”Sandwiched” between Orchard and Somerset MRT Stations, the developments along this stretch of Orchard Road have yet to be integrated with the sprawling underground and aboveground networks extending from the 2 stations. While it may be years before the physical integration takes place, they are definitely well-integrated into the overall history of the Orchard shopping district, which pre-dates the MRT network. Each of these developments has a history to uncover, and a story to tell.
Designed by Timothy Seow & Partners
Standing quietly amidst the retail developments is Tong Building, a 19-storey office building with no retail podium or shops fronting Orchard Road. It was developed by the Tong Brothers through its subsidiary, Tiger Properties, at a time when office spaces at the fringes of the CBD were in short supply. When it was first completed, there were 2 penthouses as well as 2 storeys of residential apartments at the top of the building. These were eventually converted into commercial spaces.
In 1978, luxury brand Gucci moved into Tong Building, setting up its main shop in this new building. However, it moved out in 1985, to a temporary space in CK Tang and subsequently to the newly-developed Paragon next door. Today, the strata titled Tong Building remains as a fully commercial development with no retail, hotel or residential spaces – a rarity along Orchard Road.
Designed by Kumpulan Akitek; DP Architects (2003 integration; 2008 makeover)
Constructed: 1982 to 1986
The adjacent Paragon shopping mall was once two separate malls – the Promenade (宝龙坊) and Paragon. The two malls were integrated as one in 2003, 7 years after SPH bought over both malls.
The Promenade site was an important part of Singapore’s supermarket history. It was where the first Fitzpatrick’s supermarket opened, back in 1958. It was deemed the first modern supermarket in Singapore. Targetting an upmarket clientele, it boasted various features aimed at increasing customers’ comfort and convenience, such as air-conditoning, automatic doors and valet parking. In 1973, Fitzpatrick’s was taken over by Dairy Farm, a subsidiary of Hongkong Land. 7 years later, the building was demolished to make way for the Promenade, the latest development by Hongkongland. Upon its completion in 1984, Fitzpatrick’s reopened its main store within its premises. However, one year later, Cold Storage Holdings (another local-born supermarket chain with an even longer history) took over, and all the Fitzpatrick’s supermarkets, including the one in the Promenade, were converted to Cold Storage supermarkets.
Next to the old Fitzpatrick’s supermarket was a 2-storey car showroom occupied by Orchard Motors. In the 1970s, it was converted into a shopping mall known as The Orchard. It is best remembered for the 24-hour Tivoli coffee house. It was demolished in 1980, and on the same plot of land came the Paragon, a development by Paragon Properties. It was intended to be a shopping podium, with a residential tower to be added later. Construction was delayed halfway, due to changes in designs. The original design featured arches, domes and niches on the façade, which would result in wide columns obstructing the ground floor shops. A cladded façade was adopted eventually, and the mall was completed in 1986, two years later than originally intended. The plan for a residential tower was also shelved.
Over the years, both malls changed hands several times, and was in fact owned by the same company at one point in time prior to SPH’s purchase. In 1987, First Capital Corporation (FCC) bought over the Promenade, and later that year, United Industrial Corporation (UIC) bought over FCC. The next year, UIC took over Paragon from Paragon Properties, thus bringing both malls under the same company for a short period of time, before the Promenade was sold to Emmons Investments in the same year. The Promenade was then sold to the Royal Brothers in 1992, before SPH took over in 1996.
In 1989, UIC bought over the empty plot of land behind Paragon. The land was owned by Starpoint Properties, which originally planned to build an entertainment centre, and had obtained in-principle approval from the Ministry of National Development to re-zone the land for amusement park use. This application was eventually turned down by the Ministry after reviews, putting UIC’s plans in jeopardy. Later that year, UIC sold Paragon and the plot of land to Sogo group. Sogo planned to build a deluxe hotel on the vacant land, but its application was rejected by URA as well. Eventually, SPH bought over the mall (then known as Paragon by Sogo) in 1996, not long after it took over the Promenade. The vacant land was eventually developed into Paragon Medical Centre.
In 2017, a new linkbridge spanning across Bideford Road and connecting Paragon to the adjacent Cairnhill Nine was opened. Cairnhill Nine, and its ‘predecessor’ Cairnhill Place, are notable for housing the only mosque in the Orchard shopping area. Al-Falah Mosque was opened in 1987, as a ‘replacement’ for the nearby Angullia Park Mosque, which was demolished to make way for Wheelock Place. It was located within the first 2 floors of the Cairnhill Place Car Park. When CapitaLand bought over Cairnhill Place in 2012, the property was redeveloped into Cairnhill Nine. The Cairnhill Place Car Park was closed, although the mosque remained open. Following the completion of the redevelopment, more space was also given to the mosque, which can now house up to 2000 worshippers.
Bideford Road was built in 1927, and was named after the English town of Bideford, where one of the landowners along the road came from.
Designed by Archiplan Team
Thong Sia Building
Further down Bideford Road, a 26-storey building once stood next to the Cairnhill Place development. Thong Sia Building consists of a 7-storey commercial podium and a 19-storey residential tower of 37 apartments. It was developed by Thong Sia Company.
Thong Sia Building
Thong Sia Company was established in 1959, and had a small office in Asia Insurance Building. In 1963, it was appointed as the sole agent for Seiko timepieces in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia. The company acquired this plot of land at the junction of Bideford Road and Cairnhill Road in 1967, and a 3-storey factory-cum-showroom known as Thong Sia House was completed 2 years later. One iconic feature of this development was a digitted electronic quartz master clock tower located at the courtyard.
In 2015, Thong Sia Building was sold to SIN Capital Group, and demolition of the building began the next year.
Constructed: 1982 to 1984
Grand Park Orchard
Grand Park Orchard is notable for standing on the spot of one of Orchard Road’s oldest hotels. Prince’s Hotel Garni began operations in 1955. The 35-room hotel was converted from a block of flats. As more hotels were built along Orchard Road, it was not able to survive the competition, and eventually closed in 1973. The 2-storey building was demolished in 1979 to make way for a new 11-storey hotel known as Crown Prince Hotel.
Crown Prince Hotel
In 2005, the hotel was sold to the Park Hotel Group, and was renamed Park Hotel Orchard. It was rebranded as Grand Park Orchard in 2010, and is Park Hotel Group’s flagship property. Its 4-storey retail podium is known as Knightsbridge.
Designed by Raymond Woo & Associates Architects
268 Orchard Road
Standing next to Knightsbridge is one of the newer players along Orchard Road – 268 Orchard Road. This glass-and-steel building, developed by Ngee Ann Development, is designed to “sparkle” when viewed at night. The interior lightings would filter through the transparent façade, making the building glow like a lantern. This is a stark contrast to its predecessor, the Yen San Building, with its tinted glass façade that hides its interiors.
Yen San Building (燕山大厦) was a 20-storey building developed by Asia Motor Company, named after its founder Phng Yen San (方燕山). It was completed in 1973. The development transferred hands a few times before Ngee Ann Development bought it in 2004. Yen San Building was demolished in 2011 to make way for the new 268 Orchard Road.
Designed by Architects 61
The Heeren, located at the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road, is perhaps best remembered for its HMV flagship store. The completion of the Heeren in 1997 marked HMV’s entrance to the Singapore market. Occupying retail spaces across 3 stories, it was the biggest music store in Singapore at that time. In fact, the HMV store was such an iconic landmark that it became synonymous with the mall it occupied.
However, like many other music stores in Singapore, it was unable to tackle competition from music streaming services. It reduced its floor spaces twice – in 2002 and 2006, before shifting to a smaller space in 313@Somerset in 2009. This new outlet closed 4 years later, and by 2015, the last HMV outlet in Marina Square closed, ending HMV’s chapter in Singapore.
Following HMV’s departure from the Heeren, a fashion and accessories store known as ALT moved in to occupy the space. ALT was a new concept store by department store chain BHG Singapore. Its occupancy was short lived, closing in 2011, just months after its opening. The Heeren then underwent a huge revamp, renting its entire retail podium to Robinson’s department store fron 2013 onwards.
Before the current Heeren came to be, there was an older Heeren Building standing at the same spot. The three-storey, Tudor-style building was built in 1931, and was designed by Keys and Dowdeswell. Memorable stores in the old Heeren Building include a Speedo store, Heeren Beauty Saloon, and Beethoven Record House. The building was demolished in 1990 to make way for the widening of Cairnhill Road.
Designed by Stanley T.S. Leong; Lee Sian Teck Charted Architects (1980 extension)
Constructed: 1971 (tower 1); 1973 (tower 2)
In the late 1960s, Singapore faced a hotel shortage problem amidst its fast-growing tourist industry. During his budget speech in 1967, then Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee announced the opening of 5 large hotels within the next few years, 3 of which were along Orchard Road. They are the Ming Court Hotel, the Hilton Hotel, and the Mandarin Hotel.
Mandarin Orchard and its revolving restaurant
The Mandarin Hotel, developed by the Overseas Union Enterprise, consists of two blocks – one 36-storey block completed in 1971, and a 40-storey block completed two years later. Its foundation stone was laid by Dr Goh in 1969. The taller block boasts the tallest revolving restaurant in Singapore. Over the years, it was renamed the Meritius Mandarin, and subsequently the Mandarin Orchard.
In 2009, the hotel underwent a major renovation, with the lower few storeys converted into a shopping mall known as the Mandarin Gallery. Its hotel lobby was also shited from the first storey to the fifth storey.
Cathay Cineleisure Orchard
The area around the Mandarin Hotel was a hotspot for youths in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In front of it was the Heeren, home to the HMV flagship store. Behind the hotel was Cineleisure Orchard, a youth lifestyle and entertainment mall that boasted a cineplex, a karaoke lounge, and other fashion and leisure outlets targeted at the youths. With 12 screens, it was once the largets multiplex in Singapore. The mall is managed by Cathay Cineleisure International, a subsidiary of Cathay Organisation.
Cathay’s presence in this area began in 1965, with the opening of the Orchard Theatre (国宾戏院). It was the first theatre in Malaysia and Singapore with an escalator, bringing patrons from the gound floor to the theatre lobby on the second storey. The theatre building is also well-known for Jackie’s Bowl, a 24-lane bowling alley on the ground floor. The theare closed in 1994, the same year as Cathay’s 60th anniversary, to make way for the new Cineleisure Orchard development.
Next to Cathay Cineleisure Orchard is *SCAPE, another youth-oriented development. But unlike other developments along Orchard Road, *SCAPE is operated by *SCAPE Co. Ltd, a non-profit organisation aimed to support youth development. Unlike other shopping malls where floor area is translated into rental profits, *SCAPE provides generous spaces for youths to hang out and engage in recreational activities, such as hip-hop dancing and music performances.
Before *SCAPE was constructed, Somerset Road extended beyond Grange Road to connect to Orchard Turn and Orchard Link.
Devonshire Road shophouses
Like many other parts of Singapore, the Orchard area was once lined with shophouses. With the development of Orchard Road into a shopping and tourism hotspot, most of the shophouses were demolished to make way for hotels, shopping malls and office buildings. Very few remain today in the vicinity, and they can be found at Cairnhill, Emerald Hill, Cuppage Road, Devonshire Road and Killiney Road. Along Orchard Road itself, only the ones at Peranakan Place survived.
Devonshire Road shophouses
While the shophouses at Cairnhill, Emerald Hill and Cuppage Road have been granted conservation status, those along Devonshire Road (111 to 141 Devonshire Road) are not under heritage protection.
Devonshire is named after Devonshire (now Devon) county of England.
Bounded by Devonshire Road, Grange Road and Somerset Road, the Youth Park was officially opened in 1996, along with the adjacent National Youth Centre (now the Red Box). A Kopitiam food court used to be situated at the Somerset Road corner of the park, but it has since been closed down.
Where the old Kopitiam food court used to be
Another feature of the Youth Park is the Red Bus, used to host event for kids.
The Red Bus
Designed by Tan Puay Huat of Group 2 Architects; DCA Architects (2006 renovations)
Constructed: 1975 to 1977
The old PUB Building
TripleOne Somerset may sound like another generic retail-cum-office development, but it was originally the home of the Public Utilities Board (PUB). The PUB offices were originally located within the City Hall, but a lack of space led to the decision to build its own headquarters. In 1971, PUB launched an architectural design competition for its new corporate headquarters. The competiton was won by local architecture firm Group 2 Architects. The design consists of a 17-storey, H-shaped building, with uneven heights for the 2 parallel wings. The cantilevered upper floors and rows of vertical fins provide sunshading for the interior, while creating a unqiue façade. The resultant building became known as the PUB Building.
The vertical fins
In 1995, the electricity and gas operaitons of PUB was corporatised to Singapore Power. As a result, the building was renamed Singapore Power Building. It underwent renovations in 2006. A year later, PUB shifted its offices to the Environment Building on Scotts Road, where the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) is located.
The building was acquired by YTL Pacific Star in 2008 and renamed TripleOne Somerset. It was renovated yet again to increase its retail spaces. The first two storeys now house the retail portion, while the third and fourth storeys are occupied by medical suites.
Designed by Architects 61
Today’s Orchard Building is best known for its H&M flagship store, which marked the fashion retail chain’s entry to Singapore in 2011. Following its expansion from 3 to 4 storeys in 2014, it became the largest H&M store in Southeast Asia.
The current 13-storey Orchard Building was built in 1997. Prior to that, there was a smaller, 6-storey Orchard Building that stood in its place. When it was completed in 1971, it boasted Singapore’s earliest 83cm-wide escalators, which were one of the largest at that time. It also housed the Yuyi Emporium (later Klasse Department Store) by Emporium Holdings, which occupied the first 3 floors of the building. In 1986, Klasse Department Store was closed, following an economic crisis that hit Emporium Holdings hard. Half of the vacated space was then leased to Halley’s Department Store, a subsidiary of local company Jewellery Industries of Singapore.
File Last Updated: April 1, 2017