Thursday, February 26, 2009

Orchard Rd sparkles after $40m facelift

Makeover to be completed this weekend; fashion show in May to celebrate

FINAL touches to the $40 million Orchard Road makeover are expected to be completed this weekend, after a 10-month-long project to rejuvenate Singapore's main shopping strip.

Workers were seen yesterday scurrying around, erecting flower totems - large pillars decorated with fresh flowers - on the pavement from Forum The Shopping Mall to Liat Towers.

By this weekend, old lamp posts and electrical boxes will be stripped out.

New benches, lamp posts, recycling bins, planter boxes and other improvements are already in place along nearly 2km of Orchard Road, between Tanglin Mall and Concorde Hotel Singapore.

The walkways have been repaved, and one road lane has been sacrificed to create a wider pavement in front of Ion Orchard, Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City.

The extra space has been given to 25 'urban green rooms', containing benches, planter boxes and large decorative glass screens that light up at night.

This is the first time Orchard Road has been extensively improved, with the aim of elevating it to the level of famous shopping streets like Paris' Champs-Elysees.

But the project had a rocky start. An initial ambitious idea by the Singapore Tourism Board, which paid for the works, to construct a glass canopy running down the stretch was promptly shot down by mall owners, who said it would require too much maintenance.

Works were then delayed by nearly two months at the start because of stalled talks with businesses, which were concerned about how the closure of one lane would affect them. Some shops and restaurants actually saw their takings drop when hoardings went up outside Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City and the drilling began.

But with all that in the past, and to celebrate the facelift, the Orchard Road Business Association is now planning events, including a fashion show and shopping promotions, all set to begin in early May.

One idea is to hold the fashion show on what would be Singapore's longest catwalk - a specially constructed outdoor platform on the pavement stretching from Wisma Atria to Ngee Ann City.

Retailers, restaurants and cafes are also expected to take part in promotions and lucky draws to lure shoppers and diners to the area.

Source: Straits Times, 26 Feb 2009

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