Lack of fire permits delays Jem opening

Shoppers, some tenants surprised when they turned up at the mall

THE much-publicised opening of the Jem mall in Jurong East failed to materialise yesterday due to a lack of necessary fire permits.

Many shoppers and store owners were left in the dark when it failed to open its doors at 10am but a Straits Times check revealed the Singapore Civil Defence Force had not received safety applications for some of its 241 units.

Temporary fire permits (TFPs) are needed for commercial premises and their individual units to begin operations before full fire safety certificates are issued.

A spokesman said: "On May 28, 2013, Jem mall was issued with a TFP but none of the units within the mall had made fire safety applications with the SCDF.

"SCDF received online fire safety applications from some of the units only on the evening of June 10, 2013."

He said those have been approved. It is not known how many applications were not submitted.

The Straits Times understands such applications are to be submitted by the mall's architect or contractor and that they typically take only several days to process. SAA Architects, behind Jem, declined to comment.

Jem's developer Lend Lease announced yesterday's opening date to the media on Monday.

Mr Chris Brown, Jem's development director, said in a statement yesterday: "We are making good progress of processing the final permits required for the tenants to commence trading.

"Until these are in place, we continue to maintain the difficult position of not opening the mall to the public in order to adhere to regulatory requirements."

He did not mention fire permits or give a new opening date.

When The Straits Times visited the mall at 10.30am yesterday, around 40 shoppers were milling outside its main entrance. They were directed away by about 15 staff who apologised and handed out $10 shopping vouchers.

The opening date had been publicised on Jem's Facebook page and on fliers that promised goodie bags for early-bird shoppers.

Several tenants got wind of the situation only when they turned up to find a notice telling them of the delay due to "administrative issues". Others received similar e-mail on Monday night. No specifics were given, they said.

A spokesman for do-it-yourself outlet Home-Fix said: "We had all gone to the mall thinking that we were opening. We are waiting for an update."

Foodcourt operator Koufu told its 22 stallholders not to show up. Head of operations Edward Heng said: "We were informed very late last night (Monday) that the mall is unable to open. No specific reason was given and they (Lend Lease) were non-committal on the opening date."

Australian developer Lend Lease won the Jurong Gateway site in a government public tender in 2010. Jem was to open on May 29. But this date was pushed back due to a delay in the approval of a temporary occupation permit, eventually granted on May 31.

Its tenants include brands new to the suburbs such as department store Robinsons and lingerie brand Victoria's Secret.

Frustrated shoppers left more than 100 comments on Jem's Facebook page.

Ms Adele Teo, 38, an engineer from Bukit Batok, had hoped to shop at Jem on her day off yesterday. She said: "I'm quite surprised that this was so last minute. I was counting down the days to its opening."

Additional reporting by Natalie Kuan