Bryanna and her sister Gianna, two, will be moving out with their family next month. (Photo: The Straits Times)
Where there used to be lively crowds, Rochor Centre is now a ghost town to Bryanna Koh, 16.
"I have lived here all my life. I have so many fond memories of my home, and it has never been so quiet," she said.
By the middle of next month, Bryanna and her family of five will possibly be the last household to depart the iconic Rochor Centre, which will be demolished to make way for the North-South Expressway.
Twenty-two households still remain, Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua told The Sunday Times.
There were 567 households living in the four Housing Board blocks previously. Of these, 504 chose to take up replacement flats in Kallang Trivista.
(Photo: The Straits Times)
The number of holdouts continues to dwindle. At 10pm last Thursday, 10 units in Rochor were lit up at night, showing signs of daily life in the four multi-coloured blocks. This contrasts with about 30 units lit up at the same hour on Dec 20.
Bryanna said she grew up in a tight community of Rochor residents and shopkeepers.
"My favourite place was this friendly shop which sold Buddhist offerings downstairs. When we were young, the uncle passed us old clothes that they no longer wanted," said Bryanna, who is currently waiting for her O-level results.
Due to examinations, she could not join a barbecue party thrown by her neighbours to commemorate the end of Rochor Centre. With most neighbours having left, she said: "It feels lonely here now."
The family busted the original deadline of Dec 30 due to the late collection of the Kallang Trivista keys, said Bryanna's mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs G. Koh.
Said Mrs Koh, who has lived there for two decades: "HDB gave us an extension till March to move out, though we will probably be able to move out in February after the renovation at Kallang is complete."
She said the keys were ready in August but there were delays in submitting the paperwork to HDB.
An HDB spokesman said it considered the circumstances of Rochor residents who asked for an extension and would work with them to vacate their units.
Said Mrs Koh: "I feel privileged to be the last one to leave Rochor. I can't bear to say goodbye too."
While a small number of households still live in the blocks, municipal services at Rochor Centre are still available. All corridor lights remain lit through the night, even on floors where the residents have left.
Cleaners from the Jalan Besar Town Council still work daily, especially at the common refuse disposal on the fourth floor, to remove hazardous trash generated by the mass exodus of residents, such as broken glass and sharp objects.
Ms Phua, who is an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, said several agencies – the Jalan Besar Town Council, HDB, National Environment Agency and the Singapore Police Force – responded to her appeals to continue serving the remaining residents.
Said Ms Phua: "The situation is not without challenges because an estate that is emptying may attract more dust and pests. It takes a village to make things work."
Written by Ng Jun Sen for The Straits Times