It was a name that was inspired from the splendid panoramic view of the MacRitchie Reservoir. It was also previously well-known for its popular hawker centre and market that were situated opposite Thomson Community Centre in the eighties and nineties. But for the past decade, the name Lakeview has been gradually forgotten, apart from the three brown HUDC (Housing and Urban Development Company) flats and a couple of shops along Upper Thomson Road that still carry the name.
Today, it is an empty plot of land that is barely noticeable along the main road of Upper Thomson. But in the eighties and nineties, it was a small bustling estate with HDB flats, hawker centre, wet market and rows of shops that was collectively known as Lakeview Shopping Centre, a name that was commonly used to refer to such HDB-owned and -managed neighhourhood hubs. Similar concepts can also be found in other parts of Singapore; the Boon Lay Shopping Centre, Balestier Hill Shopping Centre and Keat Hong Shopping Centre are some of such neighbourhood hubs that survive till today.
Before its demolition in the late nineties, there was a total of 13 blocks of double-storey HDB (Housing & Development Board) flats and a hawker centre cum wet market at Lakeview. The rows of shops, that were dubbed Lakeview Shopping Centre, were located at Block 5 and 7. Today, the only remnant of the “shopping centre” is a flight of steps on the sloped ground that leads to the pedestrian pavement along Upper Thomson Road.
Block 9 housed the popular hawker centre and wet market, where residents from the nearby neighbourhoods came to make their daily purchases of vegetables, fresh fish and other groceries from the dozens of stalls. Others came to enjoy their breakfasts, or simply a glass of thick kopi to start the day. Every morning, it was a busy scene at the hawker centre and market, filled with bargaining, chit-chatting and, occasionally, bickering over trivial matters.
The hawker centre was also well-known for some of its delicious local delights too, such as the chye tow kueh (carrot cake), bak kut teh, Hokkien mee and char kway teow. When the hawker centre and market were demolished, some of the stallholders were relocated to the nearby Shunfu hawker centre.
Before its development, Lakeview was formerly a Chinese cemetery known as Hylam Sua, literally means “Hainanese Hill”. Thomson Village was on the opposite side of the cemetery, scattered along Upper Thomson Road, Min Hock Road and Soon Hock Road. Both Min Hock and Soon Hock Roads were expunged in the early eighties, when Shunfu (named after Soon Hock Road) Estate was constructed.
A street away from Hylam Sua was the Thomson Garden Estate, commonly known as gor ba keng (五百间, “five hundreds houses” in Hokkien). It was also where Heap Hoe Rubber Factory was previously situated.
Another prominent landmark near Lakeview was the Long House, which was closed in early 2014 after its owner sold the property for $45 million. In the early 1960s, the site was owned by oil giant Shell, which had operated a petrol station there. The premises switched hands in 1980, and was subsequently leased out by its new owner to the American fast food chain A&W (until the late eighties) and local food court operator Kopitiam Group. After 2000, it became better known as the Long House Food Centre.
The HUDC (Housing and Urban Development Company) was introduced in 1974 to allow the sandwiched middle-class Singaporeans, deemed to be stuck in between affordable HDB flats and expensive private homes, to “have a stake in the country” by having the chance to own upscale public housings. Many of the HUDC estates were exclusively located, including the three tall blocks at Lakeview near the MacRitchie Reservoir. It was developed during the HUDC Phase I/II period, between 1974 and 1981.
The development of HUDC estates (Phase III/IV) was taken over by the HDB in 1982, but by the mid-eighties, the popularity of HUDC flats began to wane. In 1987, the scheme was halted. Overall, a total of eighteen HUDC estates with 7,731 units was constructed.
In 1995, the government allowed the privatisation of HUDC flats, if there was 75% consensus among the owners. The Gillman Heights, Pine Grove and Ivory Heights were the first HUDC estates to be privatised, between 1996 and 1998. Lakeview Estate was privatised in 2003. Braddell View was the last of the HUDC estates, in 2014, to undergo privatisation, symbolically spelling the end of the HUDC era.
The privatisation of the HUDC estates does have its advantage. Singapore’s last remaining sand-based adventure playground can be found at the compound of Lakeview Estate. Such children playgrounds were once a common sight in Singapore in the eighties and nineties, but most of them have been demolished and replaced by the new playgrounds.
Published: 17 May 2015