SINGAPORE - Mr Reza Fotohi supports the decision to upgrade Tanjong Katong Complex where he owns a shop, given how it will likely increase the mall's footfall.
"There is a lack of important (anchors) like restaurants and supermarkets. After upgrading, I think the shopping centre can compete with others in the area," said Mr Reza, who has run Fotohi Carpet in the mall for 20 years.
He noted, too, on Thursday (Dec 9) that customer traffic has shrunk by 70 per cent to 80 per cent since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said on Wednesday (Dec 8) that the mall in Geylang Serai will be closed from the second half of 2023, as part of plans to increase its footfall and transform the district.
The upgrading, which will take about three years, will introduce a rooftop area for restaurants, update the design and provide more spaces for community programmes in the 37-year-old building.
Other shopkeepers in Tanjong Katong Complex told The Straits Times that while they welcome the revamp, they also feel disappointed about having to vacate, with some noting that existing tenants will not get priority to rent spaces when the mall reopens in 2026.
Some said they are keen to return once renovation works are completed, but are worried about higher rentals.
Mr Zainol Hasan, 73, who works for cultural items shop Toko Warisan Trading, understands that the mall has to keep up with the times. Nearby, newer draws such as PLQ Mall and SingPost Centre have sprung up.
"With a new appearance, it can definitely attract more customers. Right now, the mall doesn't even have a foodcourt or supermarket... we're getting fewer customers without them."
Similarly, Ms Nurharyani, 34, who owns make-up services and clothing shop Q Que, said that while she is sad to have to vacate in 2023, the rejuvenation can only lift business prospects.
SLA said the 106 tenants, whose leases will all expire by Dec 31 next year, will be given a six-month extension. This will allow them to tap sales during the festive Hari Raya period in April 2023 and give them more time to relocate.
It added that those who wish to consider state properties to move to can participate in open tenders, and it will assist with their transition plans.
"I will try to relocate, if I can find a good deal," said Ms Nurharyani, adding that the low rental in Tanjong Katong Complex will be something that she will miss.
The same challenge also awaits Ms Siti Rauzanah, 50, director of an employment agency, who intends to relocate her business elsewhere.
The potential loss of the mall's heritage value is something that she and other shopkeepers are concerned about as well. But SLA has said the new version of the complex will retain iconic elements, such as its slanted columns.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman told reporters on Wednesday that the complex is almost 40 years old and that, since it was built in 1984, it has not been upgraded.
He pointed out that a spruce-up is needed to breathe new life into it and include modern amenities, but it will retain its distinctive elements.