MERCHANTS of the former Serangoon North Neighbourhood Centre are giving the thumbs up to their newly upgraded shopfronts and walkways.
The area, known for its many pet shops, has been renamed Serangoon North Village under the Housing Board's Revitalisation of Shops scheme.
At a dinner marking the completion of the two-year $6-million project, Aljunied GRC MP Lim Hwee Hua said it was important to give new life to shops in the area.
'As you have more malls coming up, the shops experience competition. Therefore we want to ensure that they will always remain attractive to residents because they are actually more conveniently located,' said the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
Mrs Lim and fellow Aljunied GRC MPs - Foreign Minister George Yeo, Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Madam Cynthia Phua and Mr Yeo Guat Kwang - launched a sign with the area's new name located on top of Block 153 Serangoon North Avenue 1.
The revitalisation scheme upgrades the shopping environment and business operations of shops in town or neighbourhood centres. Works include flattening uneven ground, building walkways and creating spaces for residents to mingle.
The new Central Plaza between Blocks 151 and 152, for instance, has space for carnivals and performances. There is also a 'Pet Walk' promenade for pet shops.
'The grassy ground outside our shops used to be very uneven. It would also get muddy and smelly when it rained,' said Dr Edmond Tan, 51. He runs a veterinary surgery in the area. With the land flattened and walkways built, it has become more accessible to the elderly.
Serangoon North is one of three sites with such upgrading works completed this year. The others are Teck Whye Shopping Centre and Bedok Town Centre.
Dr Tan, who is first vice-president of the Serangoon North Merchants' Association, worked with the HDB and Aljunied Town Council to implement the scheme.
It was not easy carrying out the works, he admitted. The association took six months to persuade the 123 shops in the area to commit to the scheme.
Under the scheme, the HDB and town council foot half the bill, up to $10,000 for items directly benefiting shops such as awnings. Shop owners bear the rest of the cost.
Shop owners and residents also had to put up with the inconvenience of upgrading works.
For Madam Toh Ah Hong, fewer customers came to her incense shop once upgrading started.
'But business is picking up now, especially on weekends. It's cleaner and roomier,' said the 47-year-old.
Mrs Lim said the town council tried to dovetail the project with its regular upgrading works and the Lift Upgrading Programme. This minimised inconvenience for residents and shop owners.
Source: Straits Times, 26 Jul 2010