3 reasons why we can be optimistic about Dakota Crescent's conservation

The cause to conserve Dakota Crescent is not lost, yet.

Henedick Chng | January 18, 2017, 02:53 PM

With most of its residents gone, the old estate at Dakota Crescent now faces an uncertain future.

According to a Straits Times article on January 10, the once bustling estate is now a “ghost town”.

The estate, which is one of the oldest public housing estates in Singapore still standing, is set for redevelopment, but no firm plans have been made by the authorities to preserve its unique buildings yet.

It is a sad but all too familiar story in land-scarce Singapore, as progress and development often takes precedence over conservation.

But it seems that there are reasons to be optimistic that, at the very least, some of the buildings at Dakota Crescent will be conserved.

[caption width="3264" align="alignnone"]Source Source[/caption]

1. Strong call for conservation from the ground

Since the announcement of Dakota Crescent's redevelopment, strong calls have been made by Singaporeans to conserve the old estate.

Interestingly, and importantly, the collective voices appealing for the estate’s conservation are not confined to the residents of the estate alone. Younger Singaporeans from various walks of life have taken up the cause for conservation.

Some have formed lobby groups such as Save Dakota Crescent and Dakota Adventures to create awareness and generate support for their cause.

Save Dakota Crescent, a group started by some architects, has even submitted some conservation proposals to the authorities for consideration. The proposals include turning the estate into one that could be used by arts groups or social enterprises.

This constructive, ground-up advocacy action for a seemingly politically benign issue of conserving Dakota Crescent, is a good opportunity for the government to demonstrate its responsiveness and willingness to accommodate civil society causes in an increasingly vocal populace.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Source: Save Dakota Crescent Facebook Source: Save Dakota Crescent Facebook[/caption]

2. No confirmed plans by the government to demolish the entire estate yet

Unlike Rochor Centre, whose demolition is tied to the construction of a new expressway, Dakota Crescent is, according to Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, set to be “redeveloped” and “rejuvenated”.

This means that there is less urgency and more room to explore the conservation of at least some of the historic estate’s buildings.

In fact, HDB has said that two blocks (13 and 21) will be used in the interim as rental flats, as there are no immediate redevelopment plans for them.

The slower pace and approach to redevelop Dakota Crescent is a helpful indication that there is still time and scope to consider proposals to conserve the estate.

3. Promising signals from the government.

Lim Biow Chuan, the Member of Parliament for Mountbatten, which includes Dakota Crescent, proposed a motion in Parliament last October, making a strong call for Dakota Crescent to be conserved.

He cited the need for places that would give Singaporeans an emotional attachment to the country, and the ground-up efforts to conserve the estate.

In response, SMS Lee acknowledged the “special memories” that Dakota Crescent held for people who grew up in there.

He also highlighted that the authorities were open to looking at different ways that could redevelope and rejuvenate Dakota Crescent, “retaining its distinctive identity and character”.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Source: Save Dakota Crescent Facebook Source: Save Dakota Crescent Facebook[/caption]

In December 2016, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu also paid a visit to Dakota Crescent. She was impressed by the efforts of the conservation lobby.

This can be taken as a further sign that the government's plans have not been finalised and it is willing to explore with others how the estate can be conserved.

All in all, it seems that there are good reasons to be optimistic that some of the historic buildings at Dakota Crescent will not be demolished in the name of development and progress.

Top image from Flickr.

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