From acclaim to sleaze to sale: iconic Golden Mile Complex to go en bloc

Photo: Jonathan Lin / Flickr

Golden Mile Complex — the sequestered haven for authentic Thai food here — will undergo an en bloc sale. The Straits Times reported that over 80 percent of the owners of units in the iconic building have signed a collective sale agreement, and with that required quota met, demolition is due to make way for whatever the land’s new owners want to develop.

Formerly known as the Woh Hup Complex, construction was completed in 1973 at the steep cost of SGD18 million. As part of the government’s urban renewal scheme in the ‘60s, the 16-story complex was envisioned as a megastructure, being one of the first buildings in the country to integrate shops, offices, and residences together under one roof.

The stepped terraced design was attractive — residential units in the brutalist building were in high demand thanks to the gorgeous sea view of the Kallang Basin and clever planning that facilitated natural lighting and ventilation.

“Vertical slum”

Though the complex was internationally recognized as an exemplary example of a megastructure, it faded away into a shadow of its former glory. Fires, violence and poor maintenance soured the image of Golden Mile — so much so that Nominated Member of Parliament Ivan Png called it a “national disgrace” and a “vertical slum” in 2006.

The building also attracted a sleazy reputation with the opening of numerous discos, while the toilets became known as one of the filthiest in the country. The New Paper reported in 2010 of a man who was arrested for his involvement in a “glory hole sex act” on the second floor of the complex, an activity that apparently has been going on for six years in the building.

As a residential area popular with Thais living here, it became an ethnic enclave with the opening of shops that catered for all their needs. Today, it remains to be one of the best spots to get some proper Thai food, and one of the remaining specks of old-city grittiness in squeaky clean Singapore.

The combination of Golden Mile Complex’s ill-repute, rundown appearance and the fact that it’s sitting on prime real estate off Beach Road prompted a few attempts for building owners to put the whole place up for sale. All have failed — until earlier this month, that is. With its days now numbered, now would be a good time to explore the place before it’s gone for good.

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