An independent cinema, hawker stalls and multiple event spaces are set to take over the 48,200 sq ft open-air carpark in Grange Road as part of major efforts to rejuvenate the Orchard Road area.
Mainboard-listed Lendlease Global Commercial Reit (LReit) announced its plans yesterday after winning the tender to redevelop the site at the junction of Grange Road and Somerset Road into a multi-functional event space.
The joint tender to redevelop the carpark, which is expected to cease operating later this year, was called by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last October.
The event space is set to be operational in the second quarter of 2022.
LReit said it is collaborating with live entertainment company Live Nation to create a calendar of concerts, film and events to ensure that the site is active all year round. It also intends to launch an experiential food culture and history attraction, and work with independent cinema operator The Projector.
The development project is estimated to cost around $10 million and will be designed by DP Architects, the home-grown firm behind buildings such as Our Tampines Hub. It is one of the largest architectural practices around the world.
SLA, STB and URA said in a joint statement yesterday that the tender was awarded to LReit for its "innovative lifestyle concepts and strong pipeline of programmes and events".
The use of state land such as the Grange Road carpark for ad hoc events was first mooted in 2017 to bring the buzz back to Singapore's premier shopping belt, and the Grange Road redevelopment is part of the Government's long-term plan to make the shopping belt more pedestrian-friendly.
But the Grange Road event space will need to have unique and consistent offerings in order to be a real success and attract visitors to Orchard Road, youth and experts told The Sunday Times. They noted that Singapore already has many multi-purpose event spaces, some of which are quite new and have been struggling for footfall even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
A few of these spaces, like *Scape and Design Orchard, are located in the same area, and previous events held at Grange Road did not seem to have high human traffic, said project engineer Isdiyanah Puteri, 24.
"If (the events) tie in with concerts or new movie releases, it will be able to attract a different crowd each time, and people will know that it's the go-to (place) for new things. But this also means that it will need to be kept up to date," she added.
Postgraduate student Goh Wei Hao said LReit's proposed collaboration with The Projector would be the main draw for him, as he is a fan of the events and screenings held by the independent cinema operator in Golden Mile Tower.
"It'll be nice if (the screenings) are in a more easily accessible area (like Orchard) as that will increase the number of screenings I go for," the 26-year-old said, adding that this space could also be an opportunity for the developer to work with organisations that are badly affected by the pandemic.
Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said an independent cinema could have "an ongoing series of foreign language offerings and movies of low-budget independent movie makers in Singapore and the region".
Stores and events could be youth-focused, giving opportunities to local performing artists and clothing designers, as well as having a rotating slate of pop-up stores for home-based caterers and bakers. But the profit potential of such operations may not match the expectations for what is likely a very expensive piece of real estate, he cautioned.
As for Orchard Road, just livening up this one space is not going to be enough to drive the rejuvenation of the district, "as the fundamental outcome is just more competition for the existing malls", though it could help by boosting foot traffic.
"An important consideration should be how to seamlessly blend the use of the space into the online environment... and to have an engaging social media presence for the cinema, food and beverage, and event offerings," Dr Ramaswami said.