So long, Longhouse?

So long, Longhouse?

An iconic coffee shop along Upper Thomson Road may have to go in exchange for enhanced connectivity on our island.

Last Wednesday, in an update on the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) identified the Longhouse coffee shop as one of the landmarks that could be affected by the construction of this line.

The CRL, which straddles the island's length, appears to cut through built-up areas like Sin Ming and Clementi.

Longhouse coffee shop and two MRT stations along the Circle Line, Marymount and Caldecott, were among the landmarks identified in the Sin Ming area that could be affected.

LTA's chief executive, Mr Chew Hock Yong, explained that while there is a "broad indication of alignment across the island", the details on "which corridor it will pass" have not been finalised.

"So therefore we are talking about near the nature reserve, near MacRitchie, not exactly where it will run," he said.

With the construction of the CRL, Mr Chew also acknowledged that there may be some land acquisition involved.

"Whenever we do a project in LTA, we always try to minimise the acquisition... We don't particularly enjoy taking away people's houses from them," he said.

Relocation

If Longhouse is relocated, it won't be its first move. The coffee shop was previously located beside the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Patrons at Longhouse told The New Paper that they were reluctant to see the coffee shop go.

One patron, who wanted to be known only as Carol, said it would be "a pity".

Longhouse is just a drive down from Bishan, where the 62-year-old lives. She added that the food is also good.

"They have some famous stalls here, like the prawn mee. I like the chicken rice here. Sometimes it's the coffee. If this place is gone, then I'll have to start hunting for a new place," she said.

Stall owners TNP spoke to were indifferent when told of the possibility of relocating.

Madam Wu Yun, who has been helping her husband at Te Wei Popiah Rojak Otah since 2004, said that business was "okay lah" but "last time was better".

Other stall owners attested to the dip in business at Longhouse in recent years.

But food guru KF Seetoh thinks that a new MRT line that cuts through the Thomson area will "revitalise" the eateries there.

He still visits the area once in a while and calls the goreng pisang at Longhouse one of his favourites. But he does not think that it will be a pity if Longhouse is torn down, because it can easily relocate.

Other than the patrons, cyclists who frequently gather at Longhouse before their rides have also grown attached to the place.

Founder of recreational cycling group Joyriders, Ms Joyce Leong, called it a "great loss" if the coffee shop was to go.

"I can't think of another equally convenient coffee shop for all cyclists to gather," Ms Leong said.

For the past seven years, members of her group have been meeting at Longhouse on weekend mornings for their rides.

"When I heard about the news that Longhouse may be affected, I tried thinking of solutions, but there are really not many choices around. I guess we have to look ahead," she said.

Since the announcement of the CRL in January, nature and environmental groups and affected residents have also taken an interest in the impact of this new line.

Nature groups are worried about environmental damage, while residents are worried about the inconvenience and possible acquisition of their properties.

Unhappiness among residents as a result of land acquisitions is not new.

In 2005, news that Hock Kee House, a five-storey Paya Lebar building, would be demolished due to the Circle Line excavation works left the 28 owners of the residential units there unhappy.

This time round, Thomson residents also wrote to LTA two weeks ago, expressing their concerns.

To address these issues, the Transport Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim has conducted a dialogue session with this group of residents. Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo has also had a session with the nature groups as well.

Mr Chew said that LTA will continue to work closely with nature groups to determine the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which will decide which is the best alignment for the new CRL.


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