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Shutters come down on Furniture Mall
Beach Road building to make way for serviced apartments
By: Jessica Lim
THE popular Furniture Mall in Beach Road, a bustling one-stop shop for home furnishings, has been uprooted to make way for a new block of serviced apartments.
The three-storey mall will be torn down and a 180-unit block operated by Pan Pacific Hotels Group will be ready in the first quarter of next year.
The group is a subsidiary of local property developer UOL Group.
Shutters came down last weekend on the 104,000 sq ft Furniture Mall in The Plaza - a strata-titled 32-storey mixed-use building owned by UOL Group.
Forty of the mall's 52 tenants have moved to their new home, the first floor of an office building at 10 Toh Guan Road in Jurong. The remaining tenants have found alternative locations or shut down.
The new mall will officially open on May 19, but many stores have already started business.
The 18-year-old Furniture Mall's closure follows that of several others in the area, which has been earmarked for major development into an office cluster that will complement the Marina Bay and Raffles Place financial district.
Plans are afoot to convert the old Keypoint into a new commercial and office development, and the South Beach project - with apartments, hotel rooms, offices and retail space - will be completed in 2015. Rochor Centre was recently acquired for the construction of the southern stretch of the North-South Expressway.
The new serviced apartments would provide another tier of commercial facilities on the fringe of the Central Business District, supporting businesses within it, said property firm Knight Frank's group managing director Danny Yeo.
'The whole location is up and coming. It's close to town, very near offices and amenities, a superb location for serviced apartments,' said Mr Yeo, adding that Singapore continues to be a magnet for multinational corporations, which are under-served by serviced apartments here.
The new serviced apartments will cater to expatriate professionals, managers and executives. UOL Group owns two other serviced apartment properties, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites in Somerset and Parkroyal Serviced Suites in Beach Road.
Over at 10 Toh Guan Road, tenants are optimistic about their new 86,000 sq ft location - about a 15-minute walk from Jurong East MRT station.
The Furniture Mall's managing director, Mr Paul Keng, believes it will hit its target of $100 million in turnover a year for the mall's 40 tenants.
'It's no problem. We will be a crowd-puller,' said the 60-year-old former president of the Singapore Furniture Association, adding that tenants were told of the move early on. Mr Keng is one of the founding members of the old Furniture Mall, set up in 1994 with the help of the Government to aid small and medium-sized furniture retailers.
Banding together gave them bargaining power to negotiate for good rental rates, draw in the crowds and conduct joint advertising and promotions.
The owner of Eco Links, Ms Wendy Lim, 53, said she pays $5,000 a month more in rent for a similar-sized shop space in Toh Guan. 'Hopefully business will be good here. It's still too early to tell,' she said. Her store opened for business yesterday.
The handful of furniture shops left at The Plaza seem more worried. Many had ridden on the back of the Furniture Mall's popularity.
'People may not come here just for us,' said sales assistant of Comfort Interior Design, Ms Doris Goh, 45. 'We will just have to wait and see.'
Customers like Mr Jeffrey Lim, 45, seem clueless about the move.
The service manager was spotted at the shuttered Furniture Mall in Beach Road two days ago.
'I'm surprised it has closed. I kept calling the store and no one responded,' he said, adding that he needed new upholstery for his sofa. 'Now I have to go all the way to the west; it's so far.'