It's A Celebration
Raffles City Singapore - the City within a City - mirrors its country's success
Issue: Aug 2009
Day or night, Raffles City Singapore is a hive of activity.
Don't come to Raffles City Singapore expecting some quiet. This mixed-used development of offices, retail, convention centre, and hotels is a constant hive of activity. In July, it was the games village for the inaugural Asian Youth Games.
F1 Williams driver Nico Rosberg at Raffles City Singapore during the inaugural 2008 Singapore Grand Prix
This month, the hotel rooms will be packed with those wanting to catch Singapore's spectacular birthday celebrations by the bay.
Come September, the City will be abuzz with the return of the Grand Prix. Its hotels, with their bird's eye view of the F1 track, will again be in hot demand.
As Singapore celebrates 44 years of independence this August, Raffles City is also marking 23 years of continued vibrancy in the country's downtown. All this, not by a fluke: the integrated complex has continually evolved to keep up with the times.
The late Finance Minister Mr Hon Sui Sen at the 1980 groundbreaking ceremony (Aug 1980)
When it was completed, the then Westin Stamford became the world's tallest hotel (June 1985)
It was just a few days after Singapore's 15th birthday in 1980, that a groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of Raffles City Singapore.
The late Minister of Finance Hon Sui Sen called it the "anchor of extensive development" in the area. Named after Singapore's founder Sir Stamford Raffles, the ambitious project would rise from where the Raffles Institution had once stood for more than a century.
Six years later, the iconic landmark designed by world-renowned architect I.M.Pei was unveiled to much fanfare. Pei who called it "a city within a city" envisioned it to be a "symbol of national dynamism" and a tourist magnet. The mammoth development was to be the link of the tourist and shopping artery of Orchard Road with the commercial and financial area in and around Raffles Place.
Many Singaporeans came to admire the then Westin Stamford, which at 73 storeys, was the world's tallest hotel. Raffles City's shopping centre was also the biggest mall the country had ever seen.
Today, the integrated complex consists of Raffles City Tower (offices), Raffles City Shopping Centre, Swissotel The Stamford, Fairmont Singapore and Raffles City Convention Centre. Surrounded by major attractions such as the Raffles Hotel, Chjmes, and St Andrews' Cathedral, it's lived up to Pei's vision of being a tourist hub. It is just 20 minutes from the airport, and is well-connected to all parts of Singapore via public transport.
The busy City Hall train station, which is right below, provides a healthy stream of shoppers and diners throughout the day. This human traffic will burgeon when the Circle Line opens next year.
Raffles City Singapore has been a vibrant part of downtown Singapore for 23 years
Raffles City Tower, a 42-storey office building, is a business powerhouse. Its 50 tenants hail from sectors as diverse as Energy, Business Consultancy, IT & Telecommunication, Government and Government-Linked, Banking, Insurance and Financial Services.
Office space here is coveted. Some of the key movers and shakers such as the Economic Development Board have been tenants since the beginning. This in itself speaks volumes.
The large office cohort from the Tower, together with guests and visitors at the two hotels and convention centre, adds to the large shopper catchment for Raffles City Shopping Centre.
The mall, spread over four floors, is anchored by Robinsons Department Store and Jasons Market Place. The former creates a lot of buzz through late night shopping and events during Christmas and the annual Great Singapore Sale. The latter is a reputed gourmet supermarket.
More than 200 tenants provide a kaleidoscope of fashion, lifestyle, jewellery and F&B offerings. Basement 1, called The Raffles Marketplace, is a smorgasbord of dining options. For the past three years, ThaiExpress Bistro has been thriving at the mall. Says Head of Business Development Gayle Phua, "Our restaurant at Raffles City is one of the top five performing restaurants in our chain.
Premium location, strong management and vibrant tenant mix ensure good customer traffic."City Chain's experience at the mall has gone from "good to better to fantastic" according to its effusive regional operations controller Kenny Cheong. The watch company has been with Raffles City Singapore since Day One. Cheong reminisces about the Atrium which has now been replaced. He says, "Our successful Solvil et Titus launch held there has stuck in the public's memory till today."
Over the years, the mall has observed a change in its shopper profile. There are now more business visitors, and several new academic institutions in the vicinity have added a higher student population.
New malls in Orchard Road, and two upcoming integrated resorts with 800,000 sq ft of retail space, all point to stronger competition. To stay ahead, the mall has undergone a S$75.5 million makeover and expansion to further strengthen its positioning. The additional 41,000 sq ft of lettable space created more retail outlets; seeing more fashion and F&B offerings.
The revamp in 2007 introduced 33 new retail outlets to the mall
"The revamp has strengthened our tenant mix with the introduction of more international fashion and accessory brands," says Joanna Low, General Manager, Raffles City Singapore. "What's more, each level is now themed to target a specific shopping demographic and to help customers shop with ease."
On the ground floor, 'Vogue' has brands like Coach and Kate Spade for the sophisticated, while 'High Street Chic' on the second floor aims to draw the trendy fashionista with brands like TopShop. The third floor is 'Play Hub' which is for the home and kids.
This premier mixed-used development has been a major supporter of the Singapore Arts Festival since 1992. It presents exclusive art performances to enhance the shopping experience during The Great Singapore Sale.
Many remember the Urban Dream Capsule that was here in 2004. This unique window theatre had four Australian men living, playing and entertaining shoppers for two weeks in Esprit's store window. Their performance at Raffles City was the first in Asia and played to capacity crowds.
The Urban Dream Capsule during the Singapore Arts Festival 2004.
And who could forget seeing David Beckam and Tony Blair at Raffles City when Singapore hosted the 117th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in July 2005?
It was a thrill to see the high-profile personalities who had descended upon Raffles City. More than 3,000 overseas supporters, along with thousands of others, gathered there to hear the nail-biting announcement, which was beamed 'live' the world over: Britain had won the bid for the 2012 Olympics.
Singapore hosted the 117th IOC session in 2005 at Raffles City Singapore
Raffles City Singapore has made the "Made in Singapore" Raffles City concept such a success that its developer CapitaLand has exported the idea to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Bahrain.
As I.M. Pei had envisioned, it is now indeed a symbol of national dynamism - a fitting ambassador for Singapore. And that calls for a celebration.