*Scape, a youth hangout which opened next to Orchard Cineleisure just six years ago, has been given a $2.5 million makeover.
After completing the revamp late last year, it now offers facilities such as a 100-seater indoor gallery to host film screenings, recitals and talks. It also has an outdoor stage with seating areas for music and other performances, and a walkway to showcase street performances and wall art.
A new hub where media groups can gather to hotdesk or run events is also ready. The Singapore Film Society and media community group Project Unsung Heroes have started using the space.
Events slated for this month include open mike sessions at the outdoor bandstand this Saturday, and an interactive play that explores mental disorders at the media hub the following weekend.
Plans for the makeover of the five-storey hub and outdoor space, which also houses shops and restaurants, were first announced in 2014 by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
"*Scape, conceived by youth 10 years ago and opened in 2010, is a popular youth hangout," said then MCCY Minister Lawrence Wong of the hub run by a non-profit organisation of the same name. "But the youth landscape has evolved over the years and we need to keep up with the changes," he added.
While *Scape has seen footfall pick up by 8 to 10 per cent a year, its average monthly footfall of 492,000 is lower than that at other malls, which can be over a million.
*Scape also offers affordable retail spaces to encourage young entrepreneurs. And interest groups also use the space for sports, performing and visual arts, and projects.
The mall has 70 youth start-ups, 73 institutional and commercial tenants and seven interest groups.
While *Scape's focus has been on developing young people in areas such as music, media and dance, its executive director, Christopher Pragasam, said last year it plans to move towards providing them with more platforms for volunteerism.
For instance, it has a workshop this month to help youth understand the strengths of different communities and use these resources to create projects for social good.
Some observers say it has had limited success because of its lack of focus. "It suffers from an identity crisis and is trying to do everything at once, from retail to entrepreneurship to arts and media to community service," said Mr Delane Lim, chief executive of Agape Group Holdings, a youth training and development consultancy.
He said spaces elsewhere, such as the Youth Square in Hong Kong and Youth Hub in South Africa, are more of a hit because they are commercially run by youth entrepreneurs: "They do get government funding but when they run the place themselves, they bring in fresh ideas and have more say in shaping the space for their peers."
*Scape is overseen by MCCY and its team reports to a board of directors made up of government representatives and leaders from the private and public sectors. There was a change in some board members in October last year.
Ms Elim Chew, founder of fashion chain 77th Street and a former director on the board, said: "With the new board and expertise, I am sure they will bring in even more relevant programmes."
Student Magdalene Low, 18, who hangs out at *Scape with her friends once a week during school holidays, said: "There is some good food there but the shops are not very attractive... It offers the space dancers need to practise but, overall, with all the new shopping malls next door, it's becoming dull and needs to keep up."