The Colours of Rochor Centre
Slated for demolition in end 2016, Rochor Centre’s distinctive presence in the Bras Basah.Bugis precinct will gradually fade with its vivid colours. Thanks to its bold façade paint scheme that was adopted in the early 1990s, the mixed commercial and residential estate has been an iconic landmark at the crossroads of Jalan Besar, Bencoolen Street and Rochor Road.
Built in 1977 by the Housing and Development Board, Rochor Centre is designed in a podium-and-tower style similar to many public housing estates of the 1970s. Located on the fourth storey, the void deck and communal space separates the commercial units on the first three storeys and the residences from the fifth onwards. The centre first began its life with a whitewashed coat in spite of its striking façade today. The dash of rainbow was added in 1994, when four bright colours, red, green, blue and yellow were used on the four housing blocks as part of upgrading works.
Rochor Centre will make way in end 2016 for the construction of the 21km-long North-South Expressway, which will be the 11th of Singapore’s network of expressways when completed.
Rochor Centre has a longstanding relationship in existence to its surroundings. It marks the end of the 1.1km-long Rochor Canal. The canal’s clean look after a four-year-long facelift under the Public Utilities Board’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme belies its historic role as a goods transportation waterway. The centre is also next to the Ban San/Queen Street Bus Terminal, a gateway to Malaysia for many. With its many coffeeshops and a large Singapore Pools outlet, the centre is a popular stopover for many Malaysians.
The earliest residents of Rochor Centre would remember a colourful neighbourhood – living a stone’s throw away from the original Bugis Street, expunged in the late 1980s and buried under today’s Bugis Junction. Most notably, residents would remember the less broadcasted Johore Road, which ran parallel to Queen Street and Victoria Street until the late 1990s. Johore Road and its two row of shophouses was an eclectic mix of small family businesses, illicit brothels and street hawkers.
Rochor Centre had over 180 shops ranging from beauty salons and coffeeshops to hardware and religious ceremonial goods shops and small offices. Rochor Centre also housed the first old folks’ home at a Housing and Development Board void deck. The Rochore Kongsi Home for the Aged was opened in 1977 by Dr Toh Chin Chye. Buddhist and Taoist paraphernalia shops dominated the tenancy mix on the ground floor of the centre, perhaps owing to the popular Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple at Waterloo Street.
Most Rochor Centre residents have moved to or are in the midst of moving to replacement flats at Kallang Trivista, Upper Boon Keng Road under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme. All of us, perhaps, will lament the loss of a colourful neighbourhood.