Up to 20,000 homes planned for Turf City, including first Bukit Timah HDB flats in almost 40 years

27 Heritage Structures at Turf City Could Be Preserved; Majority of Two Forested Areas to Be Retained

Two prominent buildings at the former Bukit Timah Turf City stand as important historical markers. The South Grandstand, built in 1933, endured World War II and hosted Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. The North Grandstand, constructed in 1981, is notable for its large cantilevered roof, a symbol of post-independence architecture in Singapore.

These grandstands, which once held up to 60,000 spectators combined, might serve as focal points in a future residential area at the old racecourse. On May 23, National Development Minister Desmond Lee announced plans to explore the preservation and adaptive reuse of 27 heritage buildings and structures across five clusters at the site, including the grandstands. This announcement was made during the launch of an exhibition on the future of Bukit Timah Turf City estate.

This initiative follows a heritage impact assessment (HIA) and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted to ensure sensitive redevelopment. Minister Lee highlighted that most of the two forested areas near the former racecourse, Bukit Tinggi and Eng Neo Avenue Forest, will be preserved.

The HIA, conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture and heritage consultant Purcell, identified the two grandstands as exceptionally significant, each contributing greatly to the site’s overall historical value. The North Grandstand was a major attraction on race days and served as a landmark for the Bukit Timah Racecourse, the base of the Singapore Turf Club’s operations until 1999. The South Grandstand represented the first substantial investment in the site and hosted large-scale events like the International Orchid Festival Show in 1963.

Initially considered for demolition to make way for new residential developments, the South Grandstand’s inclusion in the retention study suggests it could be repurposed. Other significant buildings identified by the HIA include the Bukit Timah Saddle Club Clubhouse, Secretary’s and Assistant Secretary’s Bungalows, and Fairways Quarters, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

URA assessed the racecourse structures based on historical, social, aesthetic, architectural, and contextual values. Beyond preserving buildings, the authorities plan to develop a new central open space in front of the grandstands to honor the site’s sporting heritage. This space, shaped like an oval to reflect the geometry of the old racetracks, will be about twice the size of the Padang, an open field of approximately 4.3 hectares in the Civic District.

The former Turf Club site’s heritage will be documented, with efforts to increase public awareness of its history. Among the site’s flora and fauna, 177 plant species and 25 animal species, including the globally threatened straw-headed bulbul and Sunda pangolin, are of conservation significance. Following the EIA’s recommendations, most of Eng Neo Avenue Forest and Bukit Tinggi will be retained and integrated into the future park network.

A 100-meter-wide, 400-meter-long ecological connection will link Eng Neo Avenue Forest and Bukit Tinggi, facilitating species movement between the two forest patches. Additional measures, such as colugo poles and culverts, may enhance ecological connectivity between these areas and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Rifle Range Nature Park.

The environmental study, supported by nature group representatives, identified areas to improve colugo connectivity. These efforts might lead to the installation of colugo poles, which mimic trees and support colugo gliding, within and near the upcoming estate.

Overall, about one-third of the Bukit Timah Turf City estate will be dedicated to green spaces, including parks, open areas, and natural greenery. Selected landscapes from the former Turf Club, such as the Fairways Quarters courtyard, will be adapted and enhanced as recreational green spaces.

The Straits Times

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