The Waning Crescent Of Dakota

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has designated 17 blocks in Dakota Crescent for renovation. The 400 residents will have to move out by the end of 2016 because of renovation.

Dakota Crescent, like her more well-known Singapore Improvement Trust counterpart Tiong Bahru, is one of the few HDB flats from its colonial era to survive. The houses on the left, despite their similar appearance, are considerably lower-density and sit a shorter distance from the city core than those on the right.

Between Two Homes: Stories of Dakota Crescent. Image source (Facebook)
Most of the occupants in this estate are elderly residents. Image Source (CNA)

Although Tiong Bahru has undergone a major transformation with her resurgence as a fashionable residential neighbourhood and café hotspot, Dakota Crescent remained a quiet backwater after half a century – hardly at all impacted. The Dakota Crescent houses, which still retain their original appearance, were built in 1958 and are located at the edge of the neighbourhood.

The majority of residents today are elderly residents who rent apartments under the HDB Public Rental Scheme.  Many elderly residents have moved out to live with their children, leaving only 60 per cent of the apartments occupied.

In 2016, Dakota Crescent residents were moved to new flats. Some paid an intangible price. Image Source (CNA)
Long-time residents of Dakota Crescent turn tour guides. Image source (The New Paper)
Dakota Crescent lives on. Image Source (Sqfeed Journal)

The remaining tenants stated that the notice to vacate has been a long time coming. They’ve seen their neighbourhood transform drastically over the last decade, with the opening of Dakota and Mountbatten MRT Stations in 2010, Goodman Arts Centre across the Geylang River in 2011, and a swanky new National Stadium most recently.

The tale of Dakota Crescent began when the Singapore Improvement Trust suggested building a community near the former Kallang Airport. The estate is linked to Singapore’s aviation history, as it was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, a plane that landed at Kallang Airport. The street that parallels Dakota Crescent, Old Airport Road, was also the airport’s perimeter.

MALAYAN AIRWAYS DC 3 PARKED AT THE APRON OF THE KALLANG AIRPORT. Image Source (Pinterest)
Iconic Dakota Crescent neighbourhood. Image Source (Coconuts)

The Dove may be a quiet retreat, but the sound of youngsters merrily chatting can be heard from one of the last heritage playgrounds. The playground is located at Block 10 Dakota Crescent and is a popular hangout for Singaporean millennials looking to remember their childhood with the rubber tyre swing and sandbox.

The Dove was created by Khor Ean Ghee, a Singaporean interior designer better known for his playground designs including the Dragon Playground at Toa Payoh. Sandpits and concrete surfaces have given way to rubberized mats and plastic constructs in Singapore; playgrounds, on the other hand, are becoming obsolete.

Will the Dove playground follow the example of Toa Payoh’s Dragon to be conserved amidst the estate’s redevelopment. Image source (Home & Decor Singapore)
Tian Kee & Co. @ 12 Dakota Crescent. Image Source (Such A Fatty – WordPress.com)

Last year, the shutters of a 54-year-old provision store at Block 12 Dakota Crescent made headlines. The owners of Tian Kee Provision Shop, elderly Chinese women, said competition from modern supermarkets and increasing rental costs contributed to their retirement. Within four months, a cafeteria replaced the structure, keeping the old signboard and appearance of its namesake.

A Facebook group (Save Dakota Crescent) has been established, and it’s worth noting the calls to preserve part of the Dakota Crescent property, or at least its gardens. There are several valid concerns as to how Dakota Crescent may better fit into our Singapore rebirth plan. Higher-rise structures can be put in place to provide a greater population density ratio as the community grows. There are also several prestigious schools in the area, which may interest young families.

Is Dakota Crescent significant and/or notable enough? Will the conserved areas be a single block subject to adaptive reuse, or will they only apply to the Dove playground, as in the case of Toa Payoh’s Dragon? Finally, will the Dakota Crescent fade away, or is this the start of a new moon?

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