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     FrontPage Edition: Sun 2 Apr 2006

203 buildings in Syed Alwi Road area to be conserved



The Syed Alwi Road area adjoining Little India Historic District and Jalan Besar conservation area will be gazetted for conservation, after a comprehensive public consultation with building owners in the area.
Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan, announced this at the annual corporate plan seminar of Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) this morning (24 Mar 2006).
Over the past two decades, through concerted conservation efforts, more than 6,500 buildings have been gazetted for conservation in Singapore islandwide.
The conservation of the Syed Alwi Road area will add, to the nation¡¯s stock of conservation buildings, another 203 units within selected streetblocks along Roberts Lane, Birch Road, Serangoon Road, Desker Road, Rowell Road, Syed Alwi Road, Jalan Besar and Townshend Road.
Protection of Little India¡¯s rich built heritage completed
The Syed Alwi Road area is part of the larger Little India area which is rich in culture, history and architectural heritage and forms the historic heart of our local Indian community. The Little India Historic District was earlier gazetted for conservation in 1989 while Jalan Besar was gazetted in 1991 and 2003.
The Syed Alwi Road area is characterised by rows of two- to four-storey shophouses from the mid-1800s to 1960s along a network of streets, creating a pleasant human-scaled environment.
The diversity of architectural styles contributes to a visually interesting streetscape. They showcase the entire range of styles of shophouses and shopflats, as well as individual landmarks that illustrate Singapore¡¯s built heritage.
The area is already a key heritage attraction for locals and visitors, and a frequent destination for students on National Education fieldtrips.
The conservation of Syed Alwi Road completes the protection of the important historical streetblocks that link up Little India and Jalan Besar conservation areas. It will also allow the area to continue to evolve and throb with a vibrant community life, with unique traditional trades thriving alongside newer businesses.
Engaging stakeholders
As part of its continual efforts to engage stakeholders in conservation issues through public consultation, URA wrote letters to all the owners of the buildings identified for conservation in May 2005 to explain the conservation proposal and seek their feedback. Its officers also met up with those owners who wanted to find out more about the proposal.
The large majority of the owners who responded gave their thumbs-up to the proposal. Expressing the sentiment of many owners who were pleased that URA had recognised the heritage of the area, Mr Alwi Alkaff, descendant of one of the pioneer Yemeni Arab families in Singapore and owner of No. 117 Syed Alwi Road, said: ¡°It¡¯s good to keep the historical architecture in this area.¡±
Mr Peh Kheng Peng, owner of No 193/194 Syed Alwi Road, was ¡°happy with the proposal¡±. He added: ¡°The house was bought by my grandfather when arrived from China in the 1940s.¡±
Similarly pitching in his support, Dr Rajesh Raj, Honorary Secretary of Arya Samaj which founded DAV Hindi School at Syed Alwi Road was elated and asserted: ¡°We seek to express our unflinching support for the conservation of the Syed Alwi Road area.¡±
Many owners also appreciated that URA had taken a proactive approach in consulting them before the proposal is finalised.
Taking into consideration the owners¡¯ concerns and feedback, the proposed buildings were carefully evaluated based on their architectural quality, contribution to the streetscape and broader objective of retaining national heritage.
The proposal was also supported by the Conservation Advisory Panel (CAP) as it would complete the critical mass of heritage buildings in the area. Made up of 15 members of the public from diverse backgrounds, the CAP was formed in 2002 to give inputs on built heritage proposals put up by URA, as well as to propose buildings for URA to study for possible conservation.
Balancing conservation with development needs
Despite having to provide for a country¡¯s various land use needs within a small city-state, conservation is important to Singapore in forging a sense of rootedness for our people and protecting our unique built heritage for future generations. As such, conservation is an integral part of city planning. The need for conservation will continue to be carefully balanced against development needs.
URA will continue to identify historical buildings which are significant markers of Singapore¡¯s history. It is currently looking at post-war buildings which have strong architectural, historical and social significance and are familiar and distinctive to the community. In particular, it is studying landmarks and buildings built during the post-war period which are symbolic of our early nation-building years.

Source: News Release 24 Mar 2006

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