Changi Village Hawker Centre

3 min read
Changi Village Road

The Changi Village Hawker Centre was built in 1975 as part of the government’s initiative to create a leisure and recreation district at the far flung eastern end of the island. Changi Point had been an idyllic village in the pre-war years when the British military moved in to set up bases. From 1927, a local settlement sprang up near these camps to cater to the needs of these military men and their families. It became their place of their recreation and provision shopping outside the camps. This enterprise became Changi Village.

Changi Village Road Changi Village, c. 1945. David Turner Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

After World War II, Changi Village continued its pre-war function as an off-base suburbia for the British troops stationed at Changi. The community had been a multicultural one, and the 1960s, they had all been part of the retail establishment that made Changi Village a convenient market place for the British military at Changi. By this time, Changi Village was also well-known for its cheap buys and a place for bargain hunters. In the 1960s, there was also a (street) “market” in the village with an open space that the Ministry of Culture screened movies for the villagers. There was also an “Amah’s Market” at Changi Village every Wednesday night when the shopkeepers brought down prices to compete with the market stallholders.

Then everything changed after 1967 when the British announced their withdrawal from Singapore by 1972. By 1971, after tens of thousands of British servicemen and dependants have mostly gone, the once blooming suburbia had become a struggling kampong. This was when the Singapore Government introduced plans to reinvent Changi Village, and the hawker centre was born as part of this initiative.

The plan was to create a population catchment in the district and to make the Changi Village a magnet for locals and tourists. While creating light industries in the Loyang area and the establishment of New Towns in the eastern part of the island would meet the first objective, the development of recreational areas in the district would complete the second. However, by 1973, the government found that the whole undertaking needed a further boost. Changi Point was turned into a resort destination in order to give the district “a new lease of life”, and a part of this new plan was to build a new housing estate at Changi Village with a modern market and hawker centre.

The new hawker centre was completed in 1975. By 1976, a cooked food centre with 74 stalls and a market with 78 stalls were operational. By the 1980s, the new hawker centre was most crowded during lunch time. It was thronged by soldiers and air force personnel from nearby camps, workers from the airport and the Loyang Industrial Estate. There were also the holiday-makers from the numerous holiday bungalows at Changi Point. In the evening, nearby residents formed the bulk of Changi Village’s patrons.

However, business volume at the new Changi Village did not return to the levels when the British military was still around. The shopkeepers around the market who returned when the new HDB blocks were built had also found the going tough.

By 2000, Changi Village Hawker Centre had become dated and required repairs. This was its first major revamp. The centre underwent another revamp a decade later in 2012 when it was closed for 10 months for upgrading.

Changi Village Hawker Centre shares a number of similarities with the other centres built during the 1970s. Like the centre at the East Coast Lagoon, it was also created with the intent of making it part of a seaside resort. And like the Lagoon, the centre struggled through the 1980s from low business volume.

Today, Changi Village Hawker Centre has become a dining place set within a laid back suburbia environ, where patrons of come for its popular cuisine which include the nasi lemak (Malay fragrant rice dish). In the evenings, crowds gather here to hang out and have their favourite foods and drinks. Despite renovations over the years, the hawker centre has retained its old charm and laid-back atmosphere. It has become an iconic part of Changi and a convenient stopover for weekend fishing enthusiasts from the region, as well as locals holidaying at the bungalows nearby.