Sunday, August 19, 2012

Time out in town

Straits Times: Sun, Aug 19

With the opening of Marina Bay Financial Centre's (MBFC) Tower 3 earlier this month, working professionals in the Central Business District (CBD) have a slew of new places to flock to for a quick lunch, dinner meetings or drinks.

Other hotspots in the area include Asia Square, One Shenton Way andthe recently redeveloped Ocean Financial Centre.

The CBD, which used to be dead after work, is now buzzing with life at night.

This is what the Urban Redevelopment Authority had planned for back in the 1990s, when they put in place initiatives to develop the CBD into a lifestyle arena merging work and leisure.

They also wanted to mix residential, retail and office spaces, a concept that has clearly taken off in Marina Boulevard, with the Marina Bay Financial Centre office complex and neighbouring luxury condominium The Sail. The first wave of eateries to open in the area were in Marina Bay Link Mall which connects the financial centre to the Raffles Place MRT station.

New eateries that have opened at levels 1 and 2 of the centre's Tower 3 include French restaurant Chez Petit Salut and The Rotisserie. Anchor tenant DBS will occupy the entire level 3 by October, with about 4,800 staff.

Of the tenant mix, Ms Rose Tong, director of retail management for Raffles Quay Asset Management which is the asset manager of the centre and One Raffles Quay, says: "After the first phase of eateries opened at Marina Bay Link Mall, we wanted to make sure we selected cuisines that were not represented yet.

"We did not want any duplicates and also had to make sure that the new operators knew how to cater to corporate clients as well."

Banking on the increase in traffic flow with Tower 3's opening, the management behind microbrewery and restaurant LeVel 33 at Tower 1 will open Erwin's Gastrobar at the financial centre's Ground Plaza early next month.

It takes over the space vacated by Brawn Steakhouse and adds to the bustling crowd gathered at Harry's Bar and Boulevard Bayfront restaurant-bar for after-work drinks.

LeVel 33's director Martin Bem says: "Traffic is constantly increasing in the area and now with Tower 3's opening, we are looking to serve about 20,000 workers in the area. We were inspired by the urban cafes and gastrobars in the business districts of New York and Sydney."

The gastrobar will serve prosecco cocktails, among other drinks, and there will also be a new brewmaster joining the restaurant to present new drinks and gear up for the upcoming festive season.

Over at Asia Square, The Exchange now closes at midnight instead of 11pm previously, and also opens at 8am to cater to the breakfast crowd.

The restaurant's general manager Adrian Houghton says: "Business is already brisk but when all the offices are fully occupied, we will see even bigger crowds. The restaurant is always packed, and more so now with the longer opening hours."

These new eateries and cafes have also changed the way CBD executives conduct business.

Senior account executive Jasper Chen, 32, who works in Shenton Way, says: "Sometimes, we take our meetings out to the restaurants or speak to clients over drinks.

"The more relaxed environment puts everyone in a good mood and it's good to not be in the office all the time."

Business development manager Samantha Chen, 29, who also works in Shenton Way, says: "With more dining options which are suitable for entertaining clients, we do not need to travel too far for meetings. This makes things easier on both ends. If necessary, we can also do take-away or get food delivered."

In a recent report on the Marina Bay area, Mr Moray Armstrong, executive director of office services at property consultancy CBRE, says that "quality space" is available both in the CBD and Marina Bay area.

Rents are similar in both places because older buildings such as Ocean Financial Centre and One Raffles Place have recently been redeveloped, to face competition from the new Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3 and Asia Square.

The CBD is set to become even busier.

Other upcoming projects include The Westin Singapore Marina Bay hotel, slated to open by 2014 next to Asia Square, as well as residential developments V On Shenton and Cecil Suites.

Marketing manager Sharon Sng, 30, who works at the Marina Bay Financial Centre, says: "With so many people working and also living in the CBD, there will always be room for more casual eateries and restaurants.

"After all, you still see queues for food still. It would be good to have more food courts as well, for more affordable meals."

Systems analyst Christopher Chen, 28, who lives in Clementi, says the CBD has become his second home.

He says: "If I start work early and end late, I end up having all my meals in the area. Sometimes, my colleagues and I also go jogging around the One Fullerton area, so I have extra outfits and shoes in the office too.

"I definitely spend much more time here than at home."

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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