Gillman Barracks to get cyclist-friendly cafe, live music bar in 2023

The Singapore Land Authority had announced plans in May to introduce more F&B and lifestyle concepts to Gillman Barracks. PHOTO: SINGAPORE LAND AUTHORITY
Infrastructure upgrades to the former military barracks, such as adding covered walkways and building a new playground. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Visitors to Gillman Barracks can look forward to a new cyclist-friendly cafe and live music bar in 2023, as part of plans to introduce more lifestyle offerings to the arts enclave.

Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on Tuesday awarded tenders to two new tenants: Wheeler’s Estate and The Blackbird.

Plans for Wheeler’s Estate’s new cyclist-friendly outlet there include offering activities such as yoga classes and outdoor spin classes, said the firm’s business development manager Ong Bang Jun.

“We’re looking to incorporate tropical - Balinese or even Hawaiian - vibes into the decor. We’ve been on the lookout for a new outlet and Gillman Barrack’s raw beauty, surrounded by nature and history, stood out to us,” he added. The firm’s winning bid of $16,000 in rent was the third highest.

The Blackbird, a restaurant and bar, will have live music and the capacity to host events such as weddings and corporate functions. It is a collaboration between co-founder of Timbre Group Danny Loong, musician Surath Godfrey, Pangdemonium Theatre chairman Raeza Ibrahim and co-founder of Kanshoku Ramen Brendon Leung.

Mr Loong said they plan to have tribute bands in classic rock, blues and jazz genres.

“We’ll also have comedy nights and arts events,” he said.

In May, SLA announced plans to introduce more food and beverage and lifestyle concepts to the former military barracks-turned-arts enclave.

Infrastructure upgrades, such as adding covered walkways and building a new playground for families with children, are in the works and are expected to be completed in the first half of 2023. Heritage and art tours will resume by the end of 2022.

Three current tenants - Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream and Coffee, Hopscotch and Handlebar - will stay on after winning the tenders, and will have new offerings and green initiatives.

Creamier plans to collaborate with educational institutions for ice-cream making events. Hopscotch will have an in-house vertical garden to showcase farm-to-table sustainability concepts for craft cocktails. And Handlebar will incorporate electric-vehicle charging ports for motorcycles and solar roofs.

Handlebar founder Jan Pek said there are also plans to have a vertical herb garden for the outlet’s new farm-to-table concept. “We’re planning to include all these new initiatives within the next two years. My staff and loyal customers are happy that we get to stay on,” she said.

Some of the tenants also have plans to attain pet-friendly licences.

Handlebar’s vertical herb garden and Wheeler’s Estate’s live outdoor stage. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE LAND AUTHORITY

But one tenant, which has been there since 2012, will have to give up its restaurant at the arts cluster off Alexandra Road.

Mr Rob Coldman, owner of Verve Holdings, which runs Masons restaurant, said he was disappointed but expected the outcome as the firm had placed the lowest bid of $11,000 a month - a slight increase from its current rent. The winning bid of $20,000 was placed by The Blackbird.

“We’re saddened, but we wish the new tenant success. We’ve had about 50 wedding inquiries for next year and we’ll have to let those couples down,” he said.

The company had borrowed close to $2 million to cover Masons’ operational costs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s tough, as now we’ve got a debt servicing issue to deal with for the next two years, but we’ll be focusing on our other business ventures,” said Mr Coldman, adding that the company would not be recreating the Masons brand elsewhere when the lease ends in February 2023.

Two other F&B outlets - Naked Finn and BurgerLabo, both under the Naked Finn Group - were given direct tenancy.

SLA on Tuesday also launched two new tenders, marking the second phase of the authority’s efforts to unlock greater value from state properties.

One is for a second floor unit in 9 Lock Road, while the other tender is for 43 Malan Road and four units in 47 Malan Road. Block 43 spans more than 10,000 sq ft.

“Together with Block 47’s charming red bricks facade, both Blocks 43 and 47 have immense potential to be further developed for unique placemaking opportunities,” SLA said.

SLA chief executive Colin Low said the latest tender poses a chance to introduce more varied, creative lifestyle concepts to the precinct.

“This includes potentially having more offerings such as artisanal craft, fitness and wellness, vertical farming, family bonding and co-working spaces,” he added.

The tenders will be open for eight weeks from Tuesday on SLA’s State Property Information Online portal. These contracts will have a longer upfront tenure of five years, renewable for a second term of two years.

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