Funan clicks out for revamp

Nostalgia in the air as IT mall shuts tonight after 31 years to turn it into 'experiential creative hub'

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Far left: Madam Maimon Osman, 67, a staff of Challenger store, showing a photo of herself in 2004. Left: Artist Mohammad Azlan Ramlan, 30, painting at Funan's atrium. His work is commissioned by CapitaLand. Above: Staff from Rock 3D moving out office
Luna Haruna, 24, a Japanese pop singer and fashion model from Tokyo, performing in front of 1,000 anime song fans at the Funan Anime Matsuri 2016, a Japan pop culture week held earlier this month at Funan. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

There have been more cardboard boxes than customers in the shops at Funan DigitaLife Mall on some evenings this week, while the piped music has been accompanied by the sound of tape being pulled from dispensers.

The six-storey North Bridge Road shopping centre, which specialises in electronics and IT-related goods, will close its doors tonight after 31 years. Its owner, CapitaLand Mall Trust Management, plans to redevelop the mall into what it describes as an "experiential creative hub" over the next three years.

Tenants began clearance sales in April and most of them have emptied at least half of their shelves.

Funan DigitaLife Mall opened in 1985 and was called Funan Centre until it was renamed Funan The IT Mall in 1997 to reflect its identity as a hub for electronic gadgets. It was given its current name in 2005.

Staff from Rock 3D moving out office furniture and equipment from their unit on level 4 of Funan on Sunday. Rock 3D conducts courses on 3D printing and has decided not to have a retail shop. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

The Straits Times spoke to eight shop owners, all of whom plan to relocate. Many are sad to see the old place go. Ms Alice Wong, 55, plans to move her DigiVue store to Peninsula Plaza in the coming weeks. She said in Mandarin: "There is definitely a sense of nostalgia because we've been here for so long, over 20 years... and all our regulars know that we are here."

Mr Ways Lee, 34, took over the running of Make Fine Computer from his father, who set it up 21 years ago.

"I used to eat at the food stalls in the basement back when there were a lot of independent food stalls there, and I knew the bosses by name," he said.

"The mall was definitely more crowded 10 to 15 years ago. Now, crowds have been diminishing because of a lot of competition from IT fairs at the expo every quarter and now we get the occasional customer, typically above 40 years old. We don't really get many youngsters here now."

A customer, Associate Professor Don Maclaurin, 62, checking out an office chair in a near-empty V.hive showroom. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

Some regular patrons returned for one final walkabout this week. Mr Song Guan, 48, an IT support system engineer and keen photographer, has been a customer for a decade. He visited on Tuesday to take pictures "for memories' sake".

Madam Maimon Osman, 67, a staff of Challenger store, showing a photo of herself in 2004. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

Retiree Gilbert Tham, 65, who lives nearby, said: "This mall is convenient, there are good food places and it's a one-stop place for people to shop around for gadgets.

"Of course there's nostalgia... the older crowd feel it more, the younger people didn't grow up with this place."

Mr Ashton Phua, 23, a student at the National University of Singapore, said that young people will generally gravitate towards buying things online but added that the mall's closure would create a void in the IT community in Singapore. "There is no other mall with the reputation and collection of stores like Funan," he added.

Artist Mohammad Azlan Ramlan, 30, painting at Funan's atrium. His work is commissioned by CapitaLand. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

A farewell celebration will be held for tenants at 6.30pm today. And to give the public a last chance to visit, Funan will remain open till 11pm, an hour later than usual.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline Funan clicks out for revamp. Subscribe