Leaving Rochor Centre a heartbreak for residents

Residents and shop owners at Rochor Centre are already lamenting its impending loss a day after being told that the area will be acquired to make way for a new expressway.

Some have lived and set up business in the Centre since it was first constructed in 1977, but by 2016, a total of 567 households and 187 shops and eating houses in the area will have to relocate.

On Tuesday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the full alignment of the North-South Expressway (NSE) which stretches from Admiralty Road to East Coast Parkway.

To build the highway’s southern segment, the government will acquire Rochor Centre, which comprises 187 rental shops and eating houses as well as four blocks of HDB flats.

One of the residents affected is 54-year-old Michael Law who lived there since 1977. He and his wife have decided to move from their three-room flat in Block 2 to the new Kallang flats offered by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) as part of the relocation process.

“It is sad to go because I have been living here for more than 34 years and now I have to leave. But this is the government’s land and they need it, so we can’t do anything.

“At least they offered us a new flat because prices are going up everyday and it might not be easy for us to find another flat,” he said.

But the sentimental value of the area is not as easily replaced.

“It is a personal loss for me because I have lived here for so long, my children also grew up in this area. It does have a sentimental value to me,” lamented Mohd Yunus. The 60-year-old has lived at Rochor Centre for more than 16 years.

“The area is breezy, convenient, it’s just sad to leave like that, you know what I mean?” he said.

Meanwhile, other residents Yahoo! Singapore spoke to said rumours begun swirling a few years back that the centre would eventually be demolished as it is sitting on prime land and the government could make better use of it.

Cleaning manager Cathryn Quik, 51, said it was expected the centre would make way for new developments but the acquisition news still came as a surprise.

“It is sitting on prime land, so there was already speculation that the building would make way for developments. But I had expected it to be en bloc first,” she said.

Despite saying she will relocate to Kallang, Quik voiced her reluctance to move from the area, highlighting the convenience of having Bugis MRT station only 5 minutes away.

“I am reluctant to move because I have stayed here for ten years. But at least Kallang is also not so far, only two stops away, so the location is quite centralized and still convenient. But I still wish I could live here longer,” she added.

Shop owners on the other hand, highlighted a different set of concerns.

Francis Ong, who runs a car rental service called Unique Tourist Service, said his top worry is finding a new place for his office.

“It is hard to find a similar location like this. It is very centralised and also my regular customers already know where my office is. So now I have to start looking for alternative places as soon as possible, but it will take some time,” he said.

Ong, who first set up business at the centre in 1977, added that it will be hard to find a good location which charges such a low rent. Currently, he pays around $2,000 a month.

Construction of the NSE, which is expected to slash commuting time between the north and city centre by up to 30 per cent, is due to be completed by 2020. It will start at a progressive pace from 2013 while major road works will begin in 2015.

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