Fernvale all abuzz over arrival of new Seletar Mall

An outdoor area in Coral Vale, Fernvale Link. Some residents worry that they will have to trade the neighbourhood's serenity for the convenience of a new mall.
An outdoor area in Coral Vale, Fernvale Link. Some residents worry that they will have to trade the neighbourhood's serenity for the convenience of a new mall.
Mr Mohammed Haris (seated), 24, and his cousin Mohammed Azarudeen, 18, manage a provision shop at Fernvale Point. While business is good now, they expect the new Seletar Mall to pose stiff competition.
Mr Mohammed Haris (seated), 24, and his cousin Mohammed Azarudeen, 18, manage a provision shop at Fernvale Point. While business is good now, they expect the new Seletar Mall to pose stiff competition.
In terms of amenities, residents have long had to make do with Fernvale Point - a one-storey complex of small shops, including a FairPrice outlet, a wet market and an open-air Koufu foodcourt.
In terms of amenities, residents have long had to make do with Fernvale Point - a one-storey complex of small shops, including a FairPrice outlet, a wet market and an open-air Koufu foodcourt.
Madam Lily Tan, 62, optician and branch manager of Tampines Optical and Contact Lens Centre, is unfazed by any potential competition from the new mall, saying her regular customers will not abandon her.
Madam Lily Tan, 62, optician and branch manager of Tampines Optical and Contact Lens Centre, is unfazed by any potential competition from the new mall, saying her regular customers will not abandon her.
The spanking new Seletar Mall will offer more than 130 brands over four storeys and two basement levels. Tenants include supermarket FairPrice Finest, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, department store BHG and Shaw Theatres, which will be opening Sengk
The spanking new Seletar Mall will offer more than 130 brands over four storeys and two basement levels. Tenants include supermarket FairPrice Finest, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, department store BHG and Shaw Theatres, which will be opening Sengkang's first cinema.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

The tranquil neighbourhood of Fernvale in Sengkang will soon be stirring with activity with the opening of Seletar Mall on Nov 28. Residents are excited about having more shopping and dining options. Some shopkeepers worry about competition from the mall but others are optimistic about a positive spillover effect.

Separated from the rest of Sengkang by the Sungei Punggol river, Fernvale is the youngest neighbourhood in the estate and quiet compared with Anchorvale, Rivervale and Compassvale, which are named after the sea.

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But the tranquil and green neighbourhood nestled between Jalan Kayu and Sungei Punggol is on the verge of growing livelier.

The opening of the gleaming new Seletar Mall on Nov 28 looks set to transform this corner in the north-west of Sengkang.

Sited next to Fernvale LRT station, the new complex will offer more than 130 brands over four storeys and two basement levels.

Anchor tenants include supermarket FairPrice Finest, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, department store BHG and Shaw Theatres, which will be opening Sengkang's first cinema.

A joint venture between media group Singapore Press Holdings and property firm United Engineers Developments, the mall is comparable to Compass Point, near Sengkang MRT station, which has a bigger floor space but about the same number of brands.

"The mall has come at a very good time. Other than a few small shops and coffee shops, the entire area seems quite dead," said Mr Amos Tan, marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic.

He believes the tenant mix will appeal to the area's demographic of newlyweds and young families.

Mr Alan Cheong, senior research director of property agency Savills, said the mall was "the first and without competition within a 4km radius".

"The mall should have enough catchment to ensure footfall success and, at the same time, bring greater human activity to the neighbourhood," he said.

Seletar Mall is the latest development in Fernvale, where various condominiums have sprung up in recent years. Two new condominiums, Riverbank @ Fernvale and RiverTrees Residences, saw strong launches in February, with RiverTrees selling 220 of the 300 units released and Riverbank selling more than 200 out of 250.

All this is a far cry from the vegetable and pig farms of the area's past, before Sengkang New Town was built in the late 1990s.

For a long time, Fernvale has not had much luck in shaking off its "boondocks" reputation, which has come about mostly because of its lack of amenities.

Residents make do with Fernvale Point, a one-storey complex of small shops, including a FairPrice outlet, a wet market and an open-air Koufu foodcourt.

The nearest malls include Greenwich V in Seletar Close and Compass Point, leaving residents hardly spoilt for choice.

"I have to go to Orchard to buy socks," said Mr Sean Wilde, 23, a student at James Cook University.

It is no wonder that even before Seletar Mall's opening, the neighbourhood is already abuzz with anticipation.

National serviceman Bernie Tay, 21, currently has to go to nex mall in Serangoon for his movie fix. "It will be really good to have a cinema around," he said.

Housewife Cindy Tan, 36, said: "I'm excited about having a FairPrice Finest within walking distance. It will also be nice to have more choices of restaurants with air-conditioning. The weather is so hot."

But not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of a new mall on the block. Some shopkeepers see the mall as stiff competition.

Mr Mohammed Haris, 24, supervisor at Danisha Trading, a provision store at Fernvale Point, said: "Business is good here now, but we are expecting a drop."

Madam Pang Li Lian, 60, who runs a snack shop selling sweets and soft drinks at the entrance of Fernvale LRT station, said the rental for her kiosk has gone up by 50 per cent. "They say it is because more people will come," she lamented in Mandarin. "But even if more people come, it does not mean they will buy from me."

Others prefer to look on the bright side. Mr Abdul Rahman, 40, who runs Koufu's Indian and Muslim food stall, said: "I don't think the mall will affect my business too much. The food inside will be more expensive and customers will come back."

Madam Lily Tan, who has managed the Fernvale branch of Tampines Optical and Contact Lens Centre since 2006, is confident her regulars will not abandon her.

"The people in this neighbourhood are friendly and supportive," said the 62-year-old in Mandarin. "I have had whole families as my customers. They tell me wherever I go, they will follow."

Some residents worry that they will have to trade serenity for convenience.

Engineering consultant Wayne Tan, 39, fears traffic congestion is imminent. "There are already too many cars here," he said. "Traffic is going to get even worse. I hope the authorities widen the roads."

Ms Rathiga de Hanabell, 32. a freelance enrichment teacher, likes to take her daughter on walks around the estate at night. "I like how it's very peaceful here. Once the mall is up, I guess we can't do that any more," she said.

Nevertheless, she is looking forward to taking her daughter to the mall, which will have a range of children's enrichment and tuition centres. "There's definitely a lot of excitement about this."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg