Orchard Road (part 4) – the Somerset Cluster

While Orchard MRT Station is connected to its adjacent development via a network of underpasses, the cluster around Somerset MRT Station are linked via a combination of underground, ground level and overhead linkages. Navigating around the network is not as easy, as the linkages are located at different levels. Nonetheless, it allows shoppers to move around the different developments comfortably.

Somerset MRT Station
Constructed: 1987
Status: Found

Somerset MRT Station takes its name from Somerset Road, the road that runs above the station, parallel to Orchard Road. Somerset Road, in turn, was named after the county in England of the same name. The station was initially named Killiney, after the nearby Killiney Road.

Somerset MRT Station 01
Somerset MRT Station Exit B, now located within 313@Somerset

To make way for the construction of the station, Somerset Road was diverted from 1984 to 1986. Ng Teow Yhee Building, an 8-storey building which stood along the road, was also acquired by the government in 1983. The building owner, a stevedoring and shipping company called Ng Teow Yhee and Sons Pte Ltd, appealed to the government, and the deadline to vacate was extended multiple times until 1986. In the meantime, construction work for the station continued around the still-functioning building.

Ng Teow Yhee Building was initially known as Summer Centre. In 1978, it was bought over by shipping magnate Ng Teow Yhee.

When Somerset MRT Station first opened, there were only 2 exits, emerging on either side of Orchard Road. Exit A is located near the PUB Building, while Exit B is located next to Specialists’ Shopping Centre. In lieu of the construction of 313@Somerset, Exit B was renovated, and it now leads directly into the mall.

Along with the opening of Orchard Gateway, 2 new exits were built. Exits C and D both opened in April 2014, and connect the station to the basement levels of Orchard Gateway.

Specialists’ Shopping Centre
Constructed: 1972
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2008

Specialists’ Shopping Centre was the earliest shopping centre to be built in this area, predating even Somerset MRT Station. When it was completed, it was one of the largest shopping complexes in the area. Its tenants included Robinson’s, John Little, Greatways Supermarket, and a cluster of medical specialists (hence its name). There was also a 4-star hotel called Hotel Phoenix located in the tower block, above the shopping centre. Hotel Phoenix was deemed to be a “luxury class hotel in everything but price”, as non-essential facilities such as ballrooms and convention halls were omitted to bring down costs. It was connected to Somerset MRT Station via a sheltered linkway.

By the 2000s, the once “largest shopping complex” was dwarfed by even larger developments along Orchard Road. Its close proximity to the MRT station also fueled desires for a newer and larger development. It was demolished in 2008 to make way for Orchard Gateway.

Before Specialists’ Shopping Centre was built, the site was occupied by an old theatre building from the 1910s. Palladium Theatre, was it was originally known, was renamed Pavilion Theatre in 1925 and took over by Shaw Brothers in 1951. In 1959, Shaw Brothers gave up the lease of Pavilion Theatre amidst rising operational costs and declining business. After standing vacant for 10 years, the building was demolished to make way for Specialists’ Shopping Centre.

313@Somerset
Designed by Aedas Pte Ltd
Constructed: 2009
Status: Found

313 Somerset 01
313@Somerset

313@Somerset was the first of a few major new developments to spring up next to Somerset MRT Station. The commercial building was constructed next to Specialists’ Shopping Centre, were an open-air car park used to be. It “engulfed” Exit B of Somerset MRT Station, providing direct access from the station into its B2 and 1st levels upon its completion. For this seamless integration between mall and land transport, it was awarded the Best Design Land Transport Integration by LTA in 2012.

313 Somerset 03
The Discovery Walk connecting 313@Somerset to Orchard Gateway

The building consists of 8 retail levels (including 3 basement levels), and 2 levels of parking spaces above. It has direct frontage to both Orchard Road and Somerset Road. It is connected to the Orchard Gateway and Orchard Central via the Discovery Walk, an internal walking street at ground level that is open 24/7.

313 Somerset 02
The other end of Discovery Walk opens up towards Orchard Building and the Orchard Fountain Corner

Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Orchard
Constructed: 2008
Status: Found

313@Somerset is also directly connected to Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Orchard, a 16-storey building that houses luxury serviced suites. It was once the site of the Malayan Credit House, developed by Malayan Credit in 1976. It was notably where the first KFC outlet in Singapore opened. In 1979, the building was sold to United Overseas Land Limited and the building was renamed UOL Building. The building as demolished in 2005 to make way for the serviced suites, operated by Pan Pacific Hospitality, UOL’s wholly-owned unit.

Orchard Shopping Centre
Status: Found

Orchard Shopping Centre 02
Orchard Shopping Centre

While most of the older shopping malls around Somerset MRT Station have been demolished and redeveloped, Orchard Shopping Centre remains, forming a stark contrast with its newer neighbours. Even though it is physically adjacent to 313@Somerset, there are no internal linkages between the 2 malls. Visitors from 313@Somerset will have to walk along the sheltered footpath along Orchard Road or exit the Discovery Walk towards Orchard Fountain Corner to reach Orchard Shopping Centre.

Orchard Shopping Centre is perhaps best remembered for Mohan’s Department Store, located on the first two storeys of the building. The store was well-known among tourists, and had outlets at Malacca Street and Tanglin Shopping Centre. Its founder, Mohandas Kishinchand Melwani, spoke numerous languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Sindhi, English and Malay. Soon after its peak in 1983, the company fell into a financial crisis. In 1984, part of the Orchard Shopping Centre retail space was sold to Cookmate Pte Ltd, who brought in Australian fast food brand Big Rooster. A year later, Mohan’s Department Store folded.

Orchard Shopping Centre 01
Orchard Shopping Centre

Big Rooster did not have it easy as well, following its entrance to the local fast food market. Within 5 months from its first outlet at Orchard Shopping Centre, 3 more outlets were opened in Upper Serangoon, Holland Village and Funan Centre. However, the franchise had been losing money from the beginning, and all outlets were closed within 2 years. Fast food chain A&W then took over the Orchard Shopping Centre premise, making its first move into Orchard Road. Since then, F&B outlets came and went, without making a lasting mark.

Orchard Gateway
Designed by Tange & Associates
Constructed: 2014
Status: Found

Orchard Gateway 01
Orchard Gateway
Orchard Gateway 02
Orchard Gateway’s Discovery Walk

The other end of 313@Somerset’s Discovery Walk leads straight into Orchard Gateway, one of the latest additions to the area. Orchard Gateway is developed on two plots of land on either side of Orchard Road. The main Orchard Gateway mall is located between 313@Somerset and Orchard Central, with its basement levels leading directly to Somerset MRT Station. Orchard Gateway @ Emerald is built over the former site of Orchard Emerald.

Orchard Gateway 04Orchard Gateway 05
The glass bridge and underground street of Orchard Gateway

The two structures are linked by a glass tubular overhead bridge that straddles across Orchard Road, and also an underground fashion street at basement 2. An office tower is located above Orchard Gateway @ Emerald, while Hotel Jen Orchardgateway occupies the tower above the mall.

Orchard Gateway 03
The existing pedestrian crossing also serves as a connection between the two Orchard Gateway structures during good weather

Orchard Gateway and 313@Somerset are also connected via a small access door at basement 2.

Orchard Central
Designed by DP Architects
Constructed: 2009
Status: Found

Orchard Central 05
Orchard Central is accessible from Orchard Gateway via the Discovery Walk

After cutting through Orchard Gateway, the Discovery Walk enters Orchard Central. At 12 storeys above ground and 2 basement storeys, Orchard Central is deemed Singapore’s first “vertical mall”. Due to the “high rise” nature of the mall, a total of 52 escalators and 12 lifts are required to bring shoppers around. The mall also boasts a large number of specially-commissioned artworks on display.

Orchard Central 03Orchard Central 02
Orchard Central has a collection of artworks dispersed around its various storeys

Orchard Central is built on the site of Glutton’s Square, a popular street dining venue of the past. Glutton’s Square began operations in 1966, at an open-air carpark opposite Cold Storage. At 5pm each day, the carpark would cease operation, and hawkers will set up their stalls for the evening crowd. Due to poor hygiene conditions, Glutton’s Square was closed in 1978. The hawkers were relocated to either Newton Circus Hawker Centre or Cuppage Food Centre. The carpark was then converted into a park.

Orchard Central 01
The rooftop garden of Orchard Central

In July 2004, Glutton’s Square was temporarily revived as part of the month-long Singapore Food Festival. Due to its popularity, it remained open until February 2005.

Orchard Central 04
Orchard Central’s basement level connects to The Centrepoint. Today, the basement level is occupied by Japanese discount store Don Don Donki

Orchard Emerald
Status: Lost
Demolished: 2008

Orchard Emerald 01
Orchard Emerald

Orchard Emerald was a shopping mall that took its name from the adjacent Emerald Hill. It was best recognised by its 2-storey façade that resembles the adjacent shophouses at Peranakan Place. The main bulk of the building is set back to maintain the sense of scale along Orchard Road, while a “five-foot way” links Peranakan Place to Midpoint Orchard. Instead of windows, the second storey façade is fitted with huge billboards and screens which overlook the signalised pedestrian crossing in front. This shophouse-like frontage seems to be a late addition, as it is absent from earlier photos of Orchard Emerald from the 1980s.

Today, while Orchard Emerald is no more, its name lives on in the Orchard Emerald Beef Noodles stall, which has its roots in the basement food court of the mall. After Orchard Emerald was demolished, the stall shifted to various locations before settling down at Holland Drive.

Midpoint Orchard
Status: Found

Midpoint Orchard 01
Midpoint Orchard

Midpoint Orchard is a 6-storey shopping complex that stood next to Orchard Emerald. It was originally intended to be an 11-storey building, but the plans were changed after the project changed hands halfway through construction. Today, it is dwarfed by its new neighbours such as Orchard Gateway and 313@Somerset.

Midpoint Orchard 02
Midpoint Orchard

During its early development stages, it was to be named Orchard Point. It was then renamed C&E Orchard, after its new developer, C&E Realty, before finally settling on the name Midpoint Orchard.

228 Orchard Road
Status: Found

From Midpoint Orchard, the “five-foot way” continues to 228 Orchard Road, a 5-storey retail building (with 3 basement levels) fully occupied by Courts since 2010. Notable occupants prior to Courts include John Little (until 2010), OG (from 1983 to 2004) and the Japanese Cultural Society (shifted to Middle Road in 1981).

Faber House
Constructed: 1973
Status: Found

Next to 228 Orchard Road is an 11-storey office building called Faber House. It was developed in the early 1970s by Faber Union, then a subsidiary of Faber Union (Hong Kong). The building was boasted as the first development in Singapore with extensive aluminium cladding, a shift away from the concrete façade commonly adopted at that time.

In 1973, United Overseas Securities (UOS), a wholly-owned subsidiary of UOB, acquired Faber Union. 2 years later, Faber Union was renamed United Overseas Land (UOL). However, Faber House retained its name till today.

Without any extensive retail spaces, Faber House was not a prominent player in the shopping scene along Orchard Road. Instead, it was most notable as the location of 2 early international terrorist attacks in Singapore. Two explosions occurred in 1985 and 1986 respectively, with no casualties and minor damages to the building, although the neighbouring Singapore Chinese Girls’ School was impacted by the 1986 explosion. In 1991, Fuad Hassin al-Shara, a Palestinian guerrilla, confessed to be the mastermind of the 1985 explosion. His target was the Isreali embassy located inside Faber House. It was believed that the 1986 explosion was also targeted at the embassy.

The Centrepoint
Constructed: 1983
Status: Found

The Centrepoint 02
The Centrepoint

At the basement of Orchard Central, an underpass allows shoppers to reach the Centrepoint on the other side of Orchard Road. This underpass was first completed along with the Centrepoint (then known as Centrepoint Shopping Centre), bringing shoppers from the mall to the surface car park where Glutton’s Square was. It was constructed by Cold Storage Holdings, the developer of Centrepoint, with the intention of eventually linking it up with the upcoming MRT station. However, this did not happen until decades later, with the construction of Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway, when a seamless underground connection from the Somerset MRT Station to Centrepoint was finally realised.

The Centrepoint 01
The Centrepoint

The Centrepoint is a 6-storey mall with 2 basement levels, with residential apartments at the back. Centrepoint’s famous “Food Street” is located at the ground level of the residential wing. Following a revamp in 2005, two new F&B zones were demarcated, including a “Food Hall”, located at the basement level near the underpass, and “Gastro+”, located at a new extension wing.

The Centrepoint 03
A mural of Singapore in Centrepoint

Before the Centrepoint was built, it was the site of the Cold Storage building. The 2-storey building was taken over by Cold Storage in 1917, and remained a landmark along Orchard Road until the company decided to redevelop the land into a shopping mall.

The Centrepoint 04
Overhead bridge leading towards Orchard Point

In the mid 1980s, Centrepoint attracted thousands of youths to “hang out”, and became synonymous with street gangs and crimes with the term “Centrepoint kids” coined, even though most of the youths were just there to make friends, and only a handful engaged in illegal activities.

Peranakan Place
Constructed: 1903
Status: Found

Peranakan Place 03
Peranakan Place

Straddled in between Orchard Gateway and the Centrepoint, Peranakan Place feels like a portal, bringing shoppers from Orchard into a very different world. It consists of 6 pre-war shophouses – probably the only ones left standing along Orchard Road. It can be reached by walking along the sheltered walkways in front of Orchard Gateway and the Centrepoint. In front of the shophouses, a segment of Emerald Hill Road has been pedestrianised.

Peranakan Place 01Peranakan Place 02
Peranakan Place is sandwiched between Orchard Gateway and the Centrepoint

In the early 1980s, URA decided to transform this area into a “Peranakan Corner”, which celebrates and showcases Straits-born heritage. It was opened in 1985 as the Peranakan Place, ran by Peranakan Place Complex Pte Ltd. It housed a museum, a coffeeshop, a provision shop, a nyonya restaurant, an old-style photo studio and an antique shop. Today, the occupants have much less to do with Peranakan culture, although the name “Peranakan Place” remains.

51 Cuppage Road
Constructed: 1997
Status: Found

51 Cuppage Road 01
51 Cuppage Road

At the rear end of Centrepoint, a pedestrian linkbridge at the second storey connects the mall to 51 Cuppage Road, a 10-storey office building once known as Starhub Centre. This area is perhaps more well-known for Cuppage Centre, a mixed use developed built in the late 1970s. The market and food centre in the lower floors housed a number of stalls relocated from nearby Glutton’s Square, while the office spaces in the upper floors were home to a number of government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Health and the National Productivity Board. In the early 1990s, it became a haunt for teens to get hard liquor and sleeping pills.

In the mid 1990s, owner Pidemco Land announced that Cuppage Centre would be demolished for redevelopment. The 171 stalls in the market and food centre closed for business in 1995, with most of the stallholders opted for government compensation and retirement, rather than relocation. The building was torn down in 1996, and the 10-storey building we see today was completed in 1997. A food court was located at the 2nd storey of the new building, but that too closed in 2006, marking the end of an era.

Cuppage Road 01Cuppage Road 02
Cuppage Road is now divided into 2 segments, after the pedestrianisation of the stretch in front of Cuppage Terrace

Cuppage Road was named after William Cuppage, acting Postmaster General and Superintendent of Police and Assistant Resident in the 1840s. He leased this area around Emerald Hill for his nutmeg plantation, and also lived here from the 1850s till his death.

Orchard Point
Constructed: 1983
Status: Found

Orchard Point 01
Orchard Point

From Centrepoint, another pedestrian linkbridge extends across Cuppage Road, connecting to Orchard Point. This 10-storey development was built by URA to house resettled shops from other parts of Orchard Road. Its 5-storey commercial podium housed 132 units, while the 5-storey split level residential block above consisted on 61 units. The residential units were initially meant for HUDC flat buyers, but instead were turned into serviced apartments, following the government’s decision to build HUDC flats within HDB estates instead.

Orchard Point 02
Orchard Point with its serviced apartments

Orchard Point was initially intended by URA to be a computer centre, but due to its limited size, Funan Centre was chosen instead. When it first opened, tenanats complained of a lack of business, especially when it was overshadowed by the adjacent Centrepoint, which opened shortly after. URA then decided to lower rents – the first time rents were lowered along Orchard Road.

In 2001, the mall was sold to OG, and was closed for renovation in 2003. OG Orchard then opened for business in the refurbished Orchard Point in January 2004. The original OG Orchard at 228 Orchard Road was closed the same year.

Before Orchard Point was built, the area was occupied by the Orchard Road Market. The market stood on grounds belonging to Edwin Koek, who inherited the estate from his father-in-law, William Cuppage. The very first market here, known as Koek’s Market, was built in 1880. It was leased to the municipal authorities and renamed Orchard Road Municipal Market. 10 years later, the municipality bought over the land and rebuilt the market in a cast-iron structure.

The market then underwent a few extensions over the years. The iconic concrete frontage and new wing was built in 1910, and a second building was built in 1930. In addition, a cast-iron fountain made in Glasgow was relocated from Telok Ayer Market to Orchard Road Market in 1902. The fountain is now located in Raffles Hotel.

Keok Road 01
Koek Road

Koek Road and Koek Lane, both named after Edwin Koek, ran along the sides of Orchard Road Market. Koek Road still exists today, although it was shortened to give way to Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre. Koek Lane has since been expunged.

Cuppage Plaza
Constructed: 1983
Status: Found

Cuppage Plaza 01
Cuppage Plaza

Cuppage Plaza is an 8-storey shopping mall developed by Far East Organisation, located next to Orchard Point and linked by covered walkways on both sides of the two malls. Time seems to have come to a standstill at Cuppage Plaza. While its neighbours Centrepoint or Orchard Point underwent renovations over the years, Cuppage Plaza retained most of its charm from the 80s.

Cuppage Plaza 02
Cuppage Plaza

In its early years, Cuppage Plaza was home to a number of major tenants, including a 500-seater cinema and a short-lived fresh fruit supermarket known as Fruits and Food Land Supermarket, occupying the two basement levels. Today, Cuppage Plaza is well-known for its Japanese restaurants and KTVs, attracting Japanese salarymen after working hours. This gave the mall its nickname “Little Ginza”. Its relatively affordable eateries also attract a significant office lunch crowds.

Cuppage Terrace
Constructed: 1905 to 1907
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 1989

Cuppage Terrace 02
Cuppage Terrace

Sandwiched between Centrepoint and Cuppage Plaza is a row of shophouses – the only survivor in URA’s rehabilitation of the Cuppage area in the late 1970s. It was then known as the Cuppage Rehabilitation Block. The 17 shophouses were built by Boey Lian Chin (梅连振), managing director of Kwong Yik Banking Corporation.

Cuppage Terrace 01
Cuppage Terrace

In 1984, the Cuppage pedestrian mall was completed, converting the stretch of Cuppage Road in front Cuppage Terrace into a pedestrian walkway. A sheltered linkway now connects Orchard Point to Cuppage Terrace.

Cuppage Terrace 03
Cuppage Terrace

Orchard Plaza
Constructed: 1980
Status: Found

Orchard Plaza 02
Orchard Plaza

Two pedestrian overhead bridges straddle over Koek Road, one emerging from Orchard Point and another from Cuppage Plaza. Both bridges bring pedestrians to Orchard Plaza, another shopping mall that does not enjoy the same footfall as the rest of Orchard Road, despite enjoying frontage along the main road and being (technically) linked to the MRT station. It was one of many developments by Far East Organisation along Orchard Road.

Orchard Plaza 03Orchard Plaza 04
The bridges linking Orchard Plaza to Orchard Point and Cuppage Plaza

In 1981, Singapore Mint opened its first ever retail shop in Orchard Plaza.

Today, Orchard Plaza houses mainly tailor shops, beauty parlours and nightclubs. The nightlife scene that was once exclusive to “Little Ginza” has since spread to Orchard Plaza and the adjacent Concorde Hotel and Shopping Mall, forming a “Golden Triangle” or sorts.

Orchard Plaza 01
Orchard Plaza

This shopping mall was not the first location along Orchard Road to bear the name “Orchard Plaza”. In 1971, a department store called “Orchard Plaza” opened in Orchard Building.

Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre
Constructed: 1985
Status: Found

Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre 01
Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre

There was once an underpass linking Cuppage Plaza to the Holiday Inn hotel across Kramat Road. However, the underpass is no longer accessible.

The hotel was known as Holiday Inn Parkview when it opened in 1985. It claimed to be the world’s first hotel to install wall safes in every room. It was rebranded as Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre after renovations in 2009.

This is the fourth in a series of entries on Orchard Road. Click the following links for part 1, part 2 and part 3.

File Last Updated: December 24, 2018

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