Old Woodlands Town Centre: The Last Men Standing

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Once hailed as the gem of the north, the town centre will be demolished by this year. Urbanwire takes a trip down memory lane together with the shopowners there.

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Built in the 1970s, the Old Woodlands Town Centre is located right next to the Woodlands Checkpoint. Once hailed as the gem of the north, the town centre had its own cinema, a sprawling departmental store, multiple dining outlets and a bustling bus interchange to boot.

However, the establishment of newer and more modern shopping offerings, as well as the relocation of the original bus interchange in the 1990s, saw a drastic drop in its number of visitors.

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In 2013, the grand old dame was earmarked by the authorities for redevelopment under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers). All tenants and homeowners in the area were ordered to leave before Sept 2016.

Shops began closing their shutters one by one over the next 3 years. However, many store owners had difficulty finding new venues for their businesses. The authorities have since extended the deadline to June this year.

With just a few more months to go, a number of well-stocked shops are still staying put.

Madam Fadzlun, 56, a shopowner selling Tupperware goods lamented that rental cost is “too expensive elsewhere”.

“We’ve gone to talk to our Member of Parliament for help on this, but nothing [has been done yet]. The number of walk-in customers has dropped over the years, but we can’t do anything,” she shared.

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Similarly, Joanne Nyang, 50, who owns a stall selling dried goods said she has yet to find a suitable shopfront.

“When the time comes [to move out], then we’ll see how [it goes]. I’ve stopped ordering more stocks already, just in case,” said Mdm Nyang, who’s been working here for over 30 years.

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Chiu Mun Chuu, who works at an accessory shop, said she plans to retire after the premises lives out its final days.

“I like the environment here, [as] I live nearby. Sometimes, customers will recognize me as well,” the cheery 62-year-old said.

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At a sprawling clothes shop just down the road, shop owner Ho Chee Kiong, 54, shared that he’ll take things as they come.

“If we’re able to bid for [a suitable] location, then we’ll bid for it. [If not], then we’ll see how [it goes],” he shrugged, adding that he has no preference for the location as long as the rent is cheap.

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At the very same shop, Mr Ho, 53, who declined to give his full name, said, “It’ll be a pity to see this place go. I’ve been here for so long, from [when I had] nothing, to when I eventually got married and had kids. It’s been 26 years.”

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The Old Woodlands Town Centre has come a long way from its heyday. Today, even bright pastel paint struggle to hide mould and other signs of age on its worn façade. But it’s a place that will be fondly remembered by its residents and customers for a long time to come.

 

About Ziyi Toh

Ziyi’s sense of humor is…eccentric, to say the least. She finds enjoyment in the basic pleasures of life - eating, sleeping and wasting time on the internet. She is also an enthusiastic purveyor of the fine art of Korean pop and all that it stands for.