Memories of the Old Clementi Town Centre

Bounded by Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Avenue 3, the Clementi Town Centre was built in 1980 with facilities such as clinics, cinemas, hawker centres, a wet market and a library to provide convenience for the residents. All the HDB flats within the town centre are low-rise buildings not more than four stories high; most of them include retail shops and kopitiams operating at the first levels.

As many as 2000 units of three- and four-room were put up for balloting in August 1979. It was a booming period of housing development for Singapore, and the flats at the Clementi Town Centre, formerly categorized under the Jurong Zone, was the 11th sale of flats under the Home Ownership Scheme in that year.

The year 1980 was also a significant moment for local departmental legend Lim Tow Yong (1925-2012). On 28th March 1980, the Emporium Holdings opened a total of 10 large departmental stores and restaurants around Singapore at the same time. One of the Emporium branches was established at Clementi Town Centre. The success of Emporium would last until the late eighties.

In the early eighties, many housewives living in the new Jurong East Estate, due to its lack of facilities, would travel to Clementi Town Centre to do their shopping and grocery-buying at the wet market.

By the mid-2000s, there were plans to redevelop the aging town centre. Two blocks of flats, Block 444 and 445, were put on the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) list in 2005.

The following year saw the old Clementi Bus Interchange, operating since November 1980, shut down and shifted to a temporary location along Commonwealth Avenue West for five years, until the completion of the new integrated PT (Public Transport) Hub in 2011.

The Clementi MRT Station was opened in March 1988 in front of the Clementi Town Centre, providing the necessary accessibility, along with the bus interchange, between the residents and other parts of Singapore.

Formerly known as West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council, the town council was renamed West Coast Town Council in 2006. Clementi is one of the six divisions within West Coast Town; the other five being Ayer Rajah, Boon Lay, Pioneer, Telok Blangah and West Coast.

The old Clementi Town Centre also possessed the last sand-based Sparrow Playground in Singapore. Unlike other old sand-based playgrounds, the small simple sparrow-shaped playground did not have fancy swings, see-saws or merry-go-rounds, probably due to the limited space when it was first constructed.

Opposite the playground was the popular Clementi Book Store, which used to sell a wide range of stationary, textbooks and past-year examination papers. And not forgetting that good old A&W restaurant with its root beer floats, curly fries and coney dogs.

Both the playground and the old book store were the familiar faces of the old town centre for three decades before they were demolished and shut down respectively.

After staying relatively unchanged for almost thirty years, the Clementi Town Centre has seen tremendous transformation especially in the recent few years.

In 2008, the Clementi/Commonwealth Theatres (金文泰/联邦戏院) were demolished and replaced by a small shopping mall called CityVibe. The old Clementi Bus Interchange was upgraded to an air-conditioned Integrated PT (Public Transport) Hub in 2011, together with the opening of the Clementi Mall and a pair of eye-catching 40-storey residential blocks called the Clementi Towers.

The following year, Empress Cinema (华声戏院) was pulled down. The low-rise HDB blocks of 444 and 445 are the next to go, possibly to be replaced by new flats or condominiums.

Even the pronunciation of Clementi changes. Instead of familiar “claire-men-tee“, it is now pronounced as “clear-mon-tee“, rightfully so as it is the correct pronunciation of the name of Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1840-1916), the Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1887 and 1893. The long Reformatory Road was renamed as Clementi Road in 1947 by the Singapore Rural Board. The name was extended to the new town when its development began in 1975.

The old Clementi Town Centre is likely to complete its transformation in the next couple of years. The new integrated town centre will continue to serve the Clementi residents well for another generation to remember.

Published: 24 November 2012

Updated: 27 November 2012

This entry was posted in Nostalgic. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Memories of the Old Clementi Town Centre

  1. Interesting Trivia:

    There were actually two Governors of the Straits Settlements by the name of Clementi:
    1. Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1840-1916), 15th Governor of the Straits Settlements (1887-1893)
    2. Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947), 24th Governor of the Straits Settlements (1930-1934)

    Sir Cecil Clementi was Sir Cecil Clementi Smith’s nephew. In terms of popularity and efficiency, the older Clementi quashed the secret societies and was well-liked by the people; whereas the nephew was unpopular due to his strong measures against the anti-colonial groups.

    Thus, Clementi Road, Cecil Street and Smith Street were all named after Sir Cecil Clementi Smith.

  2. Jesse Abdullah says:

    ^ Interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Danny says:

    Thanks for another great read – looking forward to your next post as always

  4. anonymous says:

    and of course the dove playground (http://remembersingapore.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/clementi-dove-playground.jpg?w=640&h=440), whose chain bridge was always broken by kids stomping on it.

  5. fad says:

    I still remember there was an A&W restaurant.

  6. Baxman says:

    U missed out the red clock tower

  7. S Tan says:

    Thank you so much for this. I grew up in Clementi,(Ave 3).The post has brought back a lot of memories for me: I remember places in and around the town centre where my parents and maternal grandma took me. Memories made all the more poignant as they have since passed on. I remember going to eat at the hawker centre before kindergarten. Queuing up with my parents at the POSBank. Buying shoes from Bata. Following Mum to one of several textile shops. Going to the wet market with Grandma. Watching a kungfu movie with Dad at the Empress cinema. Shopping at the old NTUC. And the excitement when McDonalds first opened, then KFC….Thank you for this blog. I reside overseas now and have yet to visit the ‘new’ Clementi. I do look forward to a trip there when I am next home.

  8. Alovera says:

    After the A & W Restuarant close down,a new coffeeshop takes over,but not long after.before it closes up for good a lot of people/stalls owner in this coffeeshop, strike first prize in the lottery.since than every year(7th month ghost festival) they had free buffet and getia for the residence.this coffeeshop if I am not mistaken is blk 445.but now is being barricade/demolish.

  9. engboonkiat says:

    flats are going to be gone in Clementi ;(

    Block 436-438,401-408,321-323,

    Gone already
    Block 311-314,441-445,

  10. Scope says:

    Good old days… I used to lunch at A&W, and now only in Aeon Jusco, JB, got the restaurant. But sadly… no significant change in the menu.

    • Gary says:

      Yes A&W. I missed the coney dog. Also does any one remember that there is a delicious Yong tau hoo store at the coffee shop near A&W?

      I say bring back the good old times at Clementi. It looks like crap now.

      • Scope says:

        It has lost its ‘life’ now. The old cinema is torn down… there may be two malls, one which is pretty dead and the other… small, I still miss the good old days when came evening, people would flood the central.

        Many quality food gone. Now I go there to buy fish for aquarium and for the satays.

  11. Gerald Lim V says:

    No one mentioned about the once then Emporium store, West Coast Park or Clementi Woods?

  12. EMF says:

    Oops sorry. Accidentally pressed the comment button. I am trying to say that blks 444/445 have already been demolished. Only the sparrow playground still remains

  13. wei says:

    The stationery shop near the sparrow playground was Heng Lee. They also had a book rental service. Me and my primary school pal used to joke that it was our shop since I am Heng and he’s Lee. :)

    Clementi Book Store is the one famous for selling university textbooks. Used to be at Ave 2 Blk 352, before moving to Central at Blk 450. But now it has closed down after more than 30 years of business.

  14. DC says:

    I missed the old fountain, the KFC/arcade under Empress, the fragrance from the shop grinding coffee beans (beside A&W) and Emporium.

  15. Lifelong Clementine says:

    Quick update on the state of Clementi Town:

    1) The old Town Council building has been demolished.

    2) The former Empress Cinema has been demolished. Eng Wah is building a new cineplex on its spot.

    3) That long stretch of low flats/shops (Blk 445, where the Heng Lee bookstore used to be) is now all boarded up and due for demolition. I believe the sparrow sand playground has already been dismantled (though I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes).

    4) The area where the temporary bus interchange, Blks 436, 437 and 438 used to be is now a flat piece of land, a construction site. They’re probably building some residential buildings there.

    —–

    Here are some additional snippets from my memory:

    1) There was a large steel carousel (merry-go-round?) between the original bus interchange and the old fountain back in the 1980s. You can spin it first then step on it, or step on it first and get others from the outside to help give it a spin.

    2) The town marker you see in the very first picture was originally a big white-and-orange square standing on one of its corners.

    3) There were farmers selling their produce by the old fountain. I remembered my mother had bought eggs from an old farmer standing by the fountain.

    4) The clock tower was a victim during the last town revamp, and back in the day people used to gather around the steps of the clock tower and watch the koyok sellers perform and make their sales pitch. Sometimes there would be kiddy bumper cars for rent, and kids would ride around at the open area below the clock tower.

    5) Blks 454 – 462 used to be a piece of empty land for fun fairs. They had arcade video games, ferris wheel, various rides etc.

    Change is part of life, but the rate and pace of change in Singapore is simply ridiculous. It is not uncommon for people to be away from the country for a couple of years, then return home to utter bewilderment and confusion.

  16. Lifelong Clementine says:

    Here is a pic of the Clementi clock tower (courtesy of acroamatic via flickr)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/acroamatic/312828816/in/set-72157594403273408

    The top of the clock tower is concealed by a tree, just imagine a large round ‘Seiko-style’ analog clock with no numbers.

    Long ago it was red, then they painted it white, before it was finally demolished.
    Children loved to climb/hump the large slanting beams at the base of the clock tower, I was one of them. ;)

  17. KB says:

    Nice article! It will be great if you have a write-up on the history of Clementi. I once saw at the Clementi library an exhibit on the history of Clementi, where there used to be an army camp. And also the old Sussex Estate area which is now contains the HDB precinct of Casa Clementi.

  18. Fraser Chong says:

    Good old days with its memories. Chinese New Year then, we used to go watch Jackie Chan movies with friends.

  19. Peichan says:

    So happy to read about the past of Clementi where i grew up with.
    i remembered the merry go round and clock tower, stepp fountain, playgrounds, and A&W

  20. Ashrinayu says:

    Still living here.Bought my grandma’s flat.Theres no plc like clementi!

  21. The fountain at the Clementi Town Centre 1980s


    (Photo source: Facebook group “Nostalgic Singapore”)

    • Lifelong Clementine says:

      Oh yeah, the fountain was quite amazing back in the day. There were a few nozzles that shot jets of water high into the air. And there were fishes swimming in the water too.

      See those round, white stone benches? There are a few survivors placed just outside the McDonald’s outlet that’s just adjacent to NTUC Fairprice supermarket (original one, not NTUC Finest in the mall).

      That boxy structure jutting out of the block of flats in the background was the place to go for all your photocopying. laminating and film developing needs. Once I had them send a fax for me because I had no fax machine at home.

      The boxy structure, like the clock tower which I have mentioned earlier, were casualties during the last town centre revamp. Another casualty was a octagonal kiosk near the coffeeshop which has the famous Brothers rojak stall. That kiosk had sold video games, toys and offered a watch repair service.

      Go to Clementi Ave 3 to see for yourself what that kiosk looks like. Blk 431A is the exact same kiosk structure that was demolished in the town centre.

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