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The end of the Tang dynasty?

By Leong Wee Keat, TODAY
14 September 2007

SINGAPORE - The forlorn silence at the Tang Dynasty City in Jurong could, come January, be replaced by the rumblings of bulldozers.

Just months after it seemed the former tourist draw might be given a new lease of life as a Shaolin attraction, hope of a rescue now seems extinguished, as a call went out for consultants for the demolition works.

On Tuesday, landlord JTC Corporation called for an expression of interest from those keen to provide civil and structural consultancy services for the project.

In the document posted on GeBiz, the Government's e-procurement portal, JTC said the consultant is to provide a scope of services.

The project schedule states that the tender for demolition works will be launched in December, with the tearing-down to start next January and expected to be completed "not later than March 2009".

Built at a cost of $100 million and opened in 1992, the 12ha theme park — the size of 18 football fields — was a re-creation of the Tang dynasty capital, Chang-An.

But high admission charges, lacklustre attractions and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which saw tourist arrivals plunge, contributed to its closure in 1999.

Efforts to revive the theme park fell through in 2001. Then in April this year, talk emerged of a possible new breath of life.

Three Singapore companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to bring the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple legacy and culture, and its famed warrior monks, here in the form of a new tourist attraction. The Tang Dynasty City was cited as a possible site for the proposed "holistic lifestyle holiday retreat".

When contacted on Thursday, Mr Poh Choon Ann, chairman of Poh Tiong Choon Logistics, one of the three local companies, declined comment. The spokesman for Straco Corporation, another company involved, said there had been "no developments" since the MOU was signed in April.

Property analyst Donald Han said the land has been gazetted for entertainment use. The managing director of Cushman & WakeField pointed out that JTC could be looking at readapting the use of the site — located in the middle of the Jurong industrial estate — for "more productive purposes".

Mr Han said: "The Tang Dynasty City has been dormant for a very long time. It is of better consideration for the Government to convert it to other uses than to leave it for entertainment use on its current basis."

The Tang Dynasty City today seems a pale shadow of its once-majestic self. When TODAY visited, the theme park's 3-m-high wall was unscrubbed, and barricades put up across its gates to stop trespassers had fallen apart. Inside, broken glass and pieces of furniture littered the floor.

While the gates no longer allow visitors in, the car park has become a favourite for heavy vehicles and Malaysian buses. The parking attendant, who has worked there a-year-and-a-half, said she had seen groups of students entering the Tang Dynasty City. A fence put up around the walls was also cut open last month, she added.

Ms Cindy Lim, who works as a supermarket cashier nearby, said: "It's good that the authorities are finally doing something to it. "The area is quite big and it seems a waste of land if nothing is done." - TODAY/fa

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