Next stop: 3 more SMRT Xchanges November 1, 2009Posted by hafizbam in Miscellaneous, SMRT, Something New.
Tags: circle line, Esplanade Xchange, Ion Orchard, Jurong East Xchange, Orchard Road, Raffles City, shopping mall, SMRT Xchange, Suntec City
ESPLANADE MRT STATION TO HOUSE 40 RETAIL OUTLETS
Commuters will get more than connectivity when the train pulls in at the Esplanade MRT station.
Scheduled to open next year as part of the Circle Line Stage 1, the station will boast a shopping area called Esplanade Xchange.
There are similar shopping areas at Raffles Place and Dhoby Ghaut stations, with the most recent opened at Choa Chu Kang in January last year.
The Esplanade station will house about 40 shops spread across 2,000 sq m – or slightly less than half a football field – of retail space.
SMRT said it aims to have a good mix of retail and food and beverage shops.
The station, with a floor area of 19,000 sq m, is the largest of all the Circle Line stations.
It will have four entrances: at Suntec City; One Raffles Link; the War Memorial Park; and the former Singapore Armed Forces Non-Commissioned Officers Club.
There will also be three underpasses, linking commuters to Raffles City, Marina Square and One Raffles Link.
SMRT is marketing the retail space and will call for tenders later this year.
But Singapore Polytechnic retail management lecturer Sarah Lim said retailers will find it “quite challenging” to draw the crowds unless they can “provide something completely different” like unique food or retail offerings.
They may also need to position themselves as a niche shopping area like the Heeren, which caters to the younger shoppers.
“Their main competition will be the Orchard Road area where the buzz is very strong with new mall offerings and a number of buildings being upgraded,” she added.
While noting that there will be constant human traffic in the area, she pointed out that Raffles City and Suntec City are already established malls.
Without proper “positioning and branding”, the Esplanade Xchange could just become a thoroughfare for people heading to shops in these other malls.
SMRT said there are plans for 700 sq m of shops at some of the 10 other Circle Line stations opening next year, including the Bras Basah, Promenade, Nicoll Highway, Stadium and Paya Lebar stations.
Since Ms Saw Phaik Hwa became SMRT’s chief executive in 2002, she has pushed hard to make good use of its space in stations for retail purposes.
For its first quarter ended June 30, SMRT’s operating profit for retail space grew by 12.9 per cent to $12.5 million.
– The Straits Times, Home, page B2, Thursday October 1 2009
And Esplanade Xchange will not be the only new Xchange along Singapore’s premier shopping belt. Orchard MRT station – which has long been suffering under the construction work for the new ION Orchard shopping mall – will soon be home to a new Orchard Xchange, though slightly smaller at 1,600 sq m.
The lack of commercial spaces in Jurong East Central (the nearest established mall now is IMM which is quite a distance away) will be addressed with the MRT station’s refurbishment into Jurong East Xchange. Taking into account the current open space in front of Popular Bookstore, it is not surprising that the whole area can be converted into a more productive 2,500 sq m worth of retail space.
SMRT has also just opened up its retail spaces in Esplanade Xchange for tender. And they have apparently learnt their lessons well from the Dhoxy Xchange experience. At least half the space available in Esplanade Xchange has been set aside for food and beverage, with six bigger units offering alfresco seating areas. The others will be for smaller take-away food stalls. It goes without saying that food stalls tend to fare better than retail, especially when the mall takes up the less busy areas of the MRT station as in the case for Dhoby Xchange.
However, it is highly unlikely that Esplanade Xchange will flop the way of Dhoby XChange. Given that it is blessed to be connected with so many busy buildings nearby, it should in fact be just as successful as Raffles Xchange with its constant flow of shoppers. Never mind that many would probably be just using the station as a bypass to their intended destinations.
And if you dig deeper into the company, you would have found out that there are already plans for even more commercial spaces to be developed in existing stations, including Woodlands. But whether or not another Xchange will emerge remains to be seen.
What matters most from all this though, is that both parties stand to gain. SMRT’s rental earnings would definitely continue to skyrocket, while the typical commuter now has more retail options even while on the move.
Even rival SBS Transit has not stood still. It has actively refurbished its larger bus interchanges such as Jurong East and Eunos to include new retail spaces. There is even a McDonald’s dessert kiosk at Hougang Central interchange. But its ability to develop retail spaces is limited, as the company does not operate any above-ground train stations with bigger spaces to experiment with. Almost all the remaining available spaces in its Northeast Line MRT stations have also been crafted out into shop units.
Even smaller bus interchanges have not escaped this ‘commercialisation of space’. Pushcarts and event space are always taken up by smaller retailers and entrepreneurs on short-term leases, squeezing into any possible space that is not obstructing commuter flow. While having the fruit seller at the bus interchange gives commuters the convenience of buying some last minute takeaways, it is an entirely different story if one is constantly approached by overzealous insurance company agents out to grab every single potential customer.
That is when you would really feel like grabbing a fruit and throwing it at the one approaching you with his wide smile.