Singapore’s beloved Dakota Crescent estate finally reduced to rubble

At left, one of the estate blocks in a 2017 photo, and one taken recently at right. Photos: Coconuts, Thesnappingturtle_
At left, one of the estate blocks in a 2017 photo, and one taken recently at right. Photos: Coconuts, Thesnappingturtle_

One of Singapore’s oldest housing estates is finally being demolished after sitting unoccupied over four years.

Several excavators and demolition personnel were hard at work tearing down the once populated quaint neighborhood when Coconuts visited on a gloomy, rainy Thursday morning. Piles of debris were scattered across the sectioned-off land that had housed more than 300 people before they were forced to relocate in 2014 to make way for redevelopment. 

When we got there at around 10am, a section of the estate starting from the buildings closest to the Mountbatten station had already been leveled. Barricades surrounded part of the area and a seven-story building could be seen being knocked to the ground, with giant piles of debris gathered by excavators.

According to HDB, demolition work started earlier this year but had to pause due to pandemic measures in March and resumed in August after construction restrictions were lifted. Plans remain to preserve parts of the estate, including its central cluster of buildings and Dove playground, one of the oldest in Singapore. 

Save Dakota Crescent, which has been fighting to conserve the estate since 2014, is grateful their conservation efforts paid off. Led by a group of architects, their detailed report gained the attention of government officials who decided to preserve parts of the estate amid plans to develop “vibrant” new properties of flats and community spaces.

“[A]s a community, we feel sad that parts of it have to go, but on the other hand, 6 blocks including the playground will be retained, thanks to a successful ground up effort and dialogue between authorities and stakeholders. It is perhaps a success story that is the first of its kind in Singapore,” founder Jonathan Poh, 40, told Coconuts via chat.

The estate was built in 1958 and mostly occupied by elderly and low-income families in more than 600 one- or two-room units. It was the first estate to have one-room flats in Singapore and, prior to being emptied out in 2016, was known for its nostalgic and unique architecture featuring butterfly-shaped blocks, metal-gated provision shops, two-story shophouses and three-story apartments. It was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, one of which crashed and caught fire after its lost power while trying to land at the now-defunct Kallang Airport in 1946.

 

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Tape barricading the estate’s pathway to Mountbatten station. Photo: Coconuts
Tape barricading the estate’s pathway to Mountbatten station. Photo: Coconuts
Excavators piling together a mountain of debris. Photo: Coconuts
Excavators piling together a mountain of debris. Photo: Coconuts
Concrete blocks used in the demolition. Photo: Coconuts
Concrete blocks used in the demolition. Photo: Coconuts
A seven storey building being torn down. Photo: Coconuts
A seven storey building being torn down. Photo: Coconuts
At left, the before shot of one of the building’s entrance and its rubbles on the right. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_, Coconuts
At left, the before shot of one of the building’s entrance and its rubbles on the right. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_, Coconuts
At left, the before shot of a building in the estate and another being covered up on the right. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_, Coconuts
At left, the before shot of a building in the estate and another being covered up on the right. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_, Coconuts
The Dove playground that will remain in the estate. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The Dove playground that will remain in the estate. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
Entrances to the buildings that are gated and boarded up. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_
Entrances to the buildings that are gated and boarded up. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_
The colorful doors of the buildings. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_
The colorful doors of the buildings. Photos: Thesnappingturtle_
The corridor of a building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The corridor of a building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The exterior of a building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The exterior of a building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The 2-storey shophouse used to house a provision shop selling traditional snacks. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
The 2-storey shophouse used to house a provision shop selling traditional snacks. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
A three storey apartment building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
A three storey apartment building. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
One of the seven storey buildings. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_
One of the seven storey buildings. Photo: Thesnappingturtle_

Other stories you should check out:

WATCH: A nostalgic portrait of the Singaporean kampong spirit in Dakota Crescent
Iconic Dakota Crescent neighborhood to be redeveloped into new public housing site
There’s an uncannily accurate replica of the iconic Old Dove playground in a random estate in Johor Bahru
Celebrate the memories of the soon redeveloping Dakota Crescent in a block party next week

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