The great Orchard Road makeover

The newly-opened, 2½-storey Design Orchard is located at the intersection of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
The plan to make over Orchard Road, Singapore’s most famous shopping strip, started in January. URA, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and National Parks Board (NParks) came together with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to unveil a two-pronged strategy to make Orchard Road “The Lifestyle Destination” and to “Bring Back the Orchard”.
To bring vibrancy to Orchard Road and further improve consumers’ shopping experience, the Orchard Road Business Association will start a one-year trial from this month, incorporating experiential activities to enliven spaces along the pedestrian mall. Walking tours of Orchard Road were also introduced from February.
To be sure, Orchard Road has come a long way. It was built upon a valley where a river flowed. “Orchard Road is really just a longkang [drain],” quips architectural historian Dr Lai Chee Kien as he leads a walking tour of the famed shopping haven. “It’s at the lowest point of the hilly areas, and runs parallel to Bukit Timah Road.”
Design Orchard is the home to homegrown labels with a diverse offering of 61 local brands (Credit: Samuel Isaac Chua/ The Edge Singapore)
In the early 1800s, the area was occupied by fruit and nutmeg orchards. Over decades of development, the original physical terrain was flattened out, leaving no trace of these plantations. Emerald Hill, for instance, was the site of a former nutmeg orchard, and grew into a residential neighbourhood of at least 112 houses by the 1930s.
In 1958, Orchard Road’s first department store, Tangs, was set up by local merchant CK Tang. New malls then sprang up one after another, and they have evolved into today’s Far East Plaza, Ngee Ann City, The Heeren, Orchard Central, and Plaza Singapura.
When the iconic Ion Orchard first opened its doors to throngs of shoppers in July 2009, it marked the peak of the premier shopping belt’s “golden era”, remarks Lai. Now, with changing trends, the glitzy malls along Orchard...