URA plan to unlock Boat Quay

Straits Times Mar 21 2014

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched a tender on Thursday for consultant teams to study how outdoor dining areas along the quay can be made more appealing.

According to a media briefing on Wednesday, proposed changes include replacing existing canopies and partitions with structures such as retractable roofs that do not block views of the river.

Signs and menu boards that block the public walkway may be removed, while overhead wires could be moved underground.

“Boat Quay has seen low visitorship over the years due to negative public reviews and its lacklustre appearance,” said Mr Wilson Tan, chairman of Singapore River One, which manages Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.

Singapore Tourism Board figures show that the share of tourists visiting the Singapore River has dropped from 18 per cent to 15 per cent from 2009 to 2012.

Views of the river were clear when Boat Quay’s outdoor dining areas were introduced in the 1990s. However, after 2002, tent structures were allowed and these blocked the view of the river as well as that of shophouses on the opposite bank.

These days, huge menu boards and canopies of different colours and logos line the promenade, giving it an inconsistent and disorganised feel. Shops have also long been plagued by complaints of touting and overcharging.

Singapore River One has been consulting stakeholders about the proposed revamp, said Mr Tan. They include 36 landlords and 41 businesses along the waterfront.

Construction work will go ahead only if most stakeholders agree to the consultant team’s proposal, he added.

But some tenants worry that revenue would be hit when outdoor areas close for renovations.

Dallas Restaurant and Bar’s owner Jason Pope, 49, said: “It will impact us financially to a certain extent.”

Other than tidying up the promenade, longer-term plans include bringing in a different tenant mix from the current food and beverage outlets.

“We’re looking at speciality shops such as high-end tailors, barber shops and niche consulting businesses for the upper storeys of the shophouses,” said Mr Tan.

His group formed a Boat Quay sub-committee this month to provide feedback and ideas on how to improve business. There are also plans for checks to keep the area tidy.

URA’s tender for consultants closes on April 3.

News of the planned revamp was welcomed on Thursday by property marketing executive Damon Giam, 26, who “hardly” dines at Boat Quay though he works nearby.

He said: “It would be nice if I could have a quiet dinner right by the riverside. Right now, that whole place is quite rowdy.”

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