Once home to the Istana residence of one of Johore Sultan Abubakar’s wives, the Bidadari estate lost none of its solemn dignity when it was converted, in 1904, into the sprawling and verdant Bidadari Cemetery. Until it shut its gates in 1972, Singapore’s third cemetery will be the final abode for many Muslims, Hindus, Singhalese, and Christians of different denominations. At the time of closure, it had about 147,000 graves. Graves for prominent individuals and ordinary folks, alike, could be found on its grounds.
But in land-constraint Singapore, the expansive 56.82-hectare site could not be spared the brunt of urbanisation. Under the Master Plan 1998, Bidadari was earmarked for development into a residential area housing over 12,000 high-rise homes for some 40,000 dwellers. Between 2001 and 2004, all the graves were exhumed, and the site was opened as a temporary park space in 2006. Today it belongs to one of the 12 subzones of Toa Payoh.
To conserve the heritage of the cemetery, the National Heritage Board set up the Bidadari Memorial Garden at nearby Mount Vernon Road. As a microcosm of the former cemetery, the garden delineated sections to represent the Christian, Muslim and Hindu sections in the cemetery. 21 selected headstones and artifacts were also relocated to the garden. The once grand gates and gateposts of Bidadari Cemetery now grace the entrance to the garden.
The former cemetery, on the other hand, had part of its site developed into a road interchange and the Woodleigh MRT Station (in operation since June 2011), part of the North-East MRT Line.
In late 2011, the Ministry of National Development (MND), announced plans to develop Bidadari into a new town. By the end of the following year, works had begun to build 12,000 private homes and Housing Development Board (HDB) flats. The first HDB build-to-order (BTO) sale launch for Bidadari can happen as early as 2015, with flats ready by 2018.
The blueprint for the new town was also showcased in HDB’s “Future Homes, Better Lives” Exhibition, in August 2013, alongside two other new towns in Tampines North and Punggol Matilda.
Despite Bidadari’s uncanny past, its prime location in the rest of central region (RCR), coupled with its proximity to both Woodleigh and Bartley MRT stations on the North-East Line and the Circle Line, respectively, will bolster housing demand in the area.
Additionally, HDB’s plans to transform the area into a “tranquil urban oasis” with ample green spaces, while preserving its rich history and distinctive identity, will provide a fillip to popularity.
Plans in the pipeline include integrating the existing Bidadari Memorial Garden with a 10-hectare Bidadari Park comprising a lake that is meant to re-create the Alkaff Lake of a bygone era. In pre-war colonial Singapore, the lake stood in the Alkaff Lake Gardens, which was built by the Alkaff family in 1929. It proved to be a popular recreational place, but was later acquired by a realty company in 1949, and redeveloped into a school and private residential estate.
Another green lung envisioned is a walkway turned into a ‘Heritage Walk’ with storyboards of the area’s history and conserved mature trees.
Finally the area will be seamlessly connected with a cycling and pedestrian network that will run through the green corridors, Bidadari Park, and the two MRT stations.
Rustic charms aside, urban conveniences are something the modern man cannot do without.
Knowing this, HDB plans a mixed development “Market Square” that will contain a public housing project integrated with a bus interchange, and community and commercial facilities.
As a budding town, Bidadari currently commands lower property prices relative to more mature nearby estates like Bishan, which coincidentally housed a former cemetery before transforming into a modern town with sky-high home prices, and Toa Payoh Central.
Nevertheless adjoining private home projects, near Bidadari, have witnessed solid sales performances.
Stay tuned for our next article when we will examine the prices of private homes in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, do not hesitate to speak to an iCompareLoan mortgage broker for some FREE advice in comparing mortgage loan Singapore.
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