Orchard Central to undergo major revamp

Orchard Central's first major renovation since its opening six years ago will introduce new escalators and reconfigured walkways in the 11-storey mall, said Far East Organization, which owns the mall.
Orchard Central's first major renovation since its opening six years ago will introduce new escalators and reconfigured walkways in the 11-storey mall, said Far East Organization, which owns the mall. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Orchard Central (OC), whose layout has been criticised as complicated, will undergo its first major renovation since it opened six years ago.

Set to be done by the third quarter of next year, this will introduce new escalators and reconfigured walkways in the 11-storey mall, said Far East Organization, which owns the mall.

This will "optimise accessibility and improve shopping experience", said Mr Eric Tong, Far East's assistant director of its retail business group. He added that it will welcome a major brand that is " setting up its first South-east Asia flagship at Orchard Central".

The Straits Times (ST) understands that Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo will take up a three-storey space in the mall.

But the renovations come at the expense of 21 tenants, who will have to close or relocate by Dec 31. Two of them, burger chain Everything With Fries (EWF) and eatery Central Hong Kong Cafe, have put up posters in their shops expressing unhappiness at being forced to give up their prime spaces.

EWF is near the mall's entrance on the first floor, while Central is on the second floor, next to an escalator. Neither is taking up the offer to relocate within the mall.

Ms Jun Low, director of JC Global Concepts which owns Central cafe, told ST that Far East had informally offered her another spot on the second floor. But the landlord later tried to persuade her to move to other floors, she claimed. The lease for her 21/2-year-old eatery was due to end next August, but will now be pre-terminated without any compensation for her, because of a clause in the contract, she added.

A spokesman for EWF, a tenant for 51/2 years, said it rejected the alternative spot as it was "not feasible" for its concept.

A ST check last week found most of the affected tenants are in the first four floors of the mall and have closed. At least two, shoe shop Walking Tall and craft store Beads.etc, are moving to Orchard Gateway, next to OC. Mr Tong said tenants were informed in June. Those affected were offered relocations within OC or to other Far East malls. Most tenants are "positive", he added.

Ms Christina Lan Ge, 34, vice-president of Perle, an Italian fashion store on the second floor, said: "The layout now is fragmented, people get lost. The changes will make it better, but the management should also do something about the power supply."Water seepage from heavy rain caused a blackout at OC last Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Orchard Central to undergo major revamp'. Print Edition | Subscribe