Sunday, November 13, 2016

Revisiting The Past At Rochor Centre & Dakota Crescent

It's definitely sad and disappointing when you have to move out of your house by a certain date after living in it for so long. That's what residents of Rochor Centre and Dakota Crescent, two iconic clusters of HDB flats had to face when they had to move out to make for new developments. Here's a first-hand experience of these two estates before they're gone for good.


What is Rochor Centre?

The Rochor Centre cluster of HDB flats were built and completed in the 1970s and it's located near the Bugis area. It's well known among Singaporeans as the 'Rochor Coloured Flats' due to its colourful painted exterior. Shops and food outlets are available on the first three levels but most of them have since been closed.

Why is Rochor Centre Going Away?

The Rochor Centre is making way for the new North South Expressway that aims to cut travelling time from Singapore's north area (e.g. Woodlands) to the city in half. Currently, motorists use the Seletar Expressway and Central Expressway which can take almost an hour depending on traffic. After news broke that Rochor Centre will be going away, Singaporeans from all walks of life started visiting in droves to capture a memory of the flats before it's gone for good.

Ground Level Shops

The layout and structure is similar to Bras Basah Complex, another HDB cluster also built and completed in the 1970s. The Rochor Centre is home to a variety of old school shops and food places on the first three floors but have since closed leaving only a few shops and an NTUC Fairprice outlet on the ground floor.

Though news of its impending closure was announced long ago, that hasn't deterred elderly folks from coming here to pass the time away with their friends and their cups of Kopi O at the ground level coffeeshop. However, all that will be no more as all shops had to close by end-September 2016.

Rochor Centre Level 4

The fourth level of Rochor Centre is a favourite among explorers and photographers because you can view the colourful flats in all its glory. You can take lots of great candid shots here and if you browse the web, you can see loads of jump shots, wedding photos, model photoshoots and so much more being taken here.

Usually, HDB flats have their void decks on the first level but for Rochor Centre, it's on the fourth with shops occupying the first three levels. It's probably due to space constraints and the HDB has done quite a good job with optimising the space. It's no wonder a lot of new and upcoming developments follow the same building structure. Just like typical HDB void decks, there's a fitness corner, a playground and Senior Citizen corners.

SG50 Wall Murals

Near the lift lobby, wall murals have been put up in celebration of Singapore's 50th celebration or SG50. The murals are mostly just photographs of Singaporeans on the inside of the MRT trains when they're pulled up at the station. I'm not too sure what's the message behind it but it is indeed an interesting project.


What is Dakota Crescent?

Dakota Crescent is a HDB estate located near Old Airport Road and it's in close proximity to the famous Old Airport Road Food Centre. It was built and completed in the 1960s under the Singapore Improvement Trust, the predecessor to the HDB. The flats will be demolished by end-2016 to make way for new property developments and residents have the option to move to new high rise flats at Cassia Crescent which is just a stone's throw away.

An interesting fact of Dakota Crescent is its name, Dakota, is named after the Dakota DC-3 airplane that regularly lands at the nearby Kallang Airport.

Icons of Dakota Crescent

Dakota Crescent is home to Tian Kee & Co, a provision shop turned hipster cafe. Instead of decking out the cafe with hipster-ish interior fittings like other cafes, the place still looks pretty much the same as when it was still a provision shop. The cafe sells a wide variety of espresso beverages and popular desserts like their Paddle Pop Cheesecake and Yuan Yang Cheesecake.

Right beside the cafe is an old school TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine shop though at the time of visit it was closed so it's unclear whether it's still in operation. The other shops have since been closed and their storefronts have been boarded up.

An Iconic Playground

Similar to the famous and old style Dragon Playground in Toa Payoh, Dakota Crescent has their own version of the playground designed by the same designer. Complete with a sand pit and a fully concrete structure, it's not the same with the newer more modern playgrounds which are primarily made of plastic and have rubber mats. Unlike the preserved Dragon Playground, this one will go away together with the flats in the background.

Loss of HDB Icons

The loss of these two HDB icons are definitely going to be a big loss especially among residents and historical and heritage buffs. On the plus side, as Singapore continues to evolve and progress, new developments had to be made to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

On the down side, the loss of historical developments means lives will get interrupted as they can no longer carry out the stuff they used to do at these places. This also means the future generation may not even get to see these icons and that more old school flats will be torn down soon in the future all in the name of "progress".


Overall, these two nostalgic icons will definitely bring back memories to a lot of people. This also means that we should cherish what we have now because you may never know when they might be gone for good.

Getting Here


Bus services available: 10, 16, 30, 30e, 31, 32, 33, 401 (Bus stop along Old Airport Road outside Blk 22)

Nearest MRT station: CC7 Mountbatten MRT Station (Circle Line)


Bus services available: 48, 57, 170, 170A, 851, 960, 980 (Bus stop along Rochor Road outside Fu Lu Shou Complex)

Nearest MRT station: EW12/DT14 Bugis MRT Station (East West Line/Downtown Line)

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