Over the decades, CapitaLand has had an active role in transforming and revitalising iconic areas in Singapore like what ION Orchard has done for Orchard Road
Over the decades, CapitaLand has had an active role in transforming and revitalising iconic areas in Singapore like what ION Orchard has done for Orchard Road

Packed into just a little more than 700 square kilometres of land are skyscrapers with offices and residences, swanky malls, and sophisticated entertainment hubs. This is modern Singapore, a far cry from the sleepy kampong (villages) and swamp lands of 1965. One major player who has had a firm hand in this transformation is CapitaLand. As we celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, walk through history with Insideto appreciate how far we have come.

Creating an Icon of Luxury

For the longest time, it was just a patch of green at the exit of the Orchard MRT. But 2009 changed it all. That year, shopping mall ION Orchard opened its doors on the site. The next year, The Orchard Residences – the 175-unit super luxurious condominium above ION Orchard – was completed. Strategically located at the gateway of Orchard Road, the striking 56-storey retail-cum-residential development by CapitaLand and Sun Hung Kai Properties is the tallest building in Singapore’s prime shopping belt at 218 metres high.

Today, ION Orchard’s signature futuristic façade is a landmark in the area. Its design has garnered several prestigious awards, including ‘Best Retail Development over 20,000 square metres’ and ‘Best Architectural Entry’ at MAPIC 2006; Best Shopping Centre award at the MIPIM 2009 Awards; and World Gold Winner of FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards (Retail Category) 2013.

Behind its uniquely free-form and amorphous façade are eight retail levels housing major international luxury brands, global flagship, lifestyle as well as concept stores. These include six highly-visible duplex stores fronting Orchard Road, which house some of the world’s top luxury brands. In recent months, ION Orchard’s fashion and luxury portfolio has expanded to provide shoppers with even more exciting options. Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels and new-to-market brand Moncler are setting up shop. Other tenants are expanding - Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Patek Philippe, Dior, Diane von Furstenberg, and Dolce & Gabbana – to offer an even wider, more exclusive selection of their quality products.

Apart from expanding its stable of global luxury tenants, ION Orchard has also improved the underground connectivity of Orchard Road. A 35-metreunderground walkway, ION Link, opened in April 2015, connecting the mall to the Orchard Road underpass across Scotts Road leading to the other nearby buildings, and providing seamless access for pedestrians coming from Scotts Road and Orchard Road to ION Orchard and the Orchard MRT station.Lining this underground shopping link are stores that offer shoppers the convenience of purchasing daily necessities, apparel, accessories, and last-minute gifts.

ION Orchard has added to civic life too. Its event space, ION 2 , the largest sheltered public space in the area at over 33,000 square feet, has provided a new focal point for shoppers to meet and relax. Weaving art into retail, the mall runs ION Art, a dedicated programme that introduces new and multi-media art into the shopping experience. This includes a 5,600 square feet (sq ft) gallery space within the mall – the largest of its kind in Singapore that hosts international and local art exhibitions. An observation deck on Levels 55 and 56, called ION Sky, offers stunning views of the city from the highest vantage point on Orchard Road, and is open to the public for free during selected hours.

ION Orchard has done well to put customers first and it was selected by the government to be one of only four Service Icons in Singapore, acting as beacons of service excellence.

With its combination of winning attributes, it is no wonder that ION Orchard has quickly established itself as one of the most popular shopping malls in Singapore in a few short years. At the recent AsiaOne’s People Choice Awards 2015 organised by AsiaOne, Singapore’s leading news portal, the mall was voted again by the public as Singapore’s Best City Shopping Centre.

Mr Chris Chong, Orchard Turn Developments’ Chief Executive Officer, said, “From the onset of planning, we had a clear vision of ION Orchard’s positioning that capitalises on its strategic location and iconic design. This clear vision and tenant mix strategy ensure that major retail brands setting up their first Singapore or flagship stores in ION Orchard will be able to run their retail businesses in the best environment in line with their own brand positioning. Together with our retailers, we have built an ION Orchard community that serves shoppers the best in shopping, dining, art and design from the world over, under one roof. We will continue to seek new levels of engagement with our shoppers.”

Making History Come Alive

If ION Orchard added glamour to Orchard Road, then Clarke Quay revived a historic but neglected riverside. Once Singapore’s key warehousing facility and the heart of a thriving port in the 19 th century, much of Clarke Quay’s commercial activities had ceased by the latter half of the 20 th century. The Singapore River had become too polluted for much activity and the area looked likely to languish.

Following the cleanup of the Singapore River, the government drew up the Singapore River Concept Plan in 1985 and earmarked Clarke Quay for redevelopment into a “festival village” of retail and entertainment outlets. In 1990, DBS Land (which merged with Pidemco Land in 2000 to form CapitaLand) acquired the Clarke Quay conservation area for redevelopment. The conservation project was considered to be the biggest and most ambitious at that time. The redevelopment won the Best ASEAN Conservation Effort award at the eighth ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA) awards.

In 2003, CapitaLand hired British architectural firm Alsop Architects to refresh Clarke Quay's image and infrastructure and revitalise the district. After an S$85-million revamp, Clarke Quay now pulsates under a climate controlled canopy lit by coloured lighting, evoking a modern and cosmopolitan ambience amidst tradition and history. Some 50 restaurants, wine bars, and entertainment outlets moved into the converted warehouses and a new leisure and entertainment hub was born.

The effort to retain the original outdoor vibes of the place while ensuring that it remained cool resulted in creative yet beautiful structures – coloured canopies and water features that keep temperatures low naturally. For that, Clarke Quay won the ASEAN Centre for Energy’s ASEAN Energy Efficient Building Award for Tropical Building Design in 2006.

Today, the F&B; and entertainment hub welcomes about one million visitors a month. In 2014, it was voted by the public as Singapore’s Best Nightspot at the AsiaOne People’s Choice Awards. Recently, it was awarded the 2015 Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor and was identified as one of 50 iconic places to visit in Singapore, based on the travel website’s data on the most-reviewed attractions and eateries.

Next year, Clarke Quay will welcome Zouk – one of the world’s top dance clubs – to its first-rate line-up of over 50 clubs, bars and restaurants. Taking up about 31,000 sq ft in Block C, the new S$10-million facility is set to liven up this historical landmark in Singapore even further.

“We are pleased that Zouk has found a new home and stomping ground for its faithful following, at Clarke Quay. As a key landmark along Singapore River, Clarke Quay has astutely unlocked the potential of riverfront dining and synergised local heritage with premier entertainment to play host to an amazing array of world-class restaurants, wine bars and entertainment outlets. With one of the highest concentrations of clubs and bars in Singapore, Clarke Quay’s tenant mix is carefully curated to allow each brand to manifest its own unique character while complementing with one another to produce a varied and vibrant visitor experience,” said Adrian Lai, Clarke Quay’s Centre Manager.

From an estate with a colourful past to a sought-after city-fringe suburb

A tranquil resting place for the departed, a World War II battleground, an infamous hideout for gangs in the 50s.The coveted Bishan estate of today with its million-dollar resale public flats, good schools, a 62-hectare public park, a thriving shopping mall connected to a busy subway interchange and an iconic private residential development - bears no trace of its colourful, chequered past.

When the first five blocks of HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats in Bishan were launched in 1985, astute buyers snapped them up because of their central location.

In the last two decades, CapitaLand has contributed to transforming Bishan into one of the most sought-after city-fringe estates in Singapore. In 1994, Pidemco Land (which merged with DBS Land in 2000 to form CapitaLand) invested in the Junction 8 shopping mall. In 2002, the mall became one of the seed assets of CapitaLand Mall Trust, the first real estate investment trust listed in Singapore. Fast forward 15 years later, CapitaLand has developed not one, but two beautiful residential projects just a stone’s throw from Junction 8 – the iconic Moshe Safdie-designed Sky Habitat, launched in 2012 and Sky Vue which was launched in 2013 on an adjoining site.

Junction 8 is directly linked to the Bishan MRT station (a major interchange offering connection to two subway lines) and Bishan bus interchange. With a wide array of specialty shops, a departmental store, a supermarket, an electronics chain, F&B; options galore, and a cineplex laid out over five floors, Junction 8 remains the area’s only shopping mall today and attracts over 30 million shoppers a year. In 2004, Junction 8 underwent its first major asset enhancement initiative which involved the creation of additional retail space. In 2011, it underwent a S$36-million makeover – greatly enhancing the retail experience for Bishan residents and even drawing shoppers from the surrounding estates.

Golden Village is a Junction 8 tenant which has been with the mall since its opening. Commenting on the mall’s enduring appeal, Ms Clara Cheo, CEO of Golden Village Multiplex, said, “Although new malls have sprung up near Bishan over the years, Junction 8 hasdemonstrated its resilience and continued to stay relevant to consumers through asset enhancement initiatives. The landlord is forward-looking and encourages tenants to bring in new concepts. For example, Golden Village Bishan was the first in Singapore to deploy D-box motion seats, which are programmed with movements and sensations to complement the action on screen.”

Sharing its rationale for building two residential developments side-by-side in Bishan, Mr Wen Khai Meng, CEO of Capitaland Singapore shared: “We recognised the great development potential of these two adjoining sites in Bishan, given their location next to a major transportation hub, our Junction 8 shopping mall and the close proximity to good schools. We decided to offer two distinctive and well-designed residential developments to maximise the potential of the area. Sky Habitat and Sky Vue are complementary in terms of design, unit mix and unit size – offering homebuyers a choice of homes in a very prime location. With the completion of the iconic Sky Habitat in July, we have transformed the skyline of Bishan and introduced a new form of urban living in central Singapore.”

Savvy homebuyers share the same perspective.

“I picked Sky Habitat because it is near Junction 8, the MRT station, good schools and Bishan Park. It is also close to my parents’ home. Plus if has state-of-the-art facilities like an infinity pool on the 38 th floor that are perfect for my two young children aged seven and two,” said Deepa d/o P N Balji who lives in a four-room apartment at Sky Habitat with her family.

CapitaLand’s hand in modern Singapore is unmistakable. And just as it has done in decades past, this Singapore-‘born’ and based real estate group which has since expanded its footprint around the world, will continue to shape and transform our built environment for the next 50 years.