Want to make Orchard Road great again? Expert suggests more diversity, late-night shops, eateries

Proposals to make Orchard Road more vibrant include expanding pedestrian spaces to accommodate pop-up concepts and activities, and the use of open-air carparks for ad hoc events such as urban street markets. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - An urban village which is home to the high-flying businessman by day, and the high-spending socialite by night. One which marries late-night shopping with dining, where mixed-used developments meet creative working and flexible-use spaces. All divided by just one lane of vehicular traffic.

Want to make Orchard Road great again? These were among the suggestions to rejuvenate Singapore's shopping belt by one of the brains behind projects such as Roppongi Hills in Tokyo and the upcoming Queen's Wharf integrated development in Brisbane.

Mr Phil Kim, Asia Pacific managing director of architecture and urban planning firm Jerde Partnership, shared his ideas and experience at a talk on Tuesday (Sept 12) organised by the Centre for Liveable Cities.

Speaking to about 150 industry professionals, including urban planners, architects, as well as Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) executives at the Ministry of National Development's Maxwell Road auditorium, Mr Kim said that improving the shopping belt's connectivity and pedestrian experience was key.

"It's quite a layered street where the two sides don't talk to each other at all... there are a lot of unfriendly barriers that don't allow fluid connectivity, and it's difficult to cross," he said.

Orchard Road lacks a sense of play and has a "hard scape" that would benefit from more gardens, shade and rest spaces, while the 2.2km stretch's repetitive offerings also likely discourage visitors from exploring its full length, said Mr Kim.

With less reliance on private-car ownership, the road's five lanes could also be reduced to one to allow for more street-level events and shops, he added.

Plans to refresh Orchard Road's streetscape and possibly even make it car-free were announced earlier this year; the iconic shopping street has lost some of its draw in recent years amid the growth of e-commerce and suburban malls.

Proposals to make the area more vibrant include expanding pedestrian spaces to accommodate pop-up concepts and activities, and the use of open-air carparks for ad hoc events such as urban street markets.

A "scramble crossing" such as the one in Tokyo's Shibuya district will also be trialled at a multi-way cross-junction along the street, while a Design Incubator to showcase and groom local brands will be built at Orchard Green by the end of next year.

Orba chairman Mark Shaw said he agreed with Mr Kim's points, particularly on improving the walkability of Orchard Road and relaxed zoning restrictions that would give tenants more freedom to be creative.

"There is little connectivity across Orchard Road, very few surface crossings... underground (passageways) can be confusing to tourists and visitors," said Mr Shaw.

The additional real estate that would be gained by reducing traffic lanes could also make the precinct a more "playable" area, he said.

"I think parks, bike paths and events spaces would create a much better environment and community on Orchard Road."

"If building owners are able to utilise the space they currently have by creating more liveable spaces, different working spaces, spaces for makers and creators to develop and flourish, that would add a lot of character to Orchard Road and it would be local," said Mr Shaw.

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