Golden Mile Complex



Golden Mile Complex is a residential and commercial development, situated between Nicoll Highway and Beach Road.1 Formerly known as Woh Hup Complex, it was developed as part of the Urban Renewal Department’s goal to redevelop Singapore’s central area in the 1960s. Over the years, it has become a popular location for shops selling Thai products and a gathering place for Thai workers in Singapore.2

Early years
Located between Nicoll Highway and Beach Road, Golden Mile Complex was developed as part of the government’s urban renewal scheme in the 1960s.3 The project was envisioned as a strata-titled mixed development, and the 16-storey building was one of the first in Singapore to integrate shops, offices and residences into one building.4


Owned by Singapura Developments, Golden Mile Complex occupied three acres of land.5 Featuring a stepped terraced design that enhances natural light and ventilation, the building was designed by Gan Eng Oon, William Lim and Tay Kheng Soon of Design Partnership (now known as DP Architects, which also designed People’s Park Centre).6

The project was completed in 1973, and cost about S$18 million.7 The shopping complex was opened earlier in 1972 by Y. K. Hwang, managing director of The Industrial and Commercial Bank Ltd.8 In its early years, residential units in the Golden Mile Complex were in high demand as they came with a beautiful sea view.9

Image issues
The image of Golden Mile Complex deteriorated over the years. In 1995, a fire broke out in the canteen and injured three people. Foreign workers who frequented the area were also known to get into fights near the complex.10 Then Nominated Member of Parliament Ivan Png called the building a “vertical slum”, and he was critical of the way some residents added zinc sheets and patch boards to their balconies.11 Some Singaporeans were of the opinion that the toilets in the building were among the dirtiest in the country.12 A few called the complex an “eyesore”, and its managing agent had difficulties maintaining its facilities.13


In 2004, a cave-in at nearby Nicoll Highway, where the Mass Rapid Transit Circle Line was being built, raised fears that the Golden Mile Complex was no longer safe.14 These fears were allayed after the Land Transport Authority and the Building and Construction Authority monitored soil movements and building tilt, and declared that the building was safe.15

Recent developments
Apart from the many tour agencies that specialise in bus tours to Malaysia and Thailand, remittance centres and authentic Thai eateries have also mushroomed in the complex.16 In addition, the Friends of Thai Workers Association – founded by the Thai Office of Labour Affairs in Singapore – runs courses, recreational activities and a helpdesk for Thai workers at the building.17


The emergence of ”Little Thailand” further added colour and diversity to the area.18 During a Singapore-Thailand soccer match in 2007, huge crowds of Thais gathered at the Golden Mile Complex to watch the live telecast and express their support for the Thai team.19

Some of the establishments, however, were considered to be sleazy.20 The presence of foreign workers congregating at residential blocks across the complex also made some residents uncomfortable, partly due to littering problems and noise pollution from blasting loud music.21 These problems were mitigated to some extent when the Singapore Land Authority allocated a small plot of land next to the Golden Mile Complex, named Harmony Park, for the Citizens’ Consultative Committee of Kampong Glam to develop as a social and community space for the foreign workers.22

The owners of Golden Mile Complex had attempted to sell the building in an en bloc collective sale twice, most recently in 2006.23 These attempts failed as potential investors found it too risky a venture, partly because the land’s 99-year lease started in 1969 and the buyer might be required to pay millions to top up the lease.24 It was also difficult to reach a consensus among shop, office and residential owners on profit sharing.25 In 2007, the building housed a total of 411 shops, 226 offices and 68 residential units.26 Then in 2009, the owners of Golden Mile Complex tried to encourage shop and office owners to sell jointly to a single buyer, so as to reduce the number of parties to negotiate with for future en bloc discussions.27

Architectural significance
Golden Mile Complex won much praise from international architectural critics, and is regarded as a prominent local landmark.28 Due to its architectural significance, the building was included in tours organised by architecture students from the National University of Singapore as part of the inaugural Singapore ArchiFest in 2007.29

There were calls for Golden Mile Complex to be accorded conservation status.30 The building ranked third when 1,103 people voted during an online poll by The Straits Times in 2008 for the landmarks they wished to preserve.31 Many architects also expressed the view that the building should be preserved.32



Author
Faizah bte Zakaria



References
1. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113; Mok, S. P. (1970, January 12). Golden Mile Complex. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Mok, S. P. (1970, January 12). Golden Mile Complex. The Straits Times, p. 12; 6,000 jobs in $86 million city projects. (1969, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Teo, J. (2006, October 14). Golden Mile Complex planning collective sale. The Straits Times, p. S36; Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Mok, S. P. (1970, January 12). Golden Mile Complex. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113; ‘Slum’ becomes landmark. (2007, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 41; Chew, D. (2005, November 30). Built to excel. Today, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Yap, C. T. (1972, January 28). Opens today: First of the Golden Mile projects. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Mok, S. P. (1970, January 12). Golden Mile Complex. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Gas cylinder catches fire. (1995, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 35; Yusman Ahmad. (1989, June 5). Life returns to Little Thailand. The New Paper, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. ‘Eyesore’ at Beach Rd: No relief in sight. (2006, March 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Goh, J. (1988, June 25). Toilets of shame spruced up: Ministry commends ST. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. ‘Eyesore’ at Beach Rd: No relief in sight. (2006, March 7). The Straits Times, p. 7; Ang, P. H. (1983, March 27). Management blames low maintenance fees for money woes. Singapore Monitor, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Kaur, K. (2004, July 17). Circle Line buildings are safe. The Straits Times, p. 4; Nearby buildings in no danger of collapse. (2004, April 24). The Straits Times, p. H2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Nearby buildings in no danger of collapse. (2004, April 24). The Straits Times, p. H2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113; Gutierrez, L. (1985, January 6). Little Bangkok at the Golden Mile. The Straits Times, p. 3; Wee, T. (2001, September 14). The Thai-dyed mile. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Sim, C. Y. (2006, February 18). We’re not all drinkers and prostitutes. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Chang, R. (2010, October 3). Little Thailand to be moved across the road. The Straits Times, p. 16; Wee, T. (2001, September 14). The Thai-dyed mile. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Wang, J. (2007, February 5). Our team were unlucky, say Thai fans in S’pore. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. New Thai discos go upmarket. (2009, October 3). The Straits Times, p. 100. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Ho, K. Y. (2009, April 19). Litter, noise from foreign workers. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chang, R. (2010, October 3). Little Thailand to be moved across the road. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Teo, J. (2006, October 14). Golden Mile Complex planning collective sale. The Straits Times, p. S36; Tan, H. Y. (2009, September 19). Golden Mile owners try backdoor route to en bloc sale. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lim, J. (2007, October 2). Golden years. The Straits Times, p. 113; Tan, H. Y. (2009, September 19). Golden Mile owners try backdoor route to en bloc sale. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Teo, J. (2006, October 14). Golden Mile Complex planning collective sale. The Straits Times, p. S36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. ‘Slum’ becomes landmark. (2007, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Tan, H. Y. (2009, September 19). Golden Mile owners try backdoor route to en bloc sale. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. ‘Slum’ becomes landmark. (2007, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Tay, S. C. (2007, November 1). Tours down memory lane. The Straits Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chiang, G. (2007, May 5). Icons of history. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Results of ST online poll. (2008, June 26). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tan, H. Y. (2009, September 19). Golden Mile owners try backdoor route to en bloc sale. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Dwellings--Singapore
Commercial buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Residential Buildings
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
Residential buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Residential buildings
Commercial buildings--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings