It took more than a year and some $90 million, but the once tired-looking Chinatown Point retail and office complex is back in business, complete with a major supermarket and snazzy new features.
The 20-year-old mall is in Chinatown's Hong Lim Park area, which is enjoying a new lease of life with classy hotels such as Parkroyal on Pickering springing up. The mall has been open for just over a month since a soft launch following a major facelift.
The revamped mall, which wows shoppers with a dome-shaped ceiling, carpeting on some levels and a giant LED screen outside one of the entrances, will be fully operational by June. By then it will also boast another attraction for mallgoers - a1,000 sq m National Library branch.
But already, the mall is bustling with curious crowds enjoying the fact that more than half its 170 shops spread out over five floors are open. Anchor tenants include Daiso and FairPrice, which have already opened, while luxury watch retailer Cortina is also among the new tenants whose doors are open.
Indeed, a spokesman for Perennial (Singapore) Retail Management, which runs the mall, says it hopes to attract around 18 million shoppers in its first year of operations. Perennial Chinatown Point purchased the mall for $250 million from City Developments in 2010.
Retail mall veteran Pua Seck Guan, executive chairman of Perennial Real Estate Holdings, put together a consortium that includes German fund manager SEB, NTUC FairPrice and Singapore Press Holdings for this venture.
And mallgoers give it the thumbs-up. Mother-of-two Cindy Kiu, in her 50s, who works at a hospitality school in the area, tells SundayLife!: "The old mall was very dull. Every clothing shop seemed to be selling the same things. It wasn't run down, but it wasn't very vibrant.
"The retail mix is better now. There are more eateries, and more trendy shops such as Spectacle Hut. It seems to cater more to youngsters and office people. It's also very open and more compact, so it makes the mall look busier."
Customer service executive Ivan Loh, 26, who also works nearby, says the revamp is a "big improvement". He is especially wowed by the carpeted floors: "It looks more posh, and reminds me of I12@Katong because it also has carpets. When more shops are open, I will come here more often."
And though he does not work in the area, shoppers such as programme developer Ivan Chua, 32, are drawn by outlets like Thye Moh Chan, a traditional Teochew bakery that was recently bought by BreadTalk. It is a new tenant at Chinatown Point.
Mr Chua says: "A lot of shops are not open yet, but it looks more clean and spacious, and there are more shops too, like Thye Moh Chan. I may come here to buy stuff from the bakery."
Targeting professionals, managers, executives and businessmen, the 312,000 sq ft mall also hopes to draw families and tourists. And long-time retailers such as French menswear brand Montagut, which has had a branch at the mall since 2006, say the revamp has done the mall a world of good. Montagut's regional marketing manager Felicia Kwa notes that the change in the layout of the mall has made a big difference.
She says: "Before the revamp, the structure of the mall was such that there were two podiums and they were shaped like a spiral. It was very tiring to explore the mall. One of the podiums has been converted into a flat space, including the part where we are located, so it's easier to move around now."
She adds that the "major change" in the tenant mix has also helped: "There are more F&B outlets like Toast Box and other restaurants, which always pulls in the crowds, and there is also a FairPrice downstairs. My staff have been seeing more crowds after FairPrice opened, especially during lunchtime."
Mr Alvin Goo is general manager for The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Singapore, which has operated a branch at Chinatown Point for 14 years. He says: "Although not all shops are operating yet, we see a consistent flow of customers patronising our store. The new tenant mix and the layout of the mall seem to enhance the shopping and dining experience as we notice an increasing flow of traffic to the mall."
One new tenant is the Select Group, which opened four eateries and a restaurant at Chinatown Point on New Year's Day, including Chinese restaurant Peach Garden and Thai eatery Lerk Thai. Executive director Jack Tan notes that the mall is opposite an MRT station and in a tourist area, adding: "There are a lot of offices there and a hotel beside it. And in future, there will be a direct link from the MRT to the mall. Based on their previous projects like I12@Katong, we have confidence that Perennial will make this place happening."
Montagut's Ms Kwa also expressed confidence that it will go from strength to strength: "The crowd is increasing day by day. I think the mall will have a very good Chinese New Year."
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on January 13, 2012. For similar stories, go to . You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.