SINGAPORE — When Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre is demolished in 2024, about half of the current 180 stallholders will move to an interim site and pay higher rents to operate there.
But committee chairman Mr Loh, 41, who makes and sells soybean products in the Bukit Timah hawker centre, said complaints about higher rents is a “misunderstanding”.
Stallholders currently pay subsidised rents to NEA, he said. At the interim site, they will pay something akin to market rate, but this is “still below what a lot of other F&B businesses out there (are) paying”.
“You cannot take a subsidised rental and compare to a so-called non-subsidised rate,” said Mr Loh, although he said many stallholders were not receptive to this.
On the lease deposit, Mr Loh said stallholders were told “upfront” that “if they have (an) issue midway through, they can approach the operator and they can work something out for them”.
He said the security deposit is also “fair” to the operator as a way for it to recoup losses if stallholders back out shortly into the lease.
CNA has asked NEA for comments on the rental prices.
All existing stallholders will have the option of taking up a stall at the new integrated development regardless of whether they choose to move to the interim site, according to the People’s Association (PA).
WET MARKET SELLERS, CUSTOMERS REACT
For wet market stallholders, the slowing business in such traditional markets around Singapore is another consideration for whether or not to continue at the interim site.
Fruit seller Desmond Seng, 55, started working in the market as a young man and now runs the stall started by his parents. He is not moving to the interim site as on top of the higher rents, business has been quiet.
“We have been in this trade for so long and (are) getting quite tired, so it’s time for a rest, or (to) switch to other jobs, part-time jobs,” he said.
Unlike him, 72-year-old fishmonger Mdm Tan Ah Hoon will move to the interim market as she does not think it will be easy for her to find other work.
“I’m in my 70s and not many people will want to hire me. At the interim market, I’ll take it day by day and see how it goes,” she said in Mandarin.
Patrons at the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre on Friday had mixed reactions to the redevelopment news, with some saddened by it, and others looking forward to new facilities.
“I was very sad,” said Mdm Shirley Loke, who is in her 60s. She lives in Jurong but regularly does her marketing at the Bukit Timah market, and has befriended many stallholders there.
“There is so much good food here, and buying vegetables and fish is so convenient. Once you redevelop, you won’t get a place like this again,” she said in Mandarin.
Mdm Loke also worried about whether the interim site would have enough parking space and be accessible for her husband, who uses a wheelchair.
Mr Remo Faizal, 45, frequents the Bukit Timah market to pick up fresh groceries for his employer. The chauffeur said the wet market has a wider variety than alternatives in the area.
But he avoids the hawker centre as it is “very hot and a bit messy”, and it would benefit from a redo, he said.
Property agent Mdm Connie Pan, 51, who was having lunch with her daughter, said that integrated developments usually increase the value of property and land parcels in the surrounding area.
“But somebody has to sacrifice,” she said.
“I find that in the neighbourhood, this is a hub whereby people meet and greet … The hawkers are also old (and) will take the opportunity to retire, which I think is a pity.” CNA
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