Tag Archives: Queen Street

Singapore’s second oldest Catholic Church undergoes restoration works

After years in disrepair, the crumbling 145-year-old Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Queen Street is finally being given an $8 million restoration.

Parish priest John Chua said the year-long restoration is to update the building to meet safety standards, while maintaining the original essence of the space.

The national monument, built in the tropical Gothic style, will have its corroded ceiling repaired and its roof replaced.

Other works include restoring its pews and lance-shaped stained glass windows, and reinstating a high altar.

The 1,700 parishioners of Singapore’s second-oldest Roman Catholic church, after the nearby Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, will also get facilities such as air-conditioning, a garden and a new audio system.

Mr Lawrence Seet, 68, a sacristan who has been attending the church since he was nine, said: “The last restoration was more than 20 years ago. It has been in dire need of a facelift.”

Father Chua said most of the money will be used to fix the roof, which reflects a hodge-podge of additions and alterations.

Chemicals will also be pumped into the perimeter of the church’s walls, which will infuse into its bricks over time to address years of water seepage.

Although restoration has started, the church is still waiting for the approval of a work permit for a skilled Italian craftsman to fix its stained glass windows. These five windows are extremely dirty and require expertise to replace missing and broken pieces.

Father Chua hopes the application can be processed quickly.

The Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division under the National Heritage Board, said it has been working with the church to review its restoration proposal.

In 2009, it awarded the church a grant of $53,350 for repairs to its belfry.

Father Chua said the church now needs “slightly more than a million” to meet its $8 million target.

Donations have been pouring in from the Catholic community over the past four years, he said.

Saints Peter and Paul, which has been credited with the growth of the Chinese Catholic community in Singapore, was gazetted as a national monument in 2003.

Father Chua believes it is important to restore it to its original glory as post-French Gothic architecture is rare here.

“By fixing this church, we hope new generations of Singaporeans will continue to have fond memories of it while paying tribute to the French missionaries and early Chinese Catholic businessmen who contributed to it in the past.”

In the meantime, services are being conducted under a tent at the church’s open-air carpark.

Housewife Helen R., 72, who attends mass there, said she is looking forward to the new building. “I want it to return to its original, beautiful state. It’s a beautiful church that makes you feel warm, comforted and at home.”

The church is appealing for old photos of the building and its nearby area for a coffee-table book.

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/singapores-second-oldest-catholic-church-begins-restorat#sthash.YRICTFl7.dpuf

Dried Goods Centre: Victoria Wholesale Centre & Albert Centre

http://victoriawholesalecentre.com/

Straits Times 17 Jan 2014

The Victoria Wholesale Centre is slowly experiencing a rebound in business since it relocated from Bugis to Kallang Avenue almost two years ago.

Gone are the hordes of tourists who used to wander into the previously bustling centre in Bugis, attracted by the array of dried goods on display there.

Like its predecessor, the new centre boasts a wide selection of goods, ranging from dried fish stomach and dried Chinese sausages to almonds and tidbits, all housed under one roof.

But its location – half an hour’s walk from the nearest MRT station – is more inaccessible and attracts far fewer walk-in customers. When The Straits Times visited it on Wednesday, only a few shops had a steady flow of customers. But merchants said business has been slowly picking up, thanks to their loyal customers.

In March 2012, some 23 of the 40 merchants in the old Victoria Street Wholesale Centre moved to the eight-storey centre in Kallang Avenue, which is tucked inside an industrial estate, after they pooled resources and took bank loans to build it.

The previous site had to make way for the construction of the North-South Expressway, which is expected to be completed in 2020.

The old location was just a few minutes’ walk from Bugis MRT Station. But it now takes at least 10 minutes on foot to get to the new centre from the nearest bus stop.

At De Cheng Xin Xing Trading, the majority of its customers are regulars.

“Business at the old place was different,” said its director, Mr Andrew Goh, 37, the third-generation owner of a family business selling dried goods and high-end products such as bird’s nest and abalone.

“There used to be many passers-by who walked in and we made a lot of petty-cash sales. Now, there is no huge crowd.”

To boost business, the centre is providing visitors with a free shuttle bus service to and from Kallang MRT station, from Jan 3 to 28 daily, in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Some merchants, such as Ah Pau Chop’s 58-year-old owner, Madam Chua Soo Cheng, are hoping that the service will be permanent.

Despite the inconvenience, merchants said their long-time customers, who hail from as far as Bukit Timah, go to their shops because of the personalised service.

“A lot of shops (elsewhere) sell the same things, but here, we let customers try the goods and tell them how to cook and store the ingredients,” said Madam Chua, who has been in the business for 40 years. “The customers trust us. Otherwise, they wouldn’t come back.”

Retiree Soh Mui Wah, who was shopping there, agreed. “At De Cheng, I can sample the abalones so I know what’s inside the can, how big the abalones are and whether they taste good,” she said.

Mrs Catherine Wong, 71, a retired office administrator who lives in Bukit Timah, bought $160 worth of goods such as cashew nuts and dried shrimps.

“There are a lot of choices here,” she said. “I think we save about 15 per cent by buying the goods here.”

It was, however, a different scene at another wholesale centre. On the third floor of Albert Centre at Queen Street, there was barely any space to walk along the narrow aisles when The Straits Times visited the centre, located near the famous Guan Yin temple and shopping haven Bugis Street.

Shopfronts were packed with rows of clear plastic bags filled with dried goods and snacks, such as lotus seeds, peanuts, almonds and pistachios.

Shoppers, mostly middle-aged women, jostled to do their Chinese New Year shopping. Many dipped their hands into the bags to try the snacks before making their purchases.

One of the more popular shops was Tan Sum Joo Provision Shop. Owner Willian Tan, 59, said he has been running the business for more than 30 years, but declined to be interviewed because he was busy.

Ms Pinky Chear, a 24-year-old Malaysian hairstylist who works in Singapore, said her family would ask her to buy snacks from the shops and take them back to her home town in Perak. “It’s popular among my relatives because they said the stuff is fresher here.”

Customers said while the goods sold at Albert Centre can be found in supermarkets and neighbourhood shops, they preferred to come here to soak up the atmosphere. Housewife Jane Lim, 58, said: “Shopping at supermarkets may be more relaxed. It’s not as cramped, the goods have price tags on them and it’s easier to find the items I want. But there is a festive atmosphere at Albert Centre. That’s why I am here.”

– See more at: http://www.soshiok.com/content/mixed-fortunes-2-dried-goods-centres#sthash.nSvzysAi.dpuf

Bugis Arts district getting a fresh breath of life

An artist's impression of Queen Street (above) after the URA's renovation of the area is completed.

TWIRLING ballerinas, martial arts students and guzheng players could soon take to the newly widened sidewalks of the Queen Street area to showcase their art, and bring life to an otherwise quiet stretch in the city.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is providing more room for the eclectic mix of arts organisations based there to stage activities along the street. Besides widening the sidewalks, it has installed benches and created coach drop-off points as well.

The renovations to make the street more pedestrian-friendly are expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

Arts groups say they have been eagerly waiting to use the outdoor space for activities to engage the public on a regular basis, since the authorities told them a few years ago that it was going to rejuvenate the quiet street.

Some tenants, such as 2902 Gallery, receive as few as 10 visitors a day on Saturdays and Sundays.

But successful street festivals such as the annual Singapore Night Festival, which drew more than 400,000 people to performances held in Waterloo Street, Queen Street and Armenian Street in August last year, have demonstrated the potential that the area has to host outdoor events.

Art Trove Gallery and Museum operations director Roy Quek said he moved his gallery to Waterloo Street four years ago because he had heard about the plans for the area.

He said: “The revitalisation effort has been a long time coming and will help shine the spotlight on the great concentration of arts organisations located in the district.”

Several national monuments and conserved buildings are located in the area, which is also home to arts groups such as Forte Musicademy, Art Bug and The Private Museum.

The Singapore Art Museum and arts facilities such as Dance Ensemble Singapore and Sculpture Square are also in the vicinity.

Despite the proximity, tenants say there is little synergy between the groups because they run their own classes behind closed doors.

With planning by a central coordinating body, they envision monthly parades and scheduled outdoor showcases, which could lead to an exponential growth in visitor numbers.

Singapore Ballet Academy principal Jeffrey Tan said: “Now that the sidewalks are wider, it will be safer for us to plan outdoor performances for our young pupils, who are mostly between five and 10 years old.”

Other groups say they will also save on publicity and rental costs of private indoor spaces like theatres.

But residents and business owners say the changes have aggravated the traffic congestion.

Waterloo Apartments resident Xu Yu Hua, 55, said: “The wider pavements eat into the road and it is just not feasible because the traffic here is already very bad.”

“The hotels bring in big tourists buses, which can cause 20-minute jams during peak hours, and we have to make a big detour to avoid the road,” added Ms Xu, who is a trader.

The URA said it has designated coach drop-off points to cater to the hotels and places of interest in the vicinity.

Some residents also fear that the quiet of the area will be disrupted. Student Margaret Aniela, 19, who also lives in Waterloo Apartments, hoped the events will take place in the day “as it might be hard to sleep at night if it’s too noisy”.

OM The Arts Centre coordinator Gim Lee thinks everyone will benefit from the new plans. The centre runs guzheng and erhu classes, among others.

“The area is teeming with talent and I look forward to a more lively place, where the public can mingle with musicians, calligraphers and dancers,” he said.

“Art, culture and heritage are meant to be shared.”

http://stcommunities.straitstimes.com/show/2014/03/04/breathing-new-life-arts-district-queens-street