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.’
Source : Straits Times - 30 Oct 2007