SINGAPORE - After a snazzy makeover, The Capitol Piazza is up and running with exciting new shops and eateries and The Capitol Theatre is bursting to life with new movie screenings and plays.
But a humbler feature of the entire redevelopment project is also causing some buzz.
It is a new underground connection between City Hall MRT station and the Capitol Piazza mall.
Before the underpass was built, the stretch of North Bridge Road between St Andrew's Cathedral and The Capitol Piazza was a notorious jaywalking spot.
Now, commuters can enjoy a safer, air-conditioned walk underground.
Take, for example, Mr Mohamad Fadzli, 31, a restaurant manager who often heads to Peninsula Shopping Centre in Coleman Street to check out the guitar shops there.
Previously, to make the crossing from City Hall MRT station, he jaywalked sometimes - a common practice for pedestrians impatient to wait for the lights to turn in their favour.
Thanks to the new underpass, he does not even need to exit the station.
He says: "There's one escalator for going up at the MRT station exit, so it can get crowded during rush hour. Also, there's air-conditioning, so I won't be sweaty walking in the sun or get wet when it's raining."
Meanwhile, the Capitol Piazza, where retail spaces are spread out across three areas, is already starting to draw a steady stream of lunchtime crowds and curious shoppers. Since last month, some tenants have started business.
The first is a four-storey mall called Neue, situated where the former Capitol Centre was. It has fashion and beauty stores and eateries.
The second is Galleria, previously a back alley, but is now an air-conditioned sheltered promenade linking the conserved Stamford House, Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre. Housing cafes, bars and restaurants, the area has an alfresco street-dining ambience.
The last is Arcade in Capitol Building, where shops such as hair salon Prep Luxe and Austrian enamel jewellery manufacturer Freewille have opened in street-front heritage stores on the ground floor.
The mall's management expects most of the remaining tenants to be up and running by the end of the year.
Among the notable names in Neue are big brands making their Singapore debut.
The food options include famed roast duck specialist Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant from Bayswater in London and Parisian tearoom Angelina, famous for its pudding-like hot chocolate.
Four Seasons, located on level 2 of Neue, is already open. Angelina is slated to open in the Galleria by the end of this month.
Fashion-wise, other firsts in Singapore are Finnish design and fashion company Marimekko and Italian clothing label Napapijri's first store in South-east Asia, both of which are already open.
Multi-label store Manifesto, which features a wide selection of international cult labels such as Italian fashion brand Costume National and French fashion brand Christophe Lemaire, will be opening soon.
Some familiar names will also be making a comeback.
Eagle's Eye Art Gallery, an old stalwart in Stamford House's ground floor, moved out about five years ago because of the revamp. On June 1, the doors to its new 550 sq ft gallery will open in the Arcade, near where the old gallery used to be.
Gallery owner Joy Loh, 40, whose gallery is in Hongkong Street, says: "I like the classical look of the old building and the heritage it has. I'm also returning for nostalgic reasons because I started my gallery there and my customers often ask if I'll move back.
"Before, it was quiet. Now, there are more cafes and shops. There's energy in the place and it's refreshing."
Retail aside, there are new posh accommodation options coming up in the entire Capitol Singapore development.
A high-end residential development, with 39 units including five penthouses and two garden villas, is in the pipeline.
Called Eden Residences Capitol, it is designed by American Pritzker Prize- laureate Richard Meier, who is behind the design of the whole development, and features lush gardens.
Meanwhile, a six-star luxury hotel called The Patina Capitol, housed in the Capitol Building and Stamford House, is slated to open in the third quarter of this year.
This is the flagship property for Patina Hotels, which also has The Patina, Thanburudhoo in the Maldives, slated to open in 2017.
For now, people are just happy to see a new injection of life in the City Hall area.
Ms Mukti Chugani, 27, likes the new variety of shops and brands - in particular, cafes and coffee joints similar to those in Raffles Place and the Marina Bay Financial Centre.
The recent National Institute of Education postgraduate student says: "I remember the old Capitol Building, but I never ventured in because there was no reason for me to do so.
"Now, it looks very modern, with new food concepts, which were lacking in the area before. And because it's centrally located, I'll make the effort to walk over and check out the stores as they open."
This article was first published on May 16, 2015.
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