SINGAPORE: New plans for Orchard Road will aim to transform Singapore's main shopping belt into a "must-visit" lifestyle destination, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and National Parks Board (NParks) Jan 30).
These plans include future mixed-use developments at the upcoming Thomson East Coast Line Orchard Interchange MRT station and the opening of a local design showcase and incubator Design Orchard.
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Authorities are also looking at pedestrianizing a section of Orchard Road to link up existing green spaces at the Istana Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green and the open space at Plaza Singapura.
This announcement follows a review of the future plans for Orchard Road by STB, URA and NParks, together with the Land Transport Authority.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Design Orchard, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that as the concept of shopping changes, so should Orchard Road.
"Shopping is going to change and constantly evolve as a concept," said Mr Chan, who is also co-chair of the ministerial steering committee for Orchard Road. "This is the place where we hope that new shopping experiences, new products, new services, new ideas will be incubated, from here to the rest of the world.
We hope that Orchard Road will continue to be a place where people want to come and see new products and new ideas. "
Consultations with private sector stakeholders were also held during the exercise, along with a study led by Cistri urban planning consultancy firm.
"All cities have their own popular shopping streets and neighborhoods. In Singapore, Orchard Road is our premier shopping district. But it is facing stiff competition from other cities, and has to adapt to rapidly changing retail trends, "said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of the ministerial steering committee for Orchard Road, in a press statement.
"That's why government agencies have been working with private sector stakeholders on the rejuvenation plans for Orchard Road. We have put together these ideas to illustrate the possibilities of making Orchard a place for everyone to experience and enjoy. "
"UNIQUE IDENTITY" OF THE ORCHARD SUB-PRECINCTS
In order to strengthen Orchard Road's position as a lifestyle destination, the plans aim to provide the unique sub-districts – Tanglin, Orchard, Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut.
At Tanglin for example, the conserved Tudor Court could house more arts, cultural and lifestyle offerings in order to highlight its identity as a neighborhood with a "strong art and artisanal flavor".
Orchard, on the other hand, will remain the "retail heart of Singapore", but plans will further improve the shopping experience by providing more street activities and better pedestrian connectivity.
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For one, the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) will start a one-year trial, beginning April this year, to bring in activities to enliven event spaces along the pedestrian malls in Orchard Road. These activities could range from retail and food & beverage pop-ups to arts and entertainment events.
Speaking to reporters, ORBA chairman Mark Shaw said that the initiatives were "pretty good" but pointed out that it would be important for all parties involved to work together in order for these plans to materialise.
"We think the ideas are pretty good but we feel some of that can be hard to implement, but we'll see how it goes," he said. "Getting the cooperation between the various landlords, mall owners, stakeholders on the street – that's really going to be the biggest challenge."
There will also be future mixed-use developments built at the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line Orchard Interchange MRT station, and these developments will be linked to Orchard Road through side streets.
To improve connectivity, elevated link bridges could make it easier for visitors to cross the junction of Orchard Road and Paterson Road.
Underground tunnels now link the buildings to that junction, including Ion Orchard, Wheelock Place and Shaw House and Center.
The appeal of "youth hub" Somerset will be enhanced with the newly opened Design Orchard, said the various agencies. The retail space displays home-grown brands, provides incubation spaces and rooftop amphitheater.
This will "inject greater retail diversity into Orchard Road, as well as offer promising brands and unparalleled opportunity to present themselves in a world-class location", said URA, STB and NParks.
In order to set Orchard Road apart from other international shopping streets, there are also plans to "bring back the orchard" and turn it into a green urban corridor connecting Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park.
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New initiatives to make this happen could include a vibrant showcase of trees and shrubs as well as the rejuvenation of Istana Park with themed gardens inspired by Singapore's botanical and horticultural traditions and practices.
An exhibition on future plans for Orchard Road will be held at Orchard Fountain Corner from Wednesday to Feb 13, for members of the public to visit and share feedback. They can also do so at https://ura.sg/orchardrd until May 31.
"Orchard Road is not a 2.4km IPPT run. We are not aiming for people to pass through Orchard Road in nine minutes or 10 minutes, "said Mr Chan.
"We want people to come here, mingle and make sure they have a different experience at each and every turn," he added.