SINGAPORE – The iconic Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre in Singapore is set to face demolition in 2024 as part of the city’s urban renewal strategy.
This is to make way for an integrated development project slated for completion in the second half of 2029.
However, the decision has drawn criticism from netizens who express concerns about the fate of the landmark and the potential consequences for local vendors.
As outlined in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Master Plan 2019, there are plans for a new one-stop integrated facility in Bukit Timah.
This facility, located near Beauty World MRT station, is set to encompass a community club, renovated market, and a hawker center.
Additionally, the development aims to introduce various new amenities, including an indoor sports hall, a community library, and a facility catering to the elderly, all aimed at improving the overall quality of life in the area.
The proposed replacement is an ambitious five-storey building with about 29,000 sqm of space to house a market, a food centre, and two floors of underground parking.
Scheduled to commence in the second half of 2024, existing stallholders will be temporarily relocated to a market and food centres across the road about 200m away.
The National Environment Agency, which oversees the markets and hawker centres, has provided stallholders with advance notice to prepare for the upcoming changes. “This advance notice is crucial for our hawkers to make informed decisions about their future,” they said.
Mr Loh Chao Kiat, the chairman of the Interim Hawker Centre and Market Project Committee, shared with The Straits Times, “We had been given until mid-2022 to decide on moving to the interim space.”
Mr Loh, who has sold soya bean products in the market for eight years, expressed stallholders’ concerns: “The delay could affect the financial viability of the interim market for its operator.”
“The build-to-lease model for the interim facility means that any delay in moving could adversely affect the operator’s financial situation,” Mr Loh explained.
Stallholders are apprehensive about the higher rents at the interim market, which were confirmed by discussions with the Bukit Timah Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) in March.
A local fishmonger, Mr Cheong, shared his predicament with ST. Currently paying around $300 for his stall, Mr Cheong is facing a significant increase in overheads, with the interim location demanding nearly triple that amount in rent.
Netizens voice their opinion over market’s demolition
The online community, in response to the impending demolition, has voiced disapproval, primarily centred around concerns for the livelihoods of the local hawkers.
The worry of increased rental costs and speculation about the nature of the replacement development have fueled discontent.
“Prices will definitely increase subsequently after upgrading..,” one user said.
Some users have also raised concerns about the potential replacement structure for the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre.
There is apprehension that it could be another condominium or shopping mall, leading to suspicions that the decision is motivated by financial interests or greed.
“It’s all about the money,” one user said.
On the flip side, there are users who view the situation from a different angle, saying, “Congratulations, hawkers that work non-stop can finally have a great rest at last.”
One user is in favour of the demolition, stating, “Good. Time to upgrade the place on par with elsewhere,” given the outdated condition of the current Bukit Timah market building.
The loss of an “iconic” place and foods
Many users lament the loss of what they consider an “iconic landmark,” expressing sadness over the disappearance of familiar stalls that hold cherished memories.
The sentiment shared online suggests a deep attachment to the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre, which was built in 1976.
Some expressed sadness over the possible loss of their beloved stalls like Sin Chew Satay Bee Hoon and He Zhong Carrot Cake that is popular in the market.
Additionally, one user raised doubts about the government’s inclination to “modernize” cherished local establishments, contending that the outcome typically results in a standard modern food court, restaurant, and popular trends like bubble tea anyway.
He argued that such initiatives contribute to an increased cost of living due to substantial investments in these modern facilities, which require returns on investment.
Meanwhile, another user simply stated, “History has no value in Singapore, just like everything else.”