Expect a Boat Quay that is friendlier to visitors and less cluttered when a $5 million makeover is completed next year.
On top of a revamp that will introduce standardised outdoor dining areas and open public areas, new guidelines to control touting will be rolled out, it was announced yesterday.
Construction will begin in the first quarter of next year and conclude by the year end, after most of the precinct's businesses approved plans to revamp the waterfront promenade.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will fund the entire cost of the project.
The revamped Boat Quay will have three open spaces for the public to view the Singapore River, without having to patronise the eateries there.
The outdoor dining areas will become more standardised - all will have timber-like flooring, retractable canopies, slots designed for menu boards and signs, and beams to mount lights and fans.
Currently, huge menu boards and canopies of different colours and logos line the promenade, giving it an inconsistent and disorganised feel. Existing overhanging cables, which pose a fire hazard, will be moved underground.
The changes were proposed by Singapore River One, a private sector-led partnership formed to spruce up business and increase visitor traffic. It also manages Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.
The Singapore River has seen its share of tourists drop from 18 to 15 per cent from 2009 to 2012, according to the Singapore Tourism Board's figures.
Singapore River One worked with URA and a team of consultants over months to get feedback from stakeholders, such as the landlords and tenants of businesses there.
When the makeover is done, Singapore River One will create rules for the use of the outdoor dining spaces and have "teeth" to go after businesses with unfair practices such as touting, said executive director Michelle Koh.
Tourists have long complained of being harassed by touts.
While touting has become less of a problem since business owners started a campaign against it in 2012, more can be done, said Katsumi Mizutani, owner of Enoteca L'Operetta restaurant.
URA's director for place management, Jason Chen, urged the stakeholders to work together to address practices like touting.
"We will also explore with Singapore River One and the businesses on other ways to discourage touting if the problem persists," he added.
URA will call a tender in the second half of this year to appoint a contractor. Construction will be carried out in five phases to minimise disruption to the businesses, which will remain open.
Virender Singh, 26, who owns London Boat Quay bar, shrugged off concerns that business would suffer. "I think it'll help to improve business in the long run. Right now, everyone's using different shelters. It doesn't look nice," he said.
But Lorrie Maffey, 50, a tourist from Canada, thought the area would lose its character if the outdoor spaces look too similar.
Pointing at a menu board placed haphazardly in the middle of the walkway, she said: "I like that not everything is the same. I prefer to look down the street and get to see different things."
Ngee Ann Polytechnic tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said the makeover will help improve Boat Quay's image, but warned against making the outdoor area too uniform. "Sometimes it's good to have a variety of things to add colour to a place. Being too uniform might take away the vibrancy."
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