Golden Mile Complex

Singapore Infopedia

by Zakaria, Faizah


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

Faizah bte Zakaria

1. Jessica Lim, “Golden Years,” Straits Times, 2 October 2007, 113; Mok Sin Pin, “Golden Mile Complex,” Straits Times, 12 January 1970, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Lim, “Golden Years.” 
3. Mok, “Golden Mile Complex”; “6,000 Jobs in $86 Million City Projects,” Straits Times, 30 January 1969, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Joyce Teo, “Golden Mile Complex Planning Collective Sale,” Straits Times, 14 October 2006, S36 (From NewspaperSG); Lim, “Golden Years.” 
5. Mok, “Golden Mile Complex.”
6. Lim, “Golden Years”; “‘Slum’ Becomes Landmark,” Straits Times, 5 August 2007, 41; David Chew, “Built to Excel,” Today, 30 November 2005, 42. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Lim, “Golden Years.”
8. Yap Cheng Tong, “Opens Today: First of the Golden Mile Projects,” Straits Times, 28 January 1972, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Mok, “Golden Mile Complex.”
10. “Gas Cylinder Catches Fire,” Straits Times, 27 September 1995, 35; Yusman Ahmad, “Life Returns to Little Thailand,” New Paper, 5 June 1989, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “‘Eyesore’ at Beach Rd: No Relief in Sight,” Straits Times, 7 March 2006, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Juleen Goh, “Toilets of Shame Spruced Up: Ministry Commends ST,” Straits Times, 25 June 1988, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “‘Eyesore’ at Beach Rd”; Ang Peng Hwa, “Management Blames Low Maintenance Fees for Money Woes,” Singapore Monitor, 27 March 1983, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Karamjit Kaur, “Circle Line Buildings are Safe,” Straits Times, 17 July 2004, 4; “Nearby Buildings in No Danger of Collapse,” Straits Times, 24 April 2004, H2. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “No Danger of Collapse.”
16. Lim, “Golden Years”; Lito Gutierrez, “Little Bangkok at the Golden Mile,” Straits Times, 6 January 1985, 3; Tommy Wee, “The Thai-Dyed Mile,” Straits Times, 14 September 2001, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “We’re Not All Drinkers and Prostitutes,” Straits Times, 18 February 2006, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Rachel Chang, “Little Thailand to Be Moved Across the Road,” Straits Times, 3 October 2010, 16 (From NewspaperSG); Wee, “Thai-Dyed Mile.” 
19. Jeanette Wang, “Our Team Were Unlucky, Say Thai Fans in S’pore,” Straits Times, 5 February 2007, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “New Thai Discos Go Upmarket,” Straits Times, 3 October 2009, 100. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Hoo Koon Yann, “Litter, Noise from Foreign Workers,” Straits Times, 19 April 2009, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Chang, “Little Thailand to Be Moved.” 
23. Teo, “Planning Collective Sale”; Tan Hui Yee, “Golden Mile Owners Try Backdoor Route to En Bloc Sale,” Straits Times, 19 September 2009, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Lim, “Golden Years”; Tan, “Owners Try Backdoor Route.”
25. Teo, “Planning Collective Sale.”
26. “‘Slum’ Becomes Landmark.”
27. Tan, “Owners Try Backdoor Route.”
28. “‘Slum’ Becomes Landmark.”
29. Tay Suan Chiang, “Tours Down Memory Lane,” Straits Times, 1 November 2007, 68. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Gracia Chiang, “Icons of History,” Today, 5 May 2007, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “Results of ST Online Poll,” Straits Times, 26 June 2008, 34. (From NewspaperSG)
32. Tan, “Owners Try Backdoor Route.”

The information in this article is valid as of 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.




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