The iconic Lau Pa Sat closes from today for a $4 million facelift.
When it reopens in November, it will feature more alfresco dining options, a Japanese bakery and better ventilation.
The facelift is meant to help the ageing food centre keep up with its increasingly modern neighbours, said Mr Alden Tan, managing director of Kopitiam, which owns the building.
A popular lunch spot for office workers, Lau Pa Sat - which means old market in Hokkien - was completed in 1894 at its present Raffles Quay site and is a gazetted national monument. This is its first major renovation in the 17 years since Kopitiam took over.
Local firm DP Architects, which was behind projects such as People's Park Complex and the Esplanade, has been commissioned to carry out the work.
While Lau Pa Sat's Victorian-era cast-iron structure will remain largely untouched, the centre's layout will be rearranged, said Mr Tan.
The eight streets that cut across the centre will be reconstructed, and a new internal walkway connecting the streets will be added to allow for better air and traffic flow.
"The problem with the old layout was that it did not allow for lateral movement," said Mr Tan. "When you want to transfer from a street to another, you have to walk to the centre core and out again."
Lau Pa Sat's distinctive cream- coloured clock tower, which stopped working some time ago, will be repaired. Inside, the metal columns will be painted a rustic green to highlight details of the structure, and a stage will be built for live performances.
Some of Lau Pa Sat's neighbours are also getting a revamp. The former Market Street carpark nearby is being redeveloped into CapitaGreen, a 40-storey office tower. A 135-room boutique hotel, Sofitel So Hotel, is slated to open in December opposite Lau Pa Sat.
Said Mr Tan: "We have to make sure we keep up with the times and our surroundings."
The tenant mix, too, will be reviewed to cater to changing consumer tastes. Six new restaurants at the fringe of the centre will offer alfresco seating. An upmarket 2,000 sq ft Japanese bakery will cater to the office crowd, who form the bulk of Lau Pa Sat's estimated 15,000 customers on weekdays.