Makeover to add night buzz to S’pore River

Makeover to add night buzz to S’pore River


Walkways, trees and water will be bathed in light in time for upcoming river-centred activities


By Lim Wei Chean & Tessa Wong


THE Singapore River is getting its biggest makeover since 1999, when $16 million was spent to improve the pedestrian walkways there.


Work, to begin next month, will be geared towards creating a night-time buzz along the historic, 3km stretch from the river mouth inland.


The makeover – the first comprehensive one of the waterfront attractions – will be anchored by new lighting which will evoke the magic of being out at night:


The trees on the water’s edge will be lit up and ‘jellyfish’ lights will gleam on the water; the sidewalks will be bathed in subtle light and landing points for river taxis will also be lit.


The lights on the bridges will even be programmable to match festivals or seasons.


New street furniture and street signs will be put in place to create a backdrop for a line-up of river-centred activities like the Singapore River Festival in September, a two-week jamboree that will feature a mega-concert, river float parade, outdoor parties and other events.


By the time the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix race rolls around – also in that month – the work will be two-thirds done.


Asked why the focus is on creating buzz for the riverfront by night, Mrs Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), explained that Singapore’s sweltering daytime temperatures are not conducive to walks by the river, ‘so it makes sense for us to create a vibrant night life’ for the cooler evenings.


Indeed, although the Singapore River has for years been touted as one of the ‘must-see’ free attractions, a 2006 survey by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) revealed that only 7 per cent of tourists polled visited it.


The same survey had the Orchard Road shopping strip topping the list of free attractions, with 73 per cent of polled tourists beating a path there, and 51 per cent to Chinatown.


Neither the STB nor URA could be persuaded to say how much the improvements, first announced in 2006, will cost, but STB‘s assistant chief executive of leisure Margaret Teo let on that the project will ‘run into the millions’, although it would still ‘cost less than’ the $40 million poured into renovations for Orchard Road.


The budget nonetheless reflects the latest effort to rejuvenate the riverfront, which was given a $170 million clean-up in the 1980s to get rid of its pong and to lift it above being a waterway for Singapore‘s early commerce.


While riverfronts in other countries are key attractions for tourists and locals, the fortunes of the attractions on the banks of the Singapore River have waxed and waned.


Boat Quay itself has undergone smaller-scale revamps; the constant flux in shops and restaurants there hint at businesses’ low staying power.


Mr Mohan Mulani, the chief executive of Harry’s Holdings which owns Harry’s Bar there, said: ‘One gets the feeling that Boat Quay is very rundown. It is like the necklace of Singapore, and it could be a beautiful necklace shimmering by the water.’


A revamp is long overdue, he added.


Businesses like his will be included in a programme by the STB and URA to provide seed funding to merchants there to develop events on the river all year round.


Cruise operators will also be increasing river taxi and cruise services along the river.


Equity salesman Teo Kian Boon, 30, hopeful that the makeover will make a difference, said: ‘Maybe all these will finally turn us into Venice of the East.’


Source: Straits Times

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