Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chinatown Point to get $75m makeover

CHINATOWN Point's ageing facade and dated interior are set to undergo a $75 million makeover that will give it a modern Chinese-themed ambience.

The facelift - which will be carried out in phases and completed by June 2013 - was given the go-ahead after a unanimous vote by subsidiary proprietors at the development's annual general meeting yesterday.

Mr Pua Seck Guan, chief executive of Perennial Real Estate, which acquired a large portion of Chinatown Point in October as part of a consortium that includes German fund manager SEB, NTUC FairPrice and Singapore Press Holdings, said the project could represent one of the most major upgradings of a mixed-use strata-titled development here.

'It's exciting yet challenging... When they first built this building about 20 years ago, there was no MRT. But in the last few years, train lines have come to the doorstep of this building, and that's where we see the potential of this project,' he added.

Chinese elements, such as paper fan and chopstick-inspired designs, will blend with high-tech plasma screens and advertising panels on the mall's exterior facade, Perennial said.

The proposed works to the retail mall and 25-storey office block will be carried out in phases, starting in the second quarter of next year, and the mall will remain open throughout the upgrade.

The revitalised site is expected to accommodate trades closely associated with the Chinatown area and feature travel agencies, traditional goldsmiths and jewellers, Chinese food and delicacies, Chinese medical halls, Chinese arts and crafts, and electronics.

'We want to capture the opportunity to create a mall which has a bit of character. Already, it has its own catchment... We just need to assemble them into a stronger concept, offer a better environment and a more professional marketing and management approach,' Mr Pua said.

FairPrice is expected to be a supermarket anchor tenant in the basement, while the BreadTalk Group has expressed strong interest in introducing concepts such as its Food Republic foodcourt and Taiwanese Din Tai Fung restaurant.

Other improvement works will see the mall's basement connecting directly to Chinatown MRT station, and about 20,000 sq ft dedicated to civic and community institutions, with an independent Chinese library being a possible candidate.

The rejuvenation will see the mall's net lettable area increase by 18 per cent to 205,000 sq ft.

And average rents, currently less than $10 per sq ft (psf) per month, are likely to increase to an average of $15 psf per month when the rejuvenation is complete, Mr Pua said.

Over at the office tower, the lobbies, lifts, toilets and amenities will also be upgraded.

Current retail tenants welcome the planned improvements, but some are concerned about the expected rent rises.

A tenant who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan, who has operated Art Gallery 3 at Chinatown Point for almost 20 years, hopes the number of shoppers will increase after the enhancement works to make up for any increase in rent.

'Tourists know that they should come here to find Chinese handicrafts... I hope that the handicraft centre and the character of the place will be kept even after the renovations. If they do it well, hopefully we'll see more customers coming in,' she said.

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