Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eye On Ion

Source : The Straits Times, July 21, 2009

Orchard's newest mall is not only striking, but more than 70 per cent of its stores are also new

At 640,000 sq ft, Ion Orchard is far smaller than VivoCity and Ngee Ann City.

Ion Orchard has many entry points. -- ST PHOTOS: SAMUEL HE

But the hype and expectations surrounding Singapore's newest mall are much larger than its size might suggest, not least because of its literally flashy appearance and prime location at the busiest junction of Orchard Road.

Some analysts say it could change the shopping experience in Orchard Road when it opens its doors today.

More than 70 per cent of its 335 stores will be new to Singapore. Among them are jeweller-to-the-stars Harry Winston, Italian label DSquared2, Spanish high street label Bershka, Chinese sportswear retailer Li-Ning and Australian shoe company Rubi Shoes.

Ion Orchard's soft opening comes 2 1/2 years after its ground breaking in 2006. The mall is part of a $2-billion retail and residential development called Orchard Turn, which is a joint venture between CapitaLand, Singapore's biggest developer, and Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Properties, one of the largest developers in Asia.

Ion Orchard has many entry points and all the shops, including American footwear label Steve Madden (left) can also be accessed easily. -- ST PHOTO: SAMUEL HE

About 70 per cent of the stores open today and 90 per cent will be opened by the mall's official opening in October. The remaining 10 per cent will open by next year.

The eight-storey mall is within a 218m-tall, 56-storey luxury building. The other 48 floors will contain 175 high-end apartments called The Orchard Residences, which will be completed by next year. About 84 per cent has been sold. Last month, an apartment sold for $3,299 psf.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Orchard Turn chief executive Soon Su Lin says the opening of the mall is a 'significant milestone that heralds new beginnings for Orchard Road'.

She adds that the vision for Ion Orchard is to create an icon befitting its unmatched location at the gateway to one of Asia's most vibrant shopping strips.

While the public loos (left) are spacious and grand, the $10,000 VIP restroom is even more upscale. The toilet comes with an automates seat cover that lifts up when the the user enters and closes after use.

The aim could be achieved even though VivoCity at 1.04 million sq ft and Ngee Ann City at 1.1 million sq ft are larger.

Looks-wise, Ion is striking. It was designed by Hong Kong-based architect David Buffonge, a director of Benoy architecture firm.

He says he was inspired by the history of the site - it was an orchard about 160 years ago.

'The seed and skin of a fruit form the facade of the building, while the residential tower is the stem,' he says. The facade can be a canvas for multimedia art as well as a screen for live telecasts of events held within the complex.

Inside, the ceiling on the fourth floor has a distinctive grid-like pattern which Mr Buffonge likens to the veins on a palm leaf.

While the public loos are spacious and grand, the $10,000 VIP restroom (left) is even more upscale. The toilet comes with an automates seat cover that lifts up when the the user enters and closes after use.

Four levels of shops are above ground and another four are under. There are no nooks and crannies which obscure shopfronts, and all shops can be seen and accessed easily.

'I made the design compact, so no one will get lost,' says Mr Buffonge.

Levels 1 to 4 are dedicated to luxury and premium international brands while levels B1 to B4 offer popular high-street labels and lifestyle shops.

Foodies will love that more than 21 per cent of the mall is dedicated to food and dining. Once in full swing, Ion will have 28 restaurants and cafes, a food hall with 80 stalls and about 60 dining options that are new here.

Among them is Itacho Sushi, a well-known sushi chain from Hong Kong making its debut here.

Its administration manager, Ms Zoe Tan, says: 'Ion Orchard is the newest mall, so opening our first restaurant here will have greater impact.'

She adds that the company plans to open four more outlets next year, but has not decided where.

Ion's design also has many access points, making it convenient to get in and out of it, whether you are driving or commuting on public transport.

There is a spacious drop-off area on Level 2, which also leads to the carparks. On street level, shoppers enter the mall's first level. The mall is connected to Orchard MRT station on basement two. On this level, there is also a underground walkway called Ion Paterson Link that takes pedestrians from the Orchard MRT Station to Paterson Road across the street, where Wheelock Place is located. The underpass is open 24 hours.

The mall has 516 parking lots on Levels 5 to 8 as well as valet parking service.

Secretary Maggie Leow, 37, is excited about the new mall. 'I heard so much about it, I definitely want to check it out after work,' she says.

Next year, visitors will have more to do at Ion besides shopping and dining. A double-storey observation deck located on the 55th and 56th floors will open.

Shoppers can access it via a separate lift lobby from the residences.

Called Ion Sky, it will offer a panoramic view of the city.


You know you are someone when you use one of two $10,000 toilet bowls in Ion Orchard.

There are two special restrooms tucked away discreetly on Level 2. They each have their own small sitting area, decorated with a chandelier, black-and-gold wallpaper, black marble flooring and a full-height mirror.

There is only one cubicle in each restroom, decked out in gold and brown glass mosaic tiles, with warm lighting. The toilet is a fancy Toto Neorest unit, which costs more than $10,000. Its seat cover automatically lifts up when a user approaches and closes after use.

Only VIP guests, defined by an Ion spokesman as 'dignitaries and celebrities', may use these restrooms which are locked. Luxury brand stores will inform the concierge about the VIPs, who are then escorted to the loos.

The public restrooms in Ion are not shabby, either. In fact, they may well be the poshest ones in Orchard Road. Each restroom is spacious and comes adorned with vases of fresh flowers. One women's restroom that Life! saw had 15 cubicles.

Women will also love the vanity table near the hand basins and huge swivel mirrors on the table for make-up.

The men's toilets are less spacious and do not have vanity tables, but they still boast the same posh marble flooring.

The public restrooms are located on all levels of the mall, except B2, L1 and L2.

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