Orchard Gateway, the newest kid on the Orchard Road retail block, will finally open next Wednesday after a delay of about half a year.
About 45 retail stores, which make up about half of the tenants, will be welcoming shoppers. The rest of the 50-plus tenants, including Hong Kong multi-label store i.t, Swiss watchmaker Swatch and American lifestyle store Crate & Barrel, will open progressively.
More than 90 per cent of the stores will be up and running by the end of next month, says Mr Ong Beng Kian, director of projects at United Engineers Developments, the developer that also co-owns the project with Great Eastern Holdings.
Orchard Gateway is made up of two buildings on diagonally opposite sites that are connected by a glass link bridge.
The larger 21-storey building - at the site of the former Specialists' Centre and Phoenix Hotel - features six retail floors, including two basement levels as well as library@orchard, which is slated to open in October. The rest of the building will be taken up by a carpark and a hotel.
The smaller building, called Orchard Gateway @ Emerald, is an 11-storey block with seven retail floors - two of which are in the basement - and six office floors. It occupies the former Orchard Emerald site.
The mall was originally scheduled to launch in the second half of last year. Tenants had originally expected to open before Christmas, but they were informed late last year that the opening would be delayed, first to January, then later to this month.
Mr Ong says: "We did encounter delays over the course of construction, arising largely from the scale and complexity of the project."
He cites the glass link bridge, a corridor that connects to neighbouring malls Orchard Central and 313@somerset, and an underpass to Somerset MRT as challenging elements. He adds: "While we aimed to obtain the TOP (temporary occupation permit) within the estimated timeframe, our emphasis was on completing the technically challenging project in a thorough manner without compromising on safety."
Two separate TOPs had to be obtained for the two blocks. The permit for the taller building was granted in February and that for the smaller site was given only this month.
Stop-work orders issued by the Ministry of Manpower may also have added to the delay. The first was issued after the mould of a column gave way in November 2012, spilling wet concrete onto the street and damaging vehicles.
Last October, a dengue cluster, which was responsible for infecting more than 50 construction workers at Orchard Gateway, also led to a week-long stop-work order.
The delay in opening meant that some tenants had to find temporary solutions. Mr Ong says 99 per cent of the retail space has been rented out.
Mr Paul Khor, the owner of multi-label store Actually who will open a 2,000 sq ft unit at the mall on Wednesday, rented a temporary space at 313@somerset in the middle of last year. Without it, he would have had no outlet to sell his stock or deploy staff. He shut the store earlier this week in preparation for the move to Orchard Gateway.
Mr Kenny Lim, one of the designers behind local label Depression who is launching a 1,600 sq ft men's multi-label store called Sects Shop at Orchard Gateway, went for a pop-up concept. When the mall's opening was pushed back, he rented a space at Orchard Cineleisure, next to his Depression store, from December to March to run a temporary Sects Shop.
United Engineers Developments declines to say if tenants would be compensated for the delay, citing the confidentiality of rental contracts. But Mr Ong says advertising support as well as shopper events and promotions are being planned.
Mr J.D. Codina of Premium Barbers Spa says he had to deal with storage issues for pre-ordered barber chairs and hold off on hiring staff. He speculates that the issues, such as lack of fire permits, that plagued the opening of Jem shopping mall in Jurong East may have made the people behind Orchard Gateway more cautious about making sure the project was 100 per cent ready. Jem is developed by Lend Lease.
Mr Codina's shop will open in the first week of next month. The opening day of the mall has extra special meaning for him because it falls on his birthday. "This is a birthday present," he says.