to replacement projects after 31 housing blocks in Tanglin Halt were identified for HDB’s Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) in 2014. SERS aims to renew older housing estates by introducing new buildings and facilities that inject vibrancy into the area.
Old haunts and lifelong friendships
Many fond memories were made in the 50 years when Alice and her family lived in Tanglin Halt. Despite the initial nerves when they first moved in, it didn’t take long for Alice and her husband to settle into the community.
“During my first few years of living in the neighbourhood, we would often bring our son to the playground near our block as he was quite young then. I started getting to know the other residents who were also parents, and we would chat about our children and exchange parenting tips,” Alice recalls.
Today, she considers some of her neighbours, like Shirley Soh and Benson Chong, family. “Alice lets me know when neighbours need help with home maintenance. I am an ex-plumber, and since we’ve all known each other for a long time, I help however and whenever I can,” Benson says.
“I was having a meal at Tanglin Halt Market when Alice greeted me. We started chatting and became friends ever since,” Shirley laughs.
New Spaces, Old Faces
Moving to a new housing development hasn’t stopped the neighbours-turned-friends from getting together. While old haunts like the Tanglin Halt Market will soon be cleared to facilitate redevelopment of the area, Alice and her friends can continue to meet up near home at the Margaret Drive Hawker Centre as well as the Margaret Market, which was converted from the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market and still retains its distinctive vaulted high ceiling.
Besides meeting for meals, the friends would also gather and exercise at the rooftop gardens of their new homes in Dawson as they enjoy the tranquil green spaces around their new living environment. “The greenery provides plenty of fresh air in the area,” Alice says.
A New Lease of Life for Tanglin Halt
As Alice and her friends settle into their new homes, a new chapter begins for Tanglin Halt. Its first public housing project, Tanglin Halt Cascadia, was launched for sale in October 2023. When redevelopment is completed, there will be up to 5,500 new flats in the estate.
In addition, fresh amenities in the estate will benefit new residents as well as longtime Queenstown residents like Alice.
For example, the future Tanglin Halt Integrated Development will have shops, a polyclinic, a hawker centre and market within an integrated development, providing one-stop convenience to the community. The development will also incorporate elements of well-remembered spaces, such as the barrel vault shape of the beloved Tanglin Halt Market, and the open atmosphere of the courtyard spaces at the former Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre.
The integrated development is not the only space that will pay homage to Tanglin Halt’s heritage. As a nod to the old “chap lau chu” (or 10-storey house in Hokkien), new housing blocks near the Rail Corridor will also be ten storeys in height. Some of the residential blocks that hold historical significance, such as former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) blocks 69 and 70, may also be repurposed as a community space. This will provide an opportunity for former residents of Tanglin Halt such as Alice, Benson, and Shirley to revisit cherished spaces where many fond memories were made.
While the rejuvenated Tanglin Halt will be home to a new generation of residents, the estate’s former residents are also making new memories in their Dawson homes.
“While I have forged many memories at Tanglin Halt, I know we will make many more at Margaret Drive,” Alice smiles. “Home is where my people are,” Alice smiles, “Wherever we go, the community spirit will follow.”
Learn more about Tanglin Halt’s rich heritage from former residents like Alice in this video:
By Adeline Ang and Wong Li Ying