Digital map of Kampong Gelam’s heritage businesses launches; public views welcomed to help shape precinct

These are part of National Heritage Board’s ongoing efforts to involve communities in documenting and celebrating Singapore’s heritage.

Liam Willett

Aspiring cat dad.

Published: 28 November 2022, 5:07 PM

A digital map of heritage businesses at Kampong Gelam has been made available on National Heritage Board’s (NHB) resource portal. Visitors can find out more about individual heritage businesses and how they have contributed to the precinct’s identity and heritage.

This is part of the recently concluded Kampong Gelam Citizen Engagement Project by NHB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to map and document 45 heritage businesses in Kampong Gelam. 

The pilot project brought together 47 volunteers to document stories behind Kampong Gelam’s heritage businesses and how they have contributed to the area’s identity over the decades.

The map and stories of Kampong Gelam’s heritage businesses are available on NHB’s Roots portal. Physical booklets containing condensed versions of the stories are distributed to the Kampong Gelam community and will be made available at selected shops.

Kampong Gelam’s range of heritage trades and businesses, which has served a wide range of local ethnic communities, also serve as social spaces, said NHB. 

Participating businesses include Haji V Syed Abu Thahir Trading, Bhai Sarbat and Aik Bee Textile.


Rumah Makan Minang and Osman Silk House are among the heritage businesses involved in the Kampong Gelam Citizen Engagement project. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD


The project is part of NHB’s ongoing efforts to involve communities in documenting and celebrating Singapore’s heritage, and developing a viable way for members of the public to explore precinct-specific heritage and uncover insights about the significance of heritage businesses to precincts in the local community.

Findings from the project are said to guide future initiatives and partnerships to preserve the precinct’s identity and character.

A short video on the experiences and learnings of two volunteers of the project can also be found on the Roots portal.

The Kampong Gelam Alliance (KGA) also unveiled its draft plans for the future of the Kampong Gelam historic area in the next five years, and kickstarted public engagement efforts to invite views and feedback for the plan. 

As a guide to the long-term strategic developments of the precinct, the draft plan maps out possible strategies to strengthen four key aspects of the area in the long term: celebrating history, heritage, culture and the arts; creating public spaces and activating places; improving connectivity; and curating tenant mix and protecting traditional trades.

The draft Place Plan was born out of the Emerging Stronger Conversations held in end-2020. At the session facilitated by the URA, a group of core KGA members and other Kampong Gelam stakeholders including residents, institutions and historic businesses discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the precinct. 

The draft Place Plan focuses on three core values that are representative of Kampong Gelam. 

Firstly, ‘Community’, embracing Kampong Gelam’s position as a cultural and social space for Malays/Muslims and all Singaporeans. Secondly, ‘Respect’, calling on all parties to come together as custodians of heritage with mutual respect. Finally, ‘Resilience’, connecting tradition with modernity and continuity with change.

The KGA stated that values form the foundation for how the community intends to develop and manage changes for the area.

In the draft Place Plan, KGA has proposed a range of possible initiatives to sustain, promote and celebrate the community, culture and heritage and spirit of enterprise of the Kampong Gelam Historic Area.

These include organising programmes that add to the socio-cultural character of the precinct and forging strong partnerships to curate a more ideal tenant mix in the precinct and encouraging a car-lite precinct.

Members of the public are encouraged to share their feedback on how to make the precinct more relevant, resilient and attractive for present and future generations alike.

Between now and Jan 15, 2023, the public can share their views on the draft place plan, as well as aspirations for any changes they hope to see in Kampong Gelam through an online survey.

KGA will also be organising “walkshops” in the coming months for interested members of the public to provide more in-depth feedback on the draft Place Plan. Participants can provide place-specific views on topics such as enhancing public spaces and connectivity.

More details will be announced at a later date on at KGA’s Facebook page.

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