Work has started on the mixed-used development at Changi Airport designed to turn the airport into a world-class attraction that will draw travellers and Singaporeans alike.
Jewel, as it has been named, is part of a plan to cement Changi's position as an air hub by boosting Singapore's lure as a stopover point, even as other airports in the region beef up their infrastructure to snag a bigger piece of the travel pie.
At the same time, Changi's Terminal 1 (T1) is being expanded to overcome capacity constraints.
Encased in a glass-and-steel dome, Jewel will house 22,000 square metres of lush greenery spread out over five storeys, in a nod to Singapore's reputation as a garden city. Sited in the 3.5 ha carpark fronting T1, it will link the airport's three existing terminals and enable travellers and visitors to traverse the terminals on foot.
At the centre of the 134,000 sq m complex will be a 40m high indoor waterfall, which will morph into a special-effects show by night. To dial up the fun, a 13,000 sq m space named Canopy Park will feature walking trails, playgrounds and adjacent food-and-beverage options.
Changi Airport Group (CAG) chief executive and chairman of Jewel Changi Airport Development (JCAD) Lee Seow Hiang said: "Faced with intensifying competition, we challenged ourselves to rethink what an airport could be - not just as a gateway for flights, but a tourism destination on its own."
A joint venture between CAG (51 per cent) and CapitaLand's shopping- mall arm CapitaMalls Asia (49 per cent), Jewel is set to open by end-2018.
The total development cost for Project Jewel has worked out to S$1.7 billion after finalising the concept and factoring in costs associated with the current tight labour market; the initial estimate a year ago had been S$1.47 billion.
The project was designed by a team helmed by famed Israel- born architect Moshe Safdie, who designed the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.
He said: "We thought the attraction must be timeless. It should be inspirational and uplifting. It should attract passengers and citizens, and should make Changi a cohesive, unified place."
In terms of airport facilities, Jewel will have early check-in services and lounges for fly-cruise and fly-coach passengers.
Ticketing, boarding passes and baggage transfers will be handled at the airport itself, which means greater convenience for those getting off a flight and connecting onward onto a coach, cruise or ferry.
On the retail side, there will be some 300 stores offering local and international brands, both new-to-market and established, which will present unique concepts.
The chief executive of JCAD, Philip Yim, said that talks are underway with about 100 retailers.
Boutique hotel group YOTEL will run a 130-room hotel there.
Meanwhile, T1's expansion comes in response to capacity constraints following the rapid growth in the last decade, which had been fuelled in part by low-cost carriers.
More than 90 per cent of travellers at T1 today are origin-destination passengers, who require more space for baggage claims as well as drop-off and pick-up bays.
In the past, the proportion of passengers for whom Singapore was a final destination was 70 per cent; when T1 was built in 1981, it largely catered to Singapore Airlines' passengers, 30 per cent of whom were transfer passengers.
With the overhaul in T1, its arrival baggage claim hall will nearly double to 19,000 sq m.
It will also be kitted with a new coach stand, additional departure drop-off kerb and more taxi pick-up bays.
Its "meeters and greeters" arrival hall will be expanded by 35 per cent to 8,500 sq m.
Collectively, this will take T1's annual handling capacity to 24 million passengers, up by about three million.
And as part of the transition to automated services against the backdrop of a tight labour market, T1 will offer 110 new self-service check-in kiosks and 60 self-service bag drop counters, along with two additional check-in rows.
The terminal's carpark will be tucked underground; the number of spaces will be roughly tripled from the 850 in T1's (now shuttered) open air car-park.
But even as Changi works on Jewel and the upcoming Terminal 4 - the latter is slated to open in 2017 - plans are already being drawn up for Terminal 5 by the mid-2020s, which will boost Changi's overall handling capacity to 135 million per year by then.
Changi will also switch to a three-runway system from 2020 from the existing two to help ease congestion.
Speaking at Jewel's ground-breaking ceremony on Friday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said: "Apart from increasing the capacity of Changi Airport through Terminals 4 and 5 to meet growing demand, and keeping Changi cost-effective for airlines and passengers, we must differentiate Changi from other airports by ensuring the highest, impeccable standards of service, and making it an attractive destination in and of itself."
Commenting on the new developments, Jetstar Asia chief Bara Pasupathi said that the enhancements will improve service to the region's savvy travellers.
This article was first published on December 6, 2014.
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