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  Straits Times 1 Nov 07
Not enough 'wow' in big makeover?
Businesses say overhaul is superficial and lacks impact
By Lim Wei Chean

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
Orchard Road set for a pedestrian-friendly overhaul

Business Times 30 Oct 07
Orchard Rd headed for $40m facelift

Today Online 30 Oct 07
$40-Million facelift for ...
Tan Hui Leng

Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 07
Orchard Road to undergo S$40m rejuvenation: STB

SINGAPORE: Orchard Road, Singapore's main shopping belt, is set to be transformed under a S$40 million plan.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced on Monday that works to rejuvenate the area will start in February next year.

Part of the rejuvenation plans is to expand pedestrian walkways and create Urban Green Rooms, which will be used for art exhibitions, mini performances or major events like the Chingay.

The Urban Green Rooms will be constructed at the existing lane along Orchard Road that faces ION Orchard, Wisma Atria and Meritus Mandarin Hotel.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has given the plan the green light after accessing traffic conditions on that specific stretch of Orchard Road.

LTA explained that based on pure traffic-lane balancing, the section of Orchard Road before the Scotts Road junction has three lanes moving forward, which is adequate for traffic to smoothly move into a four-lane road segment.

Chandra Sekar, Director of Community Partnership at LTA, said: "The build-up of traffic can be attributed to many reasons. Sometimes it could be due to breakdowns or it could be due to a surge in traffic demand for a certain time period when everyone decides to move down to Orchard Road for a particular purpose. However during normal times, the amount of road space provided can cater to the traffic movement."

Discussions are still on-going to decide if the lane facing Ngee Ann City will be turned into an Urban Green Room as well.

There will also be more greenery along the 2-kilometre Orchard Road.

The whole stretch of area will be divided into three themes flower theme in Tanglin Zone, forest theme at the Orchard Zone, and fruit theme at the Somerset Zone.

STB said Orchard Road attracts more than 7 million visitors annually so it is consistently ranked as Singapore's most-visited, free-access attraction.

Margaret Teo, Assistant CEO (Leisure), STB, said: "Going forward, we will be working more with them on new events given that we have more space, and we'll be looking at specific activities such as Late Night Shopping to see how we can improve and shape it."

STB expects the facelift to be completed in April 2009.

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
Orchard Road set for a pedestrian-friendly overhaul

1 vehicle lane to make way for wider walkways in $40m makeover

By Lim Wei Chean & Lin Xinyi

CARS will have to make way for pedestrians along a stretch of Orchard Road as part of a $40 million makeover of Singapore's premier shopping belt.

Work on the changes will start in February and be complete in April 2009.

By then, the extreme-right vehicle lane will become part of a wider pedestrian mall in the 270m stretch from the front of the new Ion Orchard and Wisma Atria.

Another 150m stretch in front of the Meritus Mandarin will also be given a wider walkway, but the Land Transport Authority has not decided whether this will also involve closing down one lane of the road or just a narrowing of the existing five lanes.

Besides the widening of the walkways, the makeover will also introduce new plants, ambient lighting, new paving for walkways and new street furniture.

Spaces such as the one created in front of Wisma Atria by the closing down of one vehicle lane will give pedestrians places to rest and catch performances.

More than seven million tourists visit the shopping belt annually, making it by far Singapore's most popular attraction.

The overhaul was announced as early as 2004 to prevent Singapore's premier retail street from losing its shine.

Plans included the sale of vacant sites for new malls, sprucing up the pedestrian experience and wooing more exciting retail concepts to set up shop there.

Sites like Orchard Turn and Somerset Turn, since sold, are being developed.

And yesterday, Singapore Tourism Board revealed details of how a walk down the shopping street will be made more pleasant.

STB's assistant chief executive for leisure Margaret Teo said that lighting fixtures will be installed to illuminate Orchard Road's lush greenery.

Three distinct zones, characterised by flower, forest and fruit themes, will also be created from Tanglin Mall down to Le Meridien, to add variety.

Retailers along the strip hailed the news of the makeover.

Hilton Singapore's director of sales and marketing Ailynn Seah, referring to the excitement whipped up over Marina Bay with the coming of the integrated resort and the Formula One race, said: 'A lot of attention has been put there of late. But these changes will put Orchard Road back on the map.'

Paragon's deputy general manager of marketing Patrina Tan added that although this is a 'good starting point', 'eventually, good service levels at the shops are what will set us apart'.

When asked how the loss of one vehicle lane would affect traffic flow down the busy road, the Land Transport Authority's director of community partnership Chandrasekar Palanisamy said it would not affect traffic adversely, since the right-most lane is now not used much anyway.

Knight Frank's director of retail Danny Yeo said that if one lane of traffic could be shut down, features like a tram or cable car to transport people from one end of the strip to the other could also be incorporated. Better signs are also needed, he said.

'Tourists now think of Orchard Road as just Orchard MRT station. But that is not it. There is Somerset MRT too, an area which will become very powerful once the new developments there open.'

Business Times 30 Oct 07
Orchard Rd headed for $40m facelift
More room for arts and cultural events; mall enhancement tender due in Nov
By Nisha Ramchandani

ORCHARD Road is set for a $40 million facelift that will include state-of-the-art lighting, additional spaces for arts and cultural events and a more engaging pedestrian mall, in a bid to attract more local and foreign visitors.

The rejuvenation plans, which was initially outlined in 2005, were rolled out yesterday by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), ahead of a tender for the main mall enhancement construction work. The tender will be called early next month.

Orchard Road already attracts more than seven million foreign visitors each year and the STB is confident that the makeover will push up the number of visitors. 'Amid a rapidly changing global landscape, Orchard Road needs to go one notch up in order to boost its standing as Singapore's prime shopping and lifestyle hub,' said Margaret Teo, assistant chief executive (Leisure) for the STB.

The Orchard Road enhancements are the collective work of the STB, the National Parks, Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which worked with Cox Group (Australia) to create the designs and plans. The Orchard Road Business Association and several stakeholders of Orchard Road were also consulted.

Three zones have been identified - Tanglin, Orchard and Somerset - which will feature flower, forest and fruit themes respectively. All three zones will boast enhanced road and pedestrian mall lighting to emphasise the trees and foliage. In addition, multi-functional lampposts and street furniture such as granite benches, stainless steel-clad waste bins and bollards will be installed.

A short stretch of the pedestrian mall outside ION Orchard and Wisma Atria will be widened through a one-lane reduction. 'The section of Orchard Road before the Scotts Road junction has only three lanes of traffic moving forward into a four lane road segment.

'This does show capacity for smooth traffic movement. Likewise, there is a two-lane right-turn movement from Paterson Road into Orchard Road. A two-lane right-turn movement into a four-lane road will not lead to unnecessary delays.

'From a lane-balancing concept, the suggested lane reduction can be supported,' said Mr Chandrasekar, director of community partnerships for the LTA.

Preliminary work to divert underground cables and telecommunication lines began last month, but work on the pedestrian malls will kick off after Chinese New Year next year. The work is expected to be completed by April 2009.

Today Online 30 Oct 07
$40-Million facelift for ...
Tan Hui Leng

THE island's top shopping street is looking a little worse for wear.

But in one-and-a-half years, you may not recognise it after a $40-million facelift.

Picture, instead of heat rising off concrete sidewalks and old benches, little flowery oases instead. Or "green rooms" framed by Angsana trees and shrubs that provide a shady resting spot and art exhibition area.

This "rejuvenation" plan for the 2km stretch between Tanglin Mall and Le Meridien Singapore is yet another major phase in the slew of changes as evidenced by the clamour of construction activity on the strip these days that have been rapidly transforming the Orchard belt over the last two years.

From the redevelopment of old icons like Hotel Phoenix, to the springing up of new ones such as the ION Orchard, the introduction of late-night shopping to brands in the class of Jimmy Choo and Frank Muller, new vibrancy is being injected into the retail strip.

Yet where the public infrastructure is concerned, more clearly needs to be done to make what is already the island's top draw, with over 7 million foreign visitors each year, even more alluring.

"At the moment, its not as good as it could be," said Mr Quentin Parker, manager (Asia) of Cox Architects and Planners, the design consultant for the project.

"In many areas, planting is fairly basic and ordinary. Paving has been installed at different times in different sites, street furniture is in a variety of outdated forms and suffering from lack of maintenance other features are in a bad shape.

"This is not the image we want to associate with one of the world's best shopping streets," he added.

So, the plan according to the blueprints of a taskforce driven by agencies such as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the National Parks Board is to replace all the antiquated street furniture, position some artistic sculptures and install state-of-the-art accent lighting to illuminate the tree canopy at night.

The whole Orchard belt will be divided into three zones with distinctive themes. The Tanglin Zone will feature flower totem planters with blooms that change to reflect the seasons or festivals, as well as a gateway of crimson-flowered Frangipani trees.

The spicy scents of cinnamon and nutmeg in the Somerset Zone, on the other hand, will be a whiff of history the trees to be planted reflect the area's early years as a plantation.

Finally, the Orchard Zone will become a forest haven of sorts, with "urban green rooms" sheltered from the elements by both foliage and glass panels. These niches can be used as exhibition or performance areas, and as seating areas when events, such as the Chingay Parade, are staged.

To facilitate this, the pedestrian mall fronting ION Orchard, Wisma Atria and Meritus Mandarin Hotel will be widened. The Land Transport Authority gave its assurance that this would not affect traffic conditions.

The tender for the mail mall enhancement works will be called next month and actual construction will start in late February, to be completed by April 2009.

Comprehensive plans to revitalise Orchard Road were first unveiled two years ago, by the Remaking Orchard Road Committee formed in 2003. Among the projects outlined was a new iconic building housing a public observation deck with 360-degree views the upcoming ION Orchard.

Two other prime sites were sold by the Urban Redevelopment Authority last year, to increase the number of shopping options. Various existing malls have undergone recent upgrades or renovations, such as Wisma Atria, Tangs, Centrepoint, Tanglin Mall, Lucky Plaza and The Heeren Shops, with the URA relaxing guidelines and dangling incentives to encourage building refurbishment in the Orchard area.

Last December, three major junctions along Orchard Road became part of a colourful plan to set the city aglow after dark, with imagery and lights projected on the road.

The Orchard Road makeover is in tune with upbeat sentiments as the island aims to attract 17 million visitor arrivals and $30 billion in tourism receipts by 2015 particularly with the debut of two Integrated Resorts, the Singapore Flyer and the Singapore Grand Prix.

"We expect more visitors to come to Orchard Road to experience the changes and have a better time," said STB's assistant chief executive for leisure, Ms Margaret Teo. "But more importantly, where tourists and locals are concerned, we'd like them to spend more at Orchard Road given the happier and more vibrant environment."

2Straits Times 1 Nov 07
Not enough 'wow' in big makeover?
Businesses say overhaul is superficial and lacks impact
By Lim Wei Chean

BUSINESSES are cheered by the $40 million overhaul to Orchard Road's pavements, street furniture and lighting, but they are also asking: 'Is that it?'

Mr Noel Hawkes, general manager of the now defunct Hotel Phoenix, said that, for a makeover that had been talked about for years, what was announced sounded like 'basic maintenance work'.

Looking to Marina Bay, soon to be home to theatres, exhibitions and conventions, an Integrated Resort with a casino, retail centre, offices, apartments, gardens and Formula One races, he warned that Orchard Road was becoming a street of ageing hotels and malls 'in serious danger of falling behind'.

Those who spoke to The Straits Times echoed his thoughts and expressed hope that the plans are just the 'first' of more facelifts.

Mr Steven Goh of the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) conceded that, though the $40 million budget is not something to sniff at, it will not be enough to pull off a makeover of greater impact.

Easily half the sum could be blown on the re-paving and lighting, leaving little left for features with a bigger 'wow' factor.

Examples of these include: more links between the malls and air-conditioned skybridges, a people-mover from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura and closing the entire stretch to cars.

Industry players also note that the planned works do not cover the entire length of Orchard Road.

Works stop at Le Meridien, leaving the footpaths down to the Istana and Plaza Singapura untouched.

They say that nutmeg trees, flower totem planters and glass panels are all pretty to look at, but are superficial changes that fail to address major bugbears: connectivity and traffic.

Knight Frank's director of retail Danny Yeo said links between malls are needed beyond those now in the Scotts Road/Orchard Road cluster.

Malls now being built are required to have connections: Ion Orchard, for example, will have an underpass linking it to Wisma Atria and Wheelock Place. But Mr Yeo said links are also needed between other malls farther down the road, so shoppers can move from one mall to another easily.

When asked about this, the Urban Redevelopment Authority put the onus on mall owners to make private agreements. It added that cash incentives have been offered to encourage this.

But Mr Goh said: 'The reality speaks for itself. If the incentives are good enough, there would be more taking it up, right?'

Paragon's deputy general manager of marketing Patrina Tan said that, to overcome the industry's resistance and inertia, the Government still needs to take the lead. She pointed out that when Paragon proposed a link to Ngee Ann City a few years ago, it was turned down. Shoppers were the ultimate losers, she said.

The other problem is traffic congestion.

The Singapore Retailers' Association's executive director Lau Chuen Wei, referring to plans to shut down one car lane from Ion Orchard to Wisma Atria to make a wider pedestrian walkway, was unconvinced by the Land Transport Authority's assurance that it would not affect traffic flow.

'Nothing is being done to improve it either,' she said, noting that the jams were making people think twice about shopping there.

She added that unless more were to be done, the makeover plans would just be about 'pretty packaging' that did not go far enough to put Singapore's premier shopping belt on the world map.

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