1,600 HDB flats to be built in Farrer Park; swimming complex to make way for new sports centre

The BTO projects will be launched for sale within three years. PHOTO: HOUSING & DEVELOPMENT BOARD

Updated from : The Straits Times, 26 Apr 2022

Around 1,600 new Housing Board flats will be built on a 10ha site in Farrer Park, and be integrated with sports and recreational facilities including a new sports centre.

The Build-To-Order (BTO) projects will be launched for sale within three years, HDB, Sport Singapore and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced on Monday (April 25) as the agencies unveiled plans for the site.

The site, about the size of 19 football fields, is bounded by Dorset Road, Keng Lee Road, Hampshire Road and Race Course Road. It is also near Little India and Farrer Park MRT stations, as well as Tekka Market and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

In a nod to the area’s rich sporting heritage, about 20 per cent of the site will be set aside as open spaces for sports and recreational uses, including a 1.2ha central green space comprising a field and a park.

The agencies said the former boxing gym building – the former training ground for the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association – will be retained and converted to a multi-purpose community sporting space. It will be integrated with one of the housing developments.

“Agencies will ensure that works to the building will capture the architectural character and retain key features of the building,” the statement said.

The estate’s multi-storey carpark will be designed so that its ground floor can be set aside for sporting facilities.

Other facilities include fitness corners and three-generation playgrounds that provide play areas for children and exercise stations for the elderly.

A jogging track weaving through the estate will connect the various facilities.

The housing developments will also have new commercial and social communal facilities, such as precinct shops and a childcare centre.

However, the Farrer Park Swimming Complex will not be retained despite earlier plans to keep the facility.

Instead, a new sports centre will be built at the same location, and it will have swimming pools and other sporting facilities.

“After further detailed studies, agencies have assessed that it will not be feasible to retain the swimming complex due to various technical considerations,” the agencies said.

In particular, the existing pool shows signs of ground settlement issues, they noted.

The pool filtration and underground piping system are dated and in need of complete overhaul to ensure the quality of the pool facilities, they added.

The agencies had taken suggestions from the Friends of Farrer Park group, members of the heritage community, sports community as well as residents in the area, on retaining the area’s sporting identity.

Redeveloping brownfield sites such as Farrer Park, where possible, will enable Singapore to meet the evolving needs of its people, while optimising the country’s limited land, the agencies said.

“The rejuvenation of Farrer Park will bring in new residents, and also attract new users to the park and sporting facilities, thus serving the needs of the wider community while retaining the heritage and significance of Farrer Park,” they added. 

The agencies said they will continue to work with stakeholders to enhance the character and identity of the estate, possibly by weaving in elements of Farrer Park’s sporting history into the upcoming sports facilities, as well as through thematic playgrounds and motifs.

More details will be announced when ready, they added.

Farrer Park became Singapore’s unofficial sports hub from the 1940s through to the 1980s. Facilities there included the Farrer Park Athletics Centre built in 1956, the Farrer Park Swimming Complex which was opened in 1957, as well as a boxing gym and eight tennis courts.

Numerous national athletes trained there, including former national swimmer Ang Peng Siong who grew up in the area and runs APS Swim School at the swimming complex.

Other prominent local athletes who called Farrer Park home included former national sprinter Glory Barnabas, who won two gold, three silver and three bronze medals at the South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games in 1967, 1969 and 1973.

After news broke in 2018 that the site was slated for housing development, many athletes had called for the area’s sporting heritage to be retained, including via a petition by Friends of Farrer Park.

Housing analysts said a four-room BTO flat at the Farrer Park site could range from $500,000 to $700,000, while five-room flats may not be offered as the price may be too high.

OrangeTee & Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun said the HDB flats offered may fall under the prime location public housing (PLH) model – which is subject to stricter buying and selling conditions – due to its proximity to the city centre and integrated sports facilities.

“Usually, thematic developments are found in private housing. It is rare to find HDB flats being conceptualised and built according to a specific theme,” she noted.

ERA Singapore head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak noted that the first PLH project at Rochor – River Peaks I and II – launched last November is located about 800m from the Farrer Park site.