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Policy Analysis Exercise: “Conserving our modern built heritage amidst collective sale fever: Addressing gaps in the collective sales process” (2019)
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Singapore Heritage Society was the client organisation for this Policy Analysis Exercise by Masters in Public Policy students from the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP). The report was completed in March 2019 and can be downloaded in full here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Singapore Heritage Society.

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“Conserving our modern built heritage amidst collective sale fever: Addressing gaps in the collective sales process” (March 2019)
by Foo Mingyee, Monnaphat Jondeepaisal (Sai), Regina Marie Lee and Xu Qiaoqiao

Executive Summary

The collective sale of sites plays an important role in urban redevelopment in land-scarce Singapore. While collective sales are seen as a market-efficient strategy that benefits both residents and developers, little attention is paid to other aspects such as the historical, architectural or even socio-cultural elements of the building and its surroundings. In the last year, several prominent modernist landmarks such as Pearl Bank Apartments, People’s Park Complex and Golden Mile Complex (GMC) have been targeted as prime sites for collective sale, with Pearl Bank Apartments sold and slated for demolition soon. These three buildings are modernist icons highlight the achievements of local architects in Singapore’s post-independence era. GMC, a mixed-used commercial and residential building and enclave for the Thai community in Singapore, is used as the focal case of study.

Through our research, we studied the various policy instruments used to facilitate collective sales and identified the gaps in the process that allow for the premature destruction of buildings with high heritage and socio-cultural value. We noted that profit is the key factor driving the collective sales process. However, some users mourn the loss of socio-cultural ties and community roots with the sale of the site. Our fieldwork also highlights the disenfranchised role of tenants who have no say in the collective sale of a building despite their deep connection to the community and place. Our secondary research shone light on the various ways that urban redevelopment can occur without the necessary demolition of buildings and other strategies to keep the original communities intact. Furthermore, the research also brings out the various ways that buildings can be given a new lease of life without complete demolition, through adaptive reuse and stronger placemaking.

In view of our findings, we propose several policy recommendations to improve the process of collective sale and to prevent any unnecessary demolition by considering different forms of conservation. We propose a two-pronged strategy, considering the roles of the government and SHS, before a collective sale and after it occurs.

Before a strata-titled building is sold, we propose that the government can:
1. Tighten the criteria for collective sale of buildings;
2. Encourage better maintenance of older buildings;
3. Encourage representation of tenants and minority owners in the CSC;
while SHS can
1. Organize heritage awareness campaigns and encourage relevant stakeholders to prevent
the sale;
2. Promote and guide developers’ use of Heritage Impact Assessment, possibly through a
handbook.

Should collective sale of a site occur, the government can pursue the following suggestions:
1. Encourage placemaking and adaptive reuse of a site by incentivising developers under the Strategic Development Incentive scheme, thereby conserving the site;
2. Mandate Heritage Impact Assessment for specific sites to mitigate the loss of heritage
values;
while SHS can
1. Work with stakeholders of a site to highlight the heritage and cultural value and viability
of adaptive reuse and placemaking.

These recommendations emphasize the importance of the government’s collaboration with other stakeholders, such as developers and SHS, in improving the collective sales process. While there may be greater financial costs, this ensures a more holistic and equitable collective sales process that addresses the tangible as well as intangible value of a building and its interaction with its immediate community. Conservation through adaptive reuse is not a new concept in Singapore, but has mainly been limited to sites owned by the state or few owners. This project thus proposes changes to the collective sales process to encourage the conservation of strata-titled buildings.


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