There are just three blocks of 16 storey flats in Commonwealth. However, residents of Commonwealth Close fondly recall Block 81, 82 and 83 of Commonwealth Close as Chap Lak Laos, or 16 storeys in Hokkien because of their commanding location. Built between 1962 and 1964, these 16 storey blocks of flats are situated on top of a hill, built to break the monotonous "matchbox" estate of ten storey flats. Commonwealth estate was the third to be completed after Queenstown Central (Margaret Drive) and Princess Estate (Strathmore and Dawson).
Commonwealth Chap Lak Laos estate in 1964
Block 81, one of the 16 storey blocks, was also known as the "Very Important Person" block because visiting dignitaries were brought here for a panoramic view of Queenstown and a showcase of Singapore's success in public housing of a model satellite town. Some of the prominent figures include Prince Philip (Prince Philip Avenue), Princess Alexandra (the lady who gave Alexandra Road her name), United States Vice President Spiro Agnew and the Emperor of Japan, Akihito.
Chap Lak Laos before residents moved in
Panoramic View from 16th Floor at Blk 81
The Commonwealth Heights neighbourhood was also a memorable place for the Housing Development Board. It was the place where HDB introduced its critically acclaimed "Home Ownership" scheme in 1964, where Singaporeans could use a portion of their Central Provident Fund to purchase HDB flats or "stake in the country." 2,068 two and three room flats were sold in Commonwealth, a key step in enabling Singaporeans to own their homes. So next time when the HDB spew out statistics of over 80% of Singaporeans owning their own flat, do remember it's Commonwealth Chap Lak Lao where they introduce the scheme!
Famous Lobby of Block 81 which welcomed numerous foreign dignitaries
Playground in front of Block 81
The Chap Lak Lao neighbourhood is a quiet and peaceful place to visit. Many residents whom MyQueenstown Team have spoken to are not eager to leave this place, for they could enjoy some breathtaking sceneries of Orchard and Queenstown from their cozy little apartment located on top of the hill.
Marvellous View of Tanglin Halt