$40m Orchard Road facelift put off till next month

$40m Orchard Road facelift put off till next month


Talks between malls, tourism board drag on over impact of works on businesses


By Tessa Wong & Lim Wei Chean


THE great $40 million Orchard Road makeover has stalled because some mall owners are objecting to some aspects of the works.


The revamp of Singapore‘s premier shopping street was supposed to have begun in the middle of last month, after Chinese New Year, but will now not go ahead till next month at the earliest.


The Straits Times understands that the delay is the result of talks between the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Orchard Road businesses dragging on for longer than expected.


One sticking point appears to be in the details of the makeover, although most of the mall owners believe the revamp is overdue.


The makeover, announced last October, involves introducing new plants and flowers, as well as new street furniture and lighting along the thoroughfare, which will be divided into three sections themed along the lines of fruit, flower and forest.


Sections of the pedestrian walkways from Tanglin Mall to Le Meridien hotel will be repaved, and the right-most road lane will be closed to create a wider walkway in front of Ion Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City and the Meritus Mandarin hotel.


This one-lane closure is among the mall owners’ chief concerns.


A spokesman for a major shopping mall who did not want to be identified called the closure a ‘double whammy’ for the area, which already experiences frequent vehicular- and human-traffic jams.


‘There’s a bottleneck at the Paterson Road area because of massive work being done for Ion Orchard, and lots of congestion at Somerset too. The problem of pedestrian traffic will be compounded with the widening works,’ said the spokesman.


The owners of some other malls and hotels are also upset that they have not been given details such as when, where and for how long hoardings will be erected.


Ms Lau Chuen Wei, executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association, said these businesses are worried because not knowing these details, and also how high the hoardings will be, means they do not know how traffic into the area will be impeded – or how their businesses will be affected.


But at least two malls – Ngee Ann City and Ion Orchard – have been given details of the works.


Another concern is how the upgrading works will affect July’s Great Singapore Sale (GSS) and the Christmas shopping season.


Businesses have also been reported as saying that although the $40 million budget for the works is not small, the makeover will still fail to address major issues such as the lack of sheltered connectivity between buildings and down the entire strip.


When contacted by The Straits Times, the STB confirmed that works have been pushed back till next month, but added that they will still end on schedule, in April next year.


Mr Andrew Phua, its director for cluster development (tourism shopping and dining), said in a statement: ‘These plans have been communicated to Orchard Road stakeholders as part of the STB‘s ongoing dialogue and engagement with its industry partners.’


The statement also assured mall owners that the GSS and Christmas shopping season will go ahead, but made no mention of whether they will be disrupted by the works.


This is not the first time mall owners have disagreed with the STB over plans to add polish to the area.


One suggestion last year for a glass canopy running down the stretch of the road was immediately shot down by mall owners, who said it would require too much maintenance.


Source: Straits Times


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