As part of the Government’s wider plans to rejuvenate the well-known shopping belt in Singapore, a stretch of Orchard Road near Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station may be pedestrianised in the future, which could be used as an open play area or an ad-hoc event venue for festivals and fashion shows.
The move of closing the stretch of road between Buyong Road and Handy Road could become a reality if it garners positive responses from the public through a feedback exercise.
The proposed ideas were jointly announced on Wednesday (30 January) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the National Parks Board (NParks). A ministerial committee driving this project, co-chaired by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, was formed in September 2017.
Talk has been going on in the last few years to give Orchard Road a makeover after there were criticisms that the area has lost its attractiveness due to cookie-cutter malls housing similar brands and retailers, as well as suburban malls and online merchant grabbing shoppers away.
Mr Chan, referring to a physical fitness regime that soldiers do, explained: “Orchard Road is not a 2.4km IPPT run. We are not aiming for people to pass through Orchard Road in nine to 10 minutes. We want people to (go there) and linger and make sure that they have a different experience at each and every turn.”
The committee’s recommendations were made after a six-month, S$1.3 million study by Australian urban planning consultancy Cistri, as well as consultations with private-sector organisations.
Details of the proposed plans
- Segmentise Orchard Road into different themes like family-friend zone and artisanal flavour.
- Divide parts of Orchard Road into different coloured themes by planting flowering trees and shrubberies along the road.
- Planting nutmeg and clove trees at “strategic locations” to remember the area’s origin as an orchard plantation.
- Constructing elevated link bridges so visitors can easily cross the junction of Orchard Road and Paterson Road.
- Converting the Grange Road car park into an event space.
Plans that have been confirmed
- An incubation space for homegrown brands, called Design Orchard, was opened last Friday.
- From 1 April, in a one-year trial, the STB and URA will pass over the planning of commercial and non-commercial activities for a specific pedestrian stretch to the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba). This will be the walkways on the right side of the roads as pedestrians walk from Forum Shopping Mall to Mandarin Gallery.
- State land at Orchard Boulevard – where a future MRT station along the Thomson-East Coast Line will open – will be freed up for mixed-use development.
On how the activities along the selected stretch of walkways will be different after Orba takes over, the association’s chairman Mark Shaw said that there will be many more “pop-up” stores and “cultural events” so that the vibe will be more experiential.
However, netizens didn’t really feel too positive about the facelift that Orchard Road may receive.