SINGAPORE - Jurong West Hawker Centre is expected to reopen in the third quarter of 2023, following more than two years of closure after its previous operator chose not to carry on, due to low footfall and empty stalls.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Thursday that it has increased the number of cooked food stalls and seats at the hawker centre, after surveying more than 2,000 residents living in the Boon Lay, Nanyang and Pioneer areas with the People’s Association.
There will be 39 cooked food stalls – up from 34 – as most survey respondents said they prefer such stalls to market stalls. NEA said there will be 580 seats, up from 479 previously.
About 55 per cent of the survey respondents had visited the hawker centre in Jurong West Street 61 at least once a month before it closed in August 2020.
The 14 market stalls in the centre will not be returning, as 95 per cent of respondents prefer to get their groceries from other markets or nearby supermarkets.
The hawker centre’s previous operator – Koufu Group subsidiary Hawker Management – did not renew its contract as the business did not fare well, with only about half of the stalls open since 2019. The complex opened in 2017.
On Thursday, NEA said the hawker centre will undergo a makeover. The escalators and staircases that are currently at the front of the centre will be relocated to free up space for stalls on the first storey. This will also improve visibility of the hawker centre, NEA added.
The carpark’s entry and exit points will be repositioned to make way for the new cooked food stalls on the first storey, although this will reduce the number of carpark spaces to 49 from 72 previously.
JW 50 Hawker Heritage has been appointed operator of the new centre, said NEA, adding that its proposal was the most robust among the tenderers. The contract is worth $4.86 million.
“For instance, they proposed the second level of the centre to offer international cuisine, as well as festive food, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products. Patrons to the centre will be able to enjoy familiar hawker fare on the first level,” the agency said.
JW 50 Hawker Heritage’s proposed average monthly rent for stallholders was also the lowest among all the proposals, NEA added. The Straits Times has asked NEA for the rental rates.
NEA said the operator’s parent company, Chang Cheng Mee Wah Food, has expertise and experience in managing food establishments such as coffee shops, which can help attract tenants to Jurong West Hawker Centre. In 2022, the group bought a coffee shop in Yishun for $40 million.
JW 50 Hawker Heritage has proposed a culinary innovation accelerator programme to help hawkers and people aspiring to be hawkers learn the necessary skills through subsidised training workshops, NEA said.
The programme also connects them to a network of food companies and mentors, and offers them “competitively priced” raw and intermediate food supplies.
The operator also proposed another programme for aspiring hawkers to run their businesses at pre-fitted stalls with reduced rent for 12 months.
Chang Cheng Mee Wah could not be reached for comment.
Three other operators – Canopy Hawkers Group, Fei Siong Food Management and Hawker Enterprise – had placed bids between $3.9 million and $5.18 million for the contract.
NEA will also ask former cooked food stallholders at the old centre to return. Before its closure, the agency had reached out to 18 stallholders to assist them to take up vacant stalls at other NEA-managed hawker centres and markets.
Madam Liza Ng, 66, said she hopes there will be a wide variety of cooked food offerings at the new hawker centre.
“All my grandchildren now want to eat at McDonald’s and PastaMania at Pioneer Mall. When the hawker centre reopens, I’ll definitely take them there,” said the retired accounts executive who often walks past the centre when she picks her grandchildren up from school.
Jurong West resident Lilian Lok, 68, said the previous market stalls were open for only half a day, so it was more convenient for her to shop for groceries at Giant in the nearby Pioneer Mall.
When told about the hawker centre’s reopening, she said the decision to have the local food offerings on the first storey makes it more convenient for patrons, as it was a bit of a hassle when it was on the second storey previously.
The cook added: “But separating the cuisines over two storeys may also be troublesome. My grandchildren may want to eat Western, but I would want to eat local food.”