Restoring the Capitol

August 30, 2015

Restoring the Capitol

Many Singaporeans have fond memories of Capitol Theatre.  Some would remember their first date there, to catch a movie, most probably 007 or Bruce Lee. There is also the Capitol Building and Stamford Building. Who can forget the old Magnolia Snack Bar at Capitol Building?

That is why we decided to conserve and restore the three buildings, and have them re-invented into a mixed use integrated development. The site was sold on this basis, for re-development in 2010.

Five years later, the Capitol Theatre has re-opened its doors to the public! And what a wonderful transformation!

An exhibition was organised there by ZB, WB and Perennial Real Estate Holdings for the readers to showcase their collection of old photos and their recollection of the Capitol. It was a nostalgic journey for many.

We also enjoyed the “Seven Letters” by our local producers, their individual SG50 gifts to the nation.

The Capitol Theatre has fully regained its past neo-classical glory – the domed ceiling ringed with the zodiac signs; Capitol Theatre the stage flanked by handsome Pegasus sculptures; and the iconic neon theatre sign. Clearly, our conservation experts had put in a lot of hard work to preserve the past and ensure accuracy. And more: new technology has been tapped to make the theatre a flexible space for hosting movies, theatre performances and corporate events.

The restoration of the Capitol, tucked within the Civic District, is another lovely SG50 gift to Singaporeans. It will be enjoyed by generations of Singaporeans for a long, long time.

Do you know that the Capitol Theatre was built in 1929, for live shows? And that it used to be known as the Namazies Building? (The Namazies were businessmen and lawyers of Persian origin. During the War, the building was sold to the Shaw Organisation and the theatre converted to a cinema.) You can read more about the theatre and share your own memories of the place at URA’s Conservation Portal.

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Mixing Coffee and Tea

August 8, 2015


If the SA scheme and the 2R flat scheme were likened to coffee and tea, how do you combine the two schemes into one, and still retain the objectives of the two schemes? Extensive public consultations are underway to help us achieve this mix.

We want to be able to preserve the benefits of the old schemes, and at the same time offer new benefits under the new combined 2R Flexi scheme.

For example: first-timer families, second-timer families, and first-timer singles can currently buy a new 99-year 2R flat from HDB. They will continue to be able to do so, under the 2R Flexi scheme. At the same time, we will give elderly households aged 55 and above the additional benefit of being able to choose a shorter than 99-year lease, if they wish, based on their age and preference. Their lease options will range from 15 to 45 years, in 5-year increments, provided the chosen lease will be able to allow them and their spouse to live in the flat till age 95 or above.

How will 2R Flexi flats be priced? Pricing will take into account lease tenure and if buyers are first-timer or second-timer. Shorter lease flats will be cheaper than longer lease flats. Second-timer buyers will pay more than first-timers as the latter will get more subsidies. Through a combination of pro-rated grants for first-timers and pro-rated resale levy for second-timers, we will be able to price the 2R Flexi flats so that recent buyers of SA or 2R flats will find the 2R Flexi scheme to be fair. New buyers of 2R Flexi flats will also find the flats affordable.

Mixing coffee and tea requires balance, such that coffee lovers can still taste the coffee while tea drinkers can still enjoy the tea.  And on top of that, both must get an extra distinct flavour and kick. We have worked hard over the past few months to get this balance right, for the new 2R Flexi scheme. We will bring it to the menu very soon.


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Our Magnificent Trees

August 1, 2015

Our Chief Gardener Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not just have a broad vision of transforming Singapore into a Garden City; he played a key role when it came to the detailed planning.

He had a deep knowledge of plants and trees. He read up, talked to experts and was often on the lookout for interesting trees to plant in Singapore when he travelled overseas.

In the 1960s, fast-growing trees such as the Rain tree (Samanea saman) and Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus) were favoured to provide instant shade. The rain tree was not a local tree. But they flourished in Singapore and became our well-loved permanent residents.

In the 1980s, colourful flowers and foliage took on more emphasis. These were selected from all over the world; the Trumpet tree (Tabebuia rosea) came from Central and South America, while the distinct Golden Shower (Cassia fistula) is from India and Sri Lanka.

We are doing more to continue Mr Lee’s legacy.

Over the past 10 years, we have introduced more than 300 new tree species into our urban landscapes. Did you know that we now have about 800 species of trees in Singapore?

Collage of trees in SingaporeSome are native to Singapore like the hardy Kasai tree (Pometia pinnata) planted along the CTE for its attractive red foliage. We have also planted some smaller native tree species such as the Kopsia singapurensis along Alexandra Road and the Syzygium myrtifolium along Yishun Avenue 2. Their beautiful flowers certainly enliven our streetscape!

Conscious efforts are also made to sensitively introduce wildlife into our urban areas. For our nature ways, specially selected trees and shrubs are planted to attract birds and butterflies.

We will continue to beautify our City in a Garden and make Singaporeans proud of their home.

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Living Smart, Living Well

July 28, 2015

With technology, we can live smartly: e.g. to remote-control some household appliances; to save energy; or to be alerted if granny has a fall at home. The commercial applications are now in the market. But do they meet the needs of our residents? Are they convenient to use?  Are they simple to use?

To answer these many questions, we need to put the gadgets and solutions to the test. Punggol Northshore saw the launch of the first batch of Smart-enabled flats in May. We offered 1,400 flats and received 5,000 applications.

In parallel, we are testing Smart solutions in existing estates. Yuhua estate will be the first to go smart. It will be a living lab for us to refine the smart solutions to improve residents’ lives. For a start, ten households will be selected to try out the solutions that will help families care for their elderly members, and save energy and water. Using mobile apps, residents will be able to monitor their household’s energy and water usage on-the-go, and get suggestions on how to cut back on utility usage. Caregivers can also be notified should their loved ones meet with a mishap.

The potential applications are vast. It is thus important that we take the first step to study the necessary infrastructure needed in our future flats, so that we can maximise their potential. The Yuhua pilot will allow us to decide on how to extend these Smart solutions elsewhere, to more residents in more estates.

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Our Tree Doctors

July 26, 2015

Today, our roads and parks are lined by a total of 1.5 million trees.

That is a lot of trees! And they need to be looked after. This is where NParks’ team of arborists come in. Just like how doctors maintain case files of all their patients, our arborists keep detailed records of all the trees under their care.

Every tree is tagged and has an ID number. Our tree doctors will inspect the trees for any symptoms of disease or defects at its base, trunk and canopy. In some cases, advanced tree diagnostic instruments, such as the sonic tomograph and resistograph are applied to assist in the inspection to help detect internal defects and changes in wood density.

But how do they check the roots underground? An excavation tool, called the ‘air-spade” is used to produce a stream of compressed air to remove soil without damaging the roots. Air spades are also be used to loosen the soil around trees to rejuvenate them, especially mature trees growing in urbanised, compacted areas.

To enhance productivity, NParks is rolling out the use of computer tablets for tree inspections. The tablets will allow officers to update the database in real-time from field sites, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

Strong, healthy trees keep our City in a Garden safe for our people. We have our tree doctors to thank.

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Taste of Home

July 16, 2015

Food is central to Singapore’s culture, and indeed, the variety of local delicacies have come to represent the multicultural fabric of our way of life.

This month, the Restaurant Association of Singapore is organising its first-ever ‘Singapore Restaurant Month’. The campaign will run till Aug 10 during which 50 local restaurants will serve 50 new recipes. It is a good SG50 event and AVA lends its full support.

I particularly note that the 50 new recipes will incorporate the use of locally farmed produce such as leafy vegetables, eggs and fish. In doing so, we hope to raise the awareness and demand for locally farmed produce in restaurateurs and consumers.

Locally farmed produce is fresher and more nutritious. A thriving local agricultural sector also helps build Singapore’s food security.


‘Singapore Cityscape’ is one such creative dish. It is a fitting culinary tribute to our present cityscape with a vibrant food culture.

Do enjoy the campaign and visit the participating restaurants: Bon Appétit!

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It is confirmed! We have a World Heritage Site in our midst

July 4, 2015


Our Singapore Botanic Gardens has now joined the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew as an UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.  Though widely expected, the decision still came as a great gift for SG50.

There are many things special about Singapore Botanic Gardens. First, it is the best preserved example of tropical colonial botanic gardens, laid out in the English Landscape style. Second, the Burkill Hall is believed to be the only surviving example of an Anglo-Malay plantation-style house in the region. Third, the Gardens house more than 1,200 species of orchids and 2,000 hybrids – the largest collection in the world.

But what make the Gardens endearing are the people, who inject energy and soul into the place. The Gardens is well-loved and close to the hearts of many Singaporeans – the elderly who practices taichi every morning near the Swan Lake; young couples enjoying the cool shade under the Burmese Banyan tree; friends watching a performance under the stars at the Bandstand; and nature enthusiasts marvelling at the rare specimens of ancient giant Dipterocarp trees in the Gardens’ primary rainforest.


After all these years, couples still take their wedding photos at the Gardens and their children still play on the lawn by the Tembusu tree.

Indeed, each of us has memories tied to the rich history of the Gardens. The Gardens draws more than 4.4 million visitors annually, making it the most-visited botanic garden in the world.

We have lined up a series of activities for the public to learn more about our first World Heritage Site during the Jubilee Weekend. Come take a look!

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