Flea markets and food trucks: Grange Road carpark in Orchard area to transform into event space

The 4,482 sq m carpark, operated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, will cease operations on Feb 29, 2020.
The 4,482 sq m carpark, operated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, will cease operations on Feb 29, 2020.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The open-air carpark at the junction of Grange Road and Somerset Road will be turned into a permanent event space for pop-up events and entertainment, as part of government efforts to rejuvenate Orchard Road and encourage more activities outside of its shopping malls.

The 4,482 sq m carpark, operated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), will cease operations on Feb 29 next year. It is one of three off-site carparks in the Orchard area operated by the URA, with the other two in Angullia Park and Penang Road.

The URA, Singapore Land Authority and Singapore Tourism Board will be launching a price and quality tender later this month to appoint an operator to transform the area into a "dedicated and dynamic event space with complementary commercial offerings", the agencies said in a statement on Friday (Oct 4).

A centrepiece of the Somerset area, it will host activities such as flea markets, pop-up attractions and food trucks, and serve as a public space on non-event days, the authorities said.

The use of state land such as open-air carparks in Grange Road and Angullia Park for ad hoc events was first mooted in 2017, along with other ideas to revive the shopping belt.

The Grange Road carpark,  which has 118 car spaces and 66 motorcycle spaces,  has since hosted six events, including the Flashbang street market, and will be one of the venues for this year's Great Christmas Village.

The appointment of an operator will provide for more regular activities, the agencies said. The successful bidder will manage and create programming for the site from March 1 next year for a tenure of three years, with the option to extend another two terms.

The carpark's transformation will mark one of the first major changes to Orchard Road's physical landscape in the Government's long-term plan to turn the stretch into a lifestyle destination and make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Plans to bring the buzz back to Singapore's premier shopping belt amid competition from e-commerce and heartland malls were first announced in 2017 by then Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran. Having one of the road's five lanes make way for more pedestrian activities was among the ideas floated.

 
 
 

After a six-month study, rejuvenation plans were announced earlier this year. They included different branding for the shopping belt's four sub-precincts, the construction of mixed-use developments on vacant parcels of state land along Orchard Boulevard and making part of the 2.4km street car-free to connect green spaces at the Istana Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green and the open space at Plaza Singapura.

Design Orchard, a retail and incubation space for local designers, was launched in January this year, while the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) began a year-long trial in April to bring activities such as pop-ups and events to pedestrian walkways.

Orba kicked off a monthly night-time event called Night at Orchard in May, featuring retail, food and musical performances.

The event has helped to bring more local brands and night visitors to the area, Orba executive director Steven Goh said at a press conference on Sept 25 on this year's Christmas light-up.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat told reporters on Friday that rejuvenating Orchard Road is a long-term project that will be carried out in phases. 

There have been requests by the public for more events to be held on the street, which the new space at the Grange Road carpark will provide, he said on the sidelines of this month’s Night at Orchard event outside of Ngee Ann City. 

While it continues to be an attractive place for retail, “Orchard Road is about more than retail”, he said.

“Part of the vision for Orchard Road is to be able to link up as much of the green spaces as possible,” said Mr Chee, who added that plans will be going ahead to “seal off” the section of Orchard Road between Buyong and Handy Roads to connect the green spaces there. 

“There will be more space for businesses to organise events for the public to enjoy when they come to that part of Orchard Road. If that is successful, we will look at whether other parts of Orchard Road will benefit from a similar transformation,” he said. 

Mr Chee could not provide a timeline for this or the rejuvenation phases. 

“We have a plan, but the speed of implementation depends on the response and support of various stakeholders,” he said. 

 
 
 

Orba chairman Mark Shaw said that the carpark’s transformation would allow for large-scale events and more entertainment and food and beverage options. 

Asked whether the increase in street activities this year has benefited businesses along the road, he said: “I can’t speak for the tenants within buildings. However, I can say that at the street level we’re definitely seeing an uptick in foot traffic.”

Beyond the carpark, laneways along Orchard Road and an empty plot of land behind Ngee Ann City also hold potential for further use, said Mr Shaw. 

“So there’s a lot of stuff coming up, it really remains to be seen what the Government decides to do with the land and what we’re able to do within development guidelines,” he said. 

Motorists that The Straits Times spoke to on Friday lamented the loss of the Grange Road carpark, saying that it offers more affordable parking rates than those offered by malls. But they also looked forward to the new offerings. 

Ms Lacy Soh, a vendor at an events space in the nearby Orchard Central mall, said that she prefers parking at the open-air carpark as it offers quicker street-level access and cheaper rates. 

“Parking here for a whole day is about $19 whereas inside the mall it costs about $20 for half a day,” said Ms Soh, 51. 

“But depending on the time of day it is also not that cheap here. I don’t think there will be much impact, there are other options and if I come for a whole day of shopping I will just take the MRT,” she said.