28th October 2012
Recently, while at the NTUC Income HQ to run some errands I have decided to explore the vicinity. First was a visit to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, bounded by the parallel Queen and Victoria Streets, and Bras Basah Road.
From the signage erected at the front of the Cathedral, the Cathedral was gazetted a national monument on 6 July 1973 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
I’ve spoken to one of the helper who was busy cleaning the interior in preparation for the weekend masses on the status of the Restoration Fund. Pathetic was my conclusion. This helper shared with me that the Church of Saints Peter & Paul is also facing similar fate.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul, located at Queens Street was also gazetted a national monument on 10 February 2003.
At the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, its church restoration fund aims to restore its premises urgently as there are cracks and other structural defects in the building. This is due to Land Transport Authority (LTA) works during the construction of the Bras Basah MRT station and the Singapore Management University. Despite much of the current dilapidated state of the church building was the direct consequence LTA works, it was understood that they have not sufficiently compensated the Cathedral. The cathedral needs around S$40 million, of which S$8 million has been raised as at December 2011, according to a board tracking the fund raising progress outside the main entrance of the cathedral.
The nearby Church of Saints Peter & Paul requires about of S$10 million for its restoration. Similarly, appeal for public fund is on-going.
I have resided in New York, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and New Delhi during the cause of my work. What I have learnt is that when buildings in these cities are gazetted to be conserved as national monuments, its restoration and maintenance are usually funded by the State. Why isn’t the Singapore government paying for the restoration instead of passing the buck to the public?
If the government is not willing to finance the restoration, why even bother to conserve these buildings in the first place? Might as well leave them to the Archdiocese to make their own decision if they want to tear down the buildings and build a totally new Cathedral or church? Restoration usually costs more than new build and far more time consuming.
The Singapore government is known to have huge reserves. The state sovereign wealth funds are known to lose billions due to bad investments, politicians pay themselves million$ yet not willing to pay for the restoration to retain heritage to the city-state?
All these churches at located at prime land where it is possible to get funding if the Church decides to mortgage their land to build a new building which is cheaper than restoration. If the government does not provide the funds to help in the restoration of National Monuments, isn’t it time to leave the decision to the Church to decide what to do with their old buildings? If the government wants the land, make them pay compensation so that you can relocate somewhere else with a new premises, which is likely the cause. My assessment is in a few years time when South Beach Project is launched, this area might raise to up to $3K-4K psf, so everyone is now sitting on a goldmine, use your bargaining powers to get the best deal. Now you know the real reason. You can decide to sit out until the launch of South Beach Project, by then average prices will hit $2K psf but I doubt you can be compensated at the historical high value of $4K psf. As such, you can see the present trajectory of inflation which will continue to rise and hover around 8-10% in less than 10 years time.
– Contributed by Oogle.
28th October 2012