Saving old S'pore means balancing past, present and future

Saving old S'pore means balancing past, present and future

The No.73 bus trundles along Yio Chu Kang Road for what seems like ages.

My sister and I look out the windows for cues on when to alight. The little side road turning off to Jalan Kayu is the clearest sign that we should ring the bell, and hop off.

Our family used to make regular trips to visit our relatives who lived in Seletar Hills in the early 1980s. I grew to love the area and its attractions, from the old market to the famous roti prata joints, which is perhaps why I gravitated to it when I began house-hunting many years later.

Serangoon Gardens was another childhood haunt of mine. My Uncle Victor used to run a well-patronised general practice and nursing home along Serangoon Garden Way. We would visit from time to time, whenever someone was ill or just to seek some advice from the good doctor, travelling again on the No.73 bus.

For a period, I even thought this was where I would spend much of my working life, as everyone assumed I would follow in my uncle's footsteps. But life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. I eventually opted instead to pursue the humanities, and now write news reports and commentaries rather than medical prescriptions.

Over the years, many bars and cafes, bank branches and even a mall have sprung up, replacing the popular second-hand bookshops and food havens. It is hard to say if residents regard it all as "progress".

So I read with considerable interest the proposals in the draft master plan unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last Wednesday to designate Jalan Kayu and Serangoon Gardens as "identity nodes", joining 15 others on its list of sites to be conserved for their unique "character and charm". The plan revealed only in passing how these areas would see new walkways, greenery and links to transport facilities.

Like many Singaporeans, I welcome the URA's efforts to preserve these familiar places, which help anchor us to a country many have lamented is changing too fast for comfort.

Yet, if truth be told, how many of us are willing to pass up on modernity and all its trappings, from new and bigger homes, to better infrastructure and facilities? Given the natural limits of our little island, we know we simply can't save every cinema where we had our first dates or patch of green which used to be our old stomping ground.

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