Potong Pasir: The idyllic town imbued with community spirit

/ EdgeProp Singapore
August 2, 2019 8:00 AM SGT
The HDB flats in Potong Pasir are known for their iconic sloping roofs (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
Originally a major sand quarry in the early to mid-1900s before becoming an agricultural area and eventually today’s HDB estate, Potong Pasir literally means “cut sand” in Malay. When one visits the housing estate now, it is hard to imagine the Potong Pasir of old. Comprising low-lying plains and ponds linked to the Kallang River – one of Singapore’s main drainage channels – Potong Pasir suffered regular floods in the past. It was a major issue which plagued residents, notably during the notorious floods of 1969 and 1978, when the town was submerged in up to 30cm of water and only the zinc and attap roofs were visible.
Today, the farms, kampong huts and massives floods have become a distant memory of the past. The last five decades saw massive changes in the area, from the building of a bridge across the ponds, to the introduction of a village community centre, and the installation of piped water and electricity. The public housing estate started to take shape in the 1980s. Construction commenced in 1982, and in 1984, the first high-rise HDB flats were completed. These flats with their sloping roofs have since become a prominent icon of Potong Pasir.
Along the Kallang River in the estate, a 400m stretch between Potong Pasir Avenue 1 and Saint Andrew’s Junior School has been transformed into a recreational space under the Public Utilities Board’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme. The $7 million project was completed after 18 months and opened officially on July 12, 2015.
The Kallang River runs through Saint Andrew’s Village, with the Junior College (pictured) linked to the Junior School and Secondary School via a bridge (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
The revamped area now includes an open plaza with two shelters, boasting a holding capacity of about 750 people; four lookout decks; and three rain gardens with plants that collect and treat the rainwater before discharging it into the river. The open area has become an outdoor classroom, giving students the opportunity to learn about plants and their ability to cleanse rainwater run-off, while the open plaza has become a new gathering space for residents.
A 1.2km stretch of the Kallang Park Connector, which links Kallang Riverside Park to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, also runs through the estate, from Lorong 8 Toa Payoh to Potong Pasir Avenue 1. The lush greenery supports significant communities of biodiversity and provides shade from the blazing heat. The collared kingfisher, white-bellied sea eagle, and the white-breasted waterhen can all be spotted.
Residents frequent the Potong Pasir wet market (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
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A kampong lifestyle

As a small, mature housing estate, Potong Pasir offers a pace of life that long-time residents are accustomed to. On a typical weekday, the quiet of early morning is short-lived, the silence shattered by the shrill calls and friendly banter from the wet market, just a short walk from Potong Pasir MRT Station. Along the pathway towards the river, the constant shuffle of bleary-eyed students hurrying to school soon becomes a backdrop to the heavy chopping beats from the butchers. The young and the old mingle amid the scent of soya milk and freshly-baked croissants from N&B Snacks (#01-31) round the corner, the inviting aroma of coffee powder and beans from Chop Hua Heng (#01-27), and the fragrant economic bee hoon from Broadway Food Centre at 147 Potong Pasir Avenue 1. A beautiful cacophony.
N&B Snacks is an old-school shop that sells soya milk with peanut dumplings, silken tofu and croissants (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
Having called Potong Pasir home for the past 22 years, Raj Ruthran, 25, an alumnus of St Andrew’s or “true-blue Saint”, can identify with this daily morning scene. It takes a village to raise a child, and Ruthran has experienced it first-hand, for he grew up attending Saint Andrew’s Village (SAV) at Potong Pasir. A mega cluster of schools of the Saints family, SAV comprises Saint Andrew’s Junior School, Saint Andrew’s Secondary School, and Saint Andrew’s Junior College. Students and alumni are referred to as “Saints”.
Located near the hawker centre, Chop Hua Heng sells coffee powder and beans (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
In the past, the three schools were located in various parts of Singapore. It was only in the 2000s that plans were set in motion to relocate the schools to Potong Pasir as part of the SAV project. The renovation and expansion of the Junior School started in 2003, together with the construction of a new Secondary School opposite the Junior School along Francis Thomas Drive. The construction of the Junior College began after the Secondary School vacated the site and shifted to its holding location. SAV was officially opened on Aug 26, 2006. It also houses the (Anglican) Diocesan Office, a kindergarten, three church buildings and a hostel.
Broadway Food Centre is an unassuming hawker centre at 147 Potong Pasir Avenue 1 (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
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New mall, new life

In 2015, new life was breathed into the sleepy neighbourhood with the opening of a mixed-use development comprising The Poiz Centre, which offers 77 retail units and seven restaurants, and 731-unit The Poiz Residences which sits right on top. The offerings of retail and F&B outlets expanded in the district, and residents can now enjoy the mouth-watering bites from Kopi & Tarts. Their signature pastry line-up features original egg tart to cheese egg tart; as well as kaya butter toast and chicken curry puffs. More F&B outlets are set to open at The Poiz Centre.
View of The Poiz Centre and The Poiz Residences at the background (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
“[The Poiz Centre] has introduced some new food players with Starbucks and Japanese stalls, which gives a bit of a modern touch to the town,” says Ruthran. “But the food culture remains ‘hawker-centred’, with the occasional fast-food joints sharing a slice of the pie.”
Kopi & Tarts at The Poiz Centre has a variety of egg tarts, toast, and puffs (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
Jasmine Sim, who attended Saint Andrew’s Junior College in 2008, remembers fondly the “spider-web” play structure right outside Potong Pasir Community Club. Sim and her friends would pass by the structure on their way to the MRT station after school, and would spare a good 10 minutes to hang out there or even climb up the roped formation.
The “spider-web” play structure right outside Potong Pasir Community Club is a favourite spot for students (Credit: Albert Chua/ EdgeProp Singapore)
“I hope Potong Pasir never changes. I love the idyllic feel and the community spirit, and this is something that is very rare now that everywhere is being urbanised,” says Sim.
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