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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Chinatown Food Street to get $4m makeover

More stalls and choices, plus sheltered and open-air dining on the cards
The Straits Times - March 4, 2013
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Chinatown Food Street to get $4m makeover

THE Chinatown Food Street will undergo a $4 million revamp that will serve up more stalls as well as sheltered and al-fresco dining options.

The first-ever improvements to the 100m stretch on Smith Street - which was launched in November 2001 - will be done by the Select Group.

Work will start in May and be completed at the end of the year.

The company, which also operates the Singapore Food Trail at the Singapore Flyer, edged out two

other bidders in a tender called by the Singapore Tourism Board to redevelop the street, which now offers only al-fresco dining.

"It has been a decade since the launch and it is time for a major revamp to revitalise the area," said Mr James Ong, executive director of the Chinatown Business Association.

One major change will be a high-ceiling shelter with a built-in cooling system. It will ensure that the street hawkers' business is not dampened by bad weather.

Diners can also expect more choices from 24 stalls, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan and Eurasian. Traditional food such as tok tok mee and putu mayam will make an appearance.

Only 10 of the current 16 stalls were open when The Straits Times visited yesterday evening, and the majority sold Chinese fare.

After the revamp, that stretch will cater only to human traffic and stalls are expected to open from lunch, as opposed to the current late afternoon.

It will seat 600 people - 400 under the shelter and another 200 in an open-air seating area. The street can seat 400 now.

A spokesman for the Select Group said it will tie up with arts groups to roll out activities such as cultural street performances, outdoor film screenings and heritage food tours.

She added that the company will run events to celebrate Chinese festivals, such as Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, as well as special occasions like the Singapore Food Festival.

A row of shophouses on the street which are state-owned will be taken over to house 10 restaurants, the spokesman said.

After the makeover, current tenants - which include arts groups such as Toy Factory and the Harmonica Aficionados Society - can remain if their leases are still valid, she added.

Next week, Select will meet the affected tenants to discuss how existing businesses can be "integrated into the new concept and plans", the spokesman said, adding that those found to be a good match will be given priority to move in.

Tenants welcome the makeover but worry that their profits will be affected if rentals are raised beyond the current $4,000 per month.

Said Mr Ben Yap, 40, who has been running a dessert stall for 10 years: "I hardly made anything in the last three months when it rained practically every day.

"We rely a lot on tour groups who come, but on cloudy days, they shun us completely so the shelter will come in useful."

But Mr Chai Phey Wah, 44, who has been running a fried kway teow stall for seven years, said: "Shelter or not, they still need to draw more crowds in.

"We will be doomed if the crowds remain sparse."

Diners are happy with the new measures.

Mr Lu Jianrong, 50, a businessman from Guangdong, China, said: "I love the food here and will definitely enjoy the increased variety in future.

"But it can get very smoky here and the stench just sticks to our clothes."

Undergraduate Phua Jun Wei, 23, who visits the street once every three months, hopes the current atmosphere will not be lost with the revamp.

He said: "I like the vibe now - the whole food street experience doesn't feel too artificial compared to other food streets in Singapore which seem more for tourists than for Singaporeans."

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