Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heeren, Park Hotel Orchard Next In Line For Facelifts

Source : The Straits Times, March 9, 2009

Works follow recently completed spruce-up of Orchard Road

TWO Orchard Road landmarks - The Heeren and Park Hotel - will be given facelifts in the coming months, hot on the heels of a recent spruce-up of Singapore's main shopping strip.

The $40 million makeover of Orchard Road involved adding new street furniture, repaving pedestrian walkways and widening the walkway outside Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City. The 10-month project was aimed at rejuvenating Singapore's main shopping strip. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

The open-air area in front of The Heeren will be torn down by May and replaced with a 15m-tall, stand-alone glass structure, which will contain at least 3,500 sq ft of commercial space.

Two tenants have been confirmed: the cafe New York New York and fast-food outlet McDonald's, which will house their kitchens in the basement.

The proposed glass structure is a single-level, high-ceilinged one, but The Heeren's management hopes to get permission to make it a two-storey one to accommodate more food outlets.

The mall's marketing communications manager Roland Lim estimates that the project, to be completed by year end, will cost $20 million.

'Since so many new malls are coming up, it's time for The Heeren to refresh its facade. We attract a trendy, youth-oriented crowd, so we have to upgrade regularly to keep up with the times,' he said.

Park Hotel Orchard, a short distance away and diagonally opposite Ngee Ann City, also has renovation plans running into 'several' million dollars for the hotel and its space fronting Orchard Road.

The last of its six tenants, Swensen's and Party World KTV, will move out by the end of this month. Starbucks, HSBC, a jewellery shop and a Japanese restaurant have already done so.

In their place will come high-end boutiques that will take up the 83,000 sq ft in its retail podium. The list of new tenants has not been confirmed.

The Park Hotel Group declined to confirm the timeframe for the project, but industry sources said it would likely start by the end of this month and finish by next year.

The revamps of these buildings follow the now-completed $40 million makeover of Orchard Road, which added new street furniture, repaved pedestrian walkways, and widened the walkway outside Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City.

Meanwhile, Paragon Shopping Centre recently underwent its own $45 million facelift, while works are still ongoing at the Meritus Mandarin hotel's retail arcade, Mandarin Gallery, to create 215,000 sq ft of retail space.

Elsewhere on the strip, shoppers are awaiting the opening of new malls Ion Orchard, 313@Somerset and Orchard Central, all due this year.

Industry observers had mixed reactions to the upgrading plans of The Heeren and Park Hotel Orchard.

Singapore Retailers Association executive director Lau Chuen Wei said timing may be an issue. 'We don't really know how long this recession will last. Landlords will have to offer very appealing rental rates to get tenants in.'

But Mr Steven Goh, spokesman for the Orchard Road Business Association, was more optimistic, saying the development plans showed 'a long-term view and commitment to Orchard Road'.

The proposed Scotts Square underground link to the Orchard MRT station was another example of this, he added.

As part of the residential and retail development in Scotts Road, the underground link is a step towards creating a pedestrian network below Orchard Road.

'Orchard Road brand' in the works

NOW that the $40 million Orchard Road makeover is done, the Orchard Road Business Association has big plans for the strip.

Chief among them is coming up with an 'Orchard Road brand', and running more streetwide shopping promotions.

The association is still in talks with the Singapore Tourism Board on these plans, but has already hired a consultant to start on the branding exercise.

Its spokesman Steven Goh told The Straits Times that the idea was to create an identity and logo that can be used for group events and the development of future marketing campaigns.

Plans are also afoot to add two more seasons to the shopping calendar.

Currently, the peak shopping seasons fall during the Chinese New Year at the beginning of the year, the Great Singapore Sale in the middle of the year, and the year-end Christmas season.

To make up for the cutback in consumer spending during this downturn, the association wants to perk up the in-between quiet periods with streetwide promotions in May and August.

The May promotion, to celebrate the recent makeover, will feature a fashion show on the longest catwalk here, which will stretch from Wisma Atria to Ngee Ann City. Shopping and dining offers, events and street entertainment are in the works.

The August promotion will see similar offerings and may be tied to the F1 season in September.

'Tourist numbers are down and we just hope that more Singaporeans can spend more here,' said Mr Goh.


'It's time for The Heeren to refresh its facade. We attract a trendy, youth-oriented crowd, so we have to upgrade regularly to keep up with the times.'

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