The government of Singapore has formally designated the Golden Mile Complex for conversation, a move that has been widely praised by preservation organisations as a significant milestone. This momentous action, occurring one year after the government’s stated aim, is a crucial milestone in safeguarding Singapore’s architectural and technical heritage.
The Golden Mile Complex, a 48-year-old development, serves as a tribute to the innovative construction experts of Singapore, highlighting their exceptional skills in architecture and engineering. It symbolises Singapore’s urban revitalization in its early years of independence, being one of the pioneering high-rise mixed-use projects in the country.
In response to building owners’ worries about the effect of conservation on the potential for a collective sale, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has implemented a comprehensive set of incentives. The purpose of these incentives is to enhance the attractiveness of development choices for possible owners of the property. This includes a compelling increase of one-third in floor size, along with a partial exemption from its development fee.
Heritage organisations pushing for the preservation of modernist structures in Singapore have commended the government’s choice to maintain the Golden Mile Complex. Constructed in 1973, this impressive 16-story architectural masterpiece is among numerous other post-independence structures that have been granted protected status. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy because this building is the first of its kind to be preserved with a strata-titled ownership structure, setting it different from the rest of Singapore’s preserved structures that originated from the colonial period.
The importance of this conservation decision goes beyond the preservation of the Golden Mile Complex itself. It establishes a standard and clears the path for safeguarding other contemporary structures built after independence that have comparable preservation difficulties. Several of these buildings, such as the Golden Mile Complex, are properties with strata titles that qualify for collective sale.
Many of these properties are now approaching the midpoint of their 99-year leases, and they face a critical decision point when their economic worth might decline dramatically if not sold. Unit owners are becoming more inclined to sell their properties because of the escalating maintenance expenses.
Without incentives, the preservation of these structures might greatly reduce their market worth in the eyes of future buyer-developers, who may choose to demolish them and replace them with higher-density constructions in order to maximise earnings by increasing plot ratios. Therefore, the range of incentives provided by the government demonstrates a strong political will and dedication to maintaining a balance of market forces, while acknowledging Singapore’s architectural history after gaining independence.
The timing of this disclosure has great significance. In recent years, sales committees have been established for modernist constructions like as Pandan Valley Condominium and People’s Park Complex. However, other complexes like Pearl Bank Apartments in Outram have already been demolished or no longer exist.
The preservation of the Golden Mile Complex, together with these incentives, conveys a distinct message to sales committees and possible buyer-developers: conservation and redevelopment may harmoniously coexist in a profitable manner.
The URA’s decision-making process, which included consultation and collaboration, serves as a model for future debates on similar big properties with many owners. Before unveiling its conservation plan in October 2020, the URA undertook a comprehensive two-year research including a wide range of stakeholders, such as building owners, historical organisations, and industry participants.
During the following year, the governing body further developed its plan, as shown by the addition of an expanded site border that includes a portion of the neighbouring state property close to Golden Mile Complex.
These comprehensive and extensive talks should set the benchmark for future conservation efforts with modernist structures. This strategy guarantees the inclusion of diverse viewpoints, so enhancing the strength and long-term viability of conservation choices.
Moreover, this conservation option is in accordance with the need of sustainability. Amidst a time characterised by a worldwide climate crisis, this choice emphasises the need of renovating and repurposing existing structures instead of demolishing and rebuilding them completely—a more eco-friendly and ecologically conscious alternative.
Conservation is the first stage in converting the Golden Mile Complex into a symbol of adaptive re-use and renewal for other modernist structures. The successful sale and redevelopment of Golden Mile Complex into Aurea may serve as evidence to other owners and developer-buyers that Singapore’s modernist icons have a strong financial attraction, similar to that of preserved shophouses.
Developers must immediately acknowledge the importance of the Golden Mile Complex and take advantage of the potential it offers, given the unique combination of incentives in place. The developers’ enthusiastic reaction will serve as evidence of the soundness of the choice to preserve this famous structure.
The preservation of the Golden Mile Complex, along with the inclusive process that facilitated it, paves the way for the conservation of other modernist landmarks in Singapore. This includes People’s Park Complex, Peninsula Plaza, and even the earliest Housing Board blocks, all of which are significant components of the nation’s urbanisation narrative after 1965.
In order for these conservation initiatives to have genuine significance, they need to get backing not only from history lovers but also from the broader public. Enhancing public education on the significance of Singapore’s contemporary past is crucial for this undertaking.
The online responses to the preservation of the Golden Mile Complex highlight the significance of involving the public. Some internet users expressed joy at the decision, while others posed inquiries on its worthiness. The government and historic organisations leading contemporary heritage conservation in Singapore are confronted with the task of bridging the divide and obtaining broader public endorsement.
Preserving the Golden Mile Complex is a significant milestone in protecting Singapore’s modernist architectural legacy. This achievement serves as a significant precedent for the conservation of other renowned structures and showcases the government’s dedication to harmonising economic considerations with the preservation of cultural heritage.
With its new phase of adaptive re-use and renovation, this remarkable architectural masterpiece has the potential to ignite a revival in the conservation of Singapore’s modernist landmarks.