Bounded by Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Avenue 3, the Clementi Town Centre was built in 1980 with facilities such as clinics, cinemas, hawker centres, a wet market and a library to provide convenience for the residents. All the HDB flats within the town centre are low-rise buildings not more than four stories high; most of them include retail shops and kopitiams operating at the first levels.
As many as 2000 units of three- and four-room were put up for balloting in August 1979. It was a booming period of housing development for Singapore, and the flats at the Clementi Town Centre, formerly categorized under the Jurong Zone, was the 11th sale of flats under the Home Ownership Scheme in that year.
The year 1980 was also a significant moment for local departmental legend Lim Tow Yong (1925-2012). On 28th March 1980, the Emporium Holdings opened a total of 10 large departmental stores and restaurants around Singapore at the same time. One of the Emporium branches was established at Clementi Town Centre. The success of Emporium would last until the late eighties.
In the early eighties, many housewives living in the new Jurong East Estate, due to its lack of facilities, would travel to Clementi Town Centre to do their shopping and grocery-buying at the wet market.
By the mid-2000s, there were plans to redevelop the aging town centre. Two blocks of flats, Block 444 and 445, were put on the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) list in 2005.
The following year saw the old Clementi Bus Interchange, operating since November 1980, shut down and shifted to a temporary location along Commonwealth Avenue West for five years, until the completion of the new integrated PT (Public Transport) Hub in 2011.
The Clementi MRT Station was opened in March 1988 in front of the Clementi Town Centre, providing the necessary accessibility, along with the bus interchange, between the residents and other parts of Singapore.
Formerly known as West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council, the town council was renamed West Coast Town Council in 2006. Clementi is one of the six divisions within West Coast Town; the other five being Ayer Rajah, Boon Lay, Pioneer, Telok Blangah and West Coast.
The old Clementi Town Centre also possessed the last sand-based Sparrow Playground in Singapore. Unlike other old sand-based playgrounds, the small simple sparrow-shaped playground did not have fancy swings, see-saws or merry-go-rounds, probably due to the limited space when it was first constructed.
Opposite the playground was the popular Clementi Book Store, which used to sell a wide range of stationary, textbooks and past-year examination papers. And not forgetting that good old A&W restaurant with its root beer floats, curly fries and coney dogs.
Both the playground and the old book store were the familiar faces of the old town centre for three decades before they were demolished and shut down respectively.
After staying relatively unchanged for almost thirty years, the Clementi Town Centre has seen tremendous transformation especially in the recent few years.
In 2008, the Clementi/Commonwealth Theatres (金文泰/联邦戏院) were demolished and replaced by a small shopping mall called CityVibe. The old Clementi Bus Interchange was upgraded to an air-conditioned Integrated PT (Public Transport) Hub in 2011, together with the opening of the Clementi Mall and a pair of eye-catching 40-storey residential blocks called the Clementi Towers.
The following year, Empress Cinema (华声戏院) was pulled down. The low-rise HDB blocks of 444 and 445 are the next to go, possibly to be replaced by new flats or condominiums.
Even the pronunciation of Clementi changes. Instead of familiar “claire-men-tee“, it is now pronounced as “clear-mon-tee“, rightfully so as it is the correct pronunciation of the name of Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1840-1916), the Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1887 and 1893. The long Reformatory Road was renamed as Clementi Road in 1947 by the Singapore Rural Board. The name was extended to the new town when its development began in 1975.
The old Clementi Town Centre is likely to complete its transformation in the next couple of years. The new integrated town centre will continue to serve the Clementi residents well for another generation to remember.
Published: 24 November 2012
Updated: 27 November 2012