The traditionally sleepy estate of Dakota Crescent came to life last Sunday with a commemorative event titled Remembering Dakota Crescent. What started out as a simple block party soon evolved to a mini-carnival that had both members from the nearby Resident’s Committee, and prominent local acts like ShiGGa Shay and Cashew Chemists performing together.
Many current and former residents were on hand for the event, largely because the Dakota Crescent estate is slated for redevelopment come the end of 2016, a move that only recently gained debate thanks to numerous articles lobbying for its conservation and possibly this video by ShiGGa Shay.
But is Dakota Crescent really worth saving?
When I first visited the estate almost three years ago, I was really impressed by the architectural layout, from the estate’s spacial awareness, to the half-hexagonal seven-storey flats and trademark centrepiece that was the Dove playground.
Yet beyond the nostalgic glamour lies an impending issue of the estate. Built in 1958 as the first housing estate with one-room flats, the remaining 400 odd units are now rental flats occupied either by elderly people or low-income families, a number of whom can be seen in the area collecting cardboard or taking on karung guni like roles.
In its heyday, there were over 60 shops within the estate that catered to the residents and it provided an understandably communal kampong vibe to the neighbourhood.
The truth however now is that Dakota is undeniably dead. Most of the previous shops have now been made redundant by the nearby NTUC, salons, clinics and other basic neighbourhood amenities located just opposite the road. Not forgetting the ever-popular Old Airport Road Food Centre, which more than makes up for the need for a smaller coffeeshop.
To improve their lives, many of the previous residents have also moved on to neighbourhoods with better living arrangements. In fact most of the performers I managed to speak to do still live nearby, but in bigger and more comfortable flats.
It’s only nostalgic when it doesn’t affect us
Truth is, none of us would ever dream of staying in Dakota Crescent in its current condition. The flats are tiny, the lifts are rickety and even the rubbish chute is tucked far away from most houses. Yet inevitably, once redevelopment of the area sprouts out a new high-rise living, plenty of interested buyers would flock to the area for its prime location, Dakota being just 5 minutes from the city centre.
At the moment only blocks 13 and 21 have no future plans for redevelopment. No conservation guidelines have been put in place for Dakota Crescent, and rightfully so. Because unless a developer is keen to come in and provide a proper example that would be able to preserve certain aspects of the area whilst improving its land use, I would say the more important thing would be to ensure that current residents there are able to get proper supplementary housing as soon as possible.
So Remember Dakota Crescent while you can, appreciate its vibe and architecture, but also understand the people who the redevelopment is actually affecting before actually lobbying for its conservation.