Queenstown, Singapore

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Queenstown
Name transcription(s)
 • Chinese 女皇镇
 • Pinyin nǚhuángzhèn
 • Malay Queenstown
 • Tamil குவீன்ஸ்டவுன்
Queenstown Planning Area locator map.png
Country Singapore
Area
 • Total 6.67 km2 (2.58 sq mi)
 • Residential 2.06 km2 (0.80 sq mi)
Population
 • Total 94,900
 • Density 14,000/km2 (37,000/sq mi)
Dwelling Units 28,406
Projected ultimate 47,000

Queenstown is one of the early housing estates in Singapore, built before Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, and was a test bed for much of Singapore's public housing. Queenstown is located at the central-western end of the island about five to eight kilometres from the city.

Developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in the 1950s and subsequently the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in the 1960s, Queenstown is the first satellite town in Singapore. Apartments consisted of simple one-, two-, or three-room flats, typically in low-rise, walk-up blocks. Major development work was carried out during the first Five-Year Building Programme (1960–1965). A total of 19,372 dwelling units were constructed between 1952 and 1968.[1]

Etymology[edit]

Queenstown was named after Queen Elizabeth II to mark her coronation in 1952. The area used to be called by the Chinese name wu wei gang. The arterial road Queensway was officially named in 1954.

History[edit]

Previously, Queenstown was a large swampy valley with a channel running through in a southeastern direction. On either side of this agricultural area were hills - feng xing and feng ling. The former was a rubber plantation and the latter, a cemetery also known as boh beh kang. The village in the area, with mainly Hokkien and Teochew-speaking dwellers was also known by this name. Pre-1942, the area was inhabited by hundreds of people in attap-roofed huts, cultivating vegetables, growing fruits and rearing pigs and chickens. Buller Camp, a British military camp, was also set up there until 1953 when it was cleared for the new housing estate.[2]

Alexandra Road in Queenstown, Singapore. Part of the Queenstown area is shown with Alexandra Road running through it towards IKEA Singapore (the blue/purple building near the centre). The lights in the horizon are from ships in the port area.

In 1947, the Housing Committee of Singapore highlighted the problem of inadequate housing in Singapore. The report proposed the decentralisation of the population away from the city with the building of self-contained residential areas in the suburbs. This proposal was believed to be an influence of the New Town movements in post-war Britain.

Queenstown was subsequently chosen by Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) as a site for housing development due to its proximity to the successful first public housing scheme in Tiong Bahru. Construction of Queenstown's first estate, Princess Margaret Estate, began in July 1952. By late 1953, a preliminary batch of 3-room flats was ready for occupation. By 1956, work on the Princess Margaret Estate (later shortened to Princess Estate) had more than 1,000 flats comprising one, two and three-room units and 68 terrace houses. A ceremony was held in October that year for Forfar House, a 14-storey block which was a prominent landmark in those days as it was the tallest HDB flat at that point of time.

The area continued to develop as a self-contained community. Some of the facilities and amenities developed included the Town Centre and the Swimming and Sports Complex. The former was fully completed in 1969 with three cinemas and a variety of outlets including an emporium, a fresh food market, a maternity and child health centre, a bowling alley and a nightclub cum restaurant. The swimming complex was completed in August 1970.

In the 1970s, the success of the new town led to the development of two nearby neighbourhoods - Buona Vista Estate and Holland Village, with Queenstown new town as a model. However, by the 1980s, the area had become a mature estate with a higher proportion of senior citizens residing in the area than elsewhere, and a gradual migration of the younger generation into other HDB new towns.

South of Queenstown is the Pasir Panjang area (Pasir Panjang in Malay means "long sandy beach"). The coastline was dotted with Malay villages, the main economic activities being fishing and small scale agriculture. Only after the war, did the development of the area begin, with bungalows along the coastline being built in the 1950s. Today, Pasir Panjang is a popular recreational area for sea sports and facilities such as the Haw Par Villa.

Queenstown Planning Area[edit]

The Queenstown Planning Area (which includes the Queenstown Housing Estate) is bounded by the Ulu Pandan Canal, Ghim Moh Housing Estate and the former Tanglin Camp area to the north, Alexandra Road to the east, Clementi Road to the west and the sea to the south. It covers an area of approximately 2,188 ha.[3] The total population (1990 census) is 126,071 with 31,131 housing units.[4] It consists of 16 subzones, namely: Ghim Moh, Holland Drive, Commonwealth, Tanglin Halt, Margaret Drive, Mei Chin, Queensway, Portsdown, Buona Vista, Singapore Polytechnic, Dover, National University, Kent Ridge, Pasir Panjang, Pasir Panjang II, and the Port.

Main housing estates[edit]

Forfar Heights Today

The main housing areas within Queenstown include:

  • Princess Estate is the first subdistrict of the Queenstown District consists of several precincts like Strathmore and Dawson. It is also the first rebuilt estate under SERS.
  • Duchess Estate is the second subdistrict of Queenstown district which consists of Queenstown Centre and Margaret Drive. Several blocks of 2-storey and 3-storey flats are located in this area. It is also the second rebuilt estate under SERS.
  • Tanglin Halt consists of rows of ten storey flats, fondly remembered as Cap Lau Cu(十楼厝). The remaining HDB flats at Tanglin Halt will be demolished by 2019 - 2020. It is also the third rebuilt estate under SERS.
  • Commonwealth Estate is located near the Commonwealth MRT station and consists of precincts like Commonwealth Close and Commonwealth Crescent. It is best known for having a fantastic view of Singapore's Downtown. It is also the fourth rebuilt estate under SERS.
  • Queen's Close is a cluster of flats bounded by Mei Ling district, Portsdown Road and Alexandra Road. Queen's Crescent is now demolished.
  • Mei Ling/Mei Chin is built from the excavation of two hills, Hong Lim and Hong Yin Hill which are used for cemetery purposes. It is also where Queenstown district got its name Boh Beh Kang, or a river with no source.
  • Buona Vista is the last district built in Queenstown. However, it has developed a distinct and unique identity today that is commonly not linked with Queenstown.

Forfar Heights[edit]

Forfar House, or Block 39, was built in 1956 by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) as a 14-storey block (which at that time was the tallest residential building in Singapore, holding the record until the building of a 20-story block at Selegie in 1963). Also known as Chap Si Lao, it was an early part of the mixed height development of the area. The new blocks at Forfar Heights are featured with blue glazing and blue floodlights at the roof line, reminiscent of the early days, where many units were characterized by blue glass in their windows, by which the district was acquired its Hokkien name Lam Po Lay.

Block 39, Forfar Square, had 106 three-room-flats, four shops, and an eating house, until it was demolished in 1996 under the Selective en bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). Currently, the new Forfar Heights consists of two 40-storey blocks (Blk 48, 52) and three 30-storey blocks (Blk 49-51). Residency was offered to residents from the old Forfar House and Blocks 6A & 6B Margaret Drive in 1996, and residents from Block 172-175 Stirling Road & Block 96 Margaret Drive in 2001. The new blocks were launched on Tree Planting Day 2005 and SERS Completion Ceremony, 6 November 2005, with guest of honour, Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor and Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The name for Forfar Heights had its origin from Forfar Square, which like most Queenstown street names, was connected to the British Royal Family. The name Forfar comes from The Royal Burgh of Forfar, a Scottish town near the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Diamond Jubilee[edit]

Queenstown will celebrate her diamond jubilee as Singapore's first satellite estate in 2013.

Demographics[edit]

Being the first satellite HDB district in Singapore, Queenstown has one of the highest proportions of elderly aged 65 and above. Many of the residents lived in smaller 2-room and 3-room flats. As a result, Queenstown earns its unwanted reputation as an "elderly district."

Further developments in Dawson located in Princess Estate have attracted many young Singaporeans to this area in the 2000s as part of the urban renewal efforts. It was announced in 2006 that Margaret Drive will be developed into a modern district with amenities.[5]

Due to the comparatively longer heritage of Queenstown district, local community has flourished. Various online communities such as MyQueenstown have been introduced by the local, independent parts of the district. This has certainly changed the image of the district.

Other amenities[edit]

Queenstown MRT Station concourse

Other places in the Queenstown area:

References[edit]

Sources[edit]