Revisiting the Maplewoods condo and SORA Condo issue when King Albert Park MRT was first built

We recently published insights about King Albert Park MRT becoming an interchange station when the Cross Island Line Phase 2 is complete by 2032, including launch of SORA Condo.

Ultimately, the development of SORA Condo land developer will help to transform the neighbourhood into a lively lifestyle destination. With a variety of amenities and services, the neighbourhood is a perfect place for people to live, work and play. Moreover, it will provide the perfect backdrop for residents to enjoy the natural beauty of the city.

We also shared several new launch properties near the station since it’s close to the Rail Corridor.

With the upcoming underground construction, the freehold condo Casa Esperanza at Bukit Timah will be affected, including 18 car park spaces, which need to be relocated.

However, this isn’t the first time an MRT-related construction at the King Albert Park MRT site has affected local residents.

In June 2011, when construction plans were shared to build the Downtown Line Stage 2 station, several residents at Maplewoods condo were extremely upset.

How upset? Very.

What made the Maplewoods condo residents so upset?

Maplewoods condo is a freehold project which was completed in 1997. It is about 169 metres away (roughly a 3-minute walk) from King Albert Park MRT station.

After news broke of the Downtown Line Stage 2 station plans in 2011, 65% of the 697 Maplewoods residents signed a petition to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calling for the relocation of the King Albert Park station’s launch shaft.

What on earth is a launch shaft?

A launch shaft is a 25-metre-wide square hole to facilitate the drilling of two underground tunnels between two MRT stations. Unfortunately for the Maplewoods condo residents at the time, the shaft was sited in front of the condo’s sole entrance and exit – which link to Bukit Timah Road.

A press conference was held, where a Maplewoods resident said: “50,000 dump-truck trips will be needed to clear away all the tunnelling debris in the process of constructing the launch shaft.”

This meant that trucks removing tunnel debris from the launch shaft at the condo’s sole entrance would cause traffic obstruction and endanger pedestrians and drivers.

Residents had suggested moving the new construction site nearer to Sixth Avenue, but LTA said it was not feasible due to construction limitations.The petition also requested the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to share the risk assessment survey of the station with residents.

Another problem was that children walking to Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) behind Maplewoods condo had to use a narrow footpath flanked by a busy construction site and heavy traffic on Bukit Timah Road.

The issue was so severe that construction works at the launch shaft ceased on 6 June 2011. LTA and Alpine-Bau GmbH (the main contractor) held meetings with Maplewoods’ MCST. Holland-Bukit Timah MP Christopher de Souza also met with residents on 7 June to understand their concerns.

Suffice it to say the meeting was quite heated.

After the meetings, de Souza and LTA proposed various solutions – such as building a gate at the back of the condo to give direct access to MGS, creating a 1.2-metre-wide footpath on the condo’s premises leading to the school and a public path on the perimeter of the construction site.By 30 June 2011, de Souza had met with Maplewoods residents three times. During his third visit, he was accompanied by fellow MP, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, and LTA’s chief executive, Chew Hock Yong.

Eventually, the launch shaft site was relocated slightly further from the entrance/exit towards Maplewoods condominium, nearer to Blackmore Drive.

Works resumed about a month later, on 12 July 2011. It should also be noted that Alpine Bau went bust in 2013, prompting construction delay concerns for Downtown Line Stage 2. Also, earlier in January that year, the driver of a cement mixer truck did not keep a proper lookout at a traffic light junction in Tampines, and the truck ran over two young boys.

Despite the concerns and issues, King Albert Park station was completed as scheduled in 2015.

The Maplewoods condo issue during Downtown Line Stage 2 construction is a unique situation that has served as a lesson for all parties.

It is also a reminder that while residents and tenants can look forward to living near an upcoming MRT station, its construction’s challenges and inconveniences, which usually last 5 to 10 years, should not be taken for granted.

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