Boat Quay makeover rocks the boat

SINGAPORE - A plan to renovate the alfresco dining areas in Boat Quay has divided both stakeholders and patrons.

Yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) called for submissions from consultants to study how the outdoor refreshment areas (ORAs) along the entire stretch facing the river can be improved.

Under the plan, the ad hoc structures set up there by individual businesses would be replaced by new ones that would provide better views of the river.

The promenade stretches approximately 335m and houses 41 businesses on the ground level.

For now, there are no indications as to how long the works, set to begin in the middle of next year, will take.

However, restaurant owners in the area said they were told to expect anything from a few weeks to a few months.

Speaking to the media, Mr Ty Tabing, executive director of site management group Singapore River One (SRO), noted the "cluttered appearance" of the promenade, and how large menu boards, fish tanks and partitions block views of the river and the quay.

"There is a lot of coverage that unfortunately obstructs the views of these beautiful shophouses," said Mr Tabing.

"We think the project being proposed will clean that up and open up the sight lines."

SRO said an ongoing survey it is conducting among businesses and landlords has shown that the majority support the project. About half of the stakeholders on the riverfront stretch are SRO members.

However, a MyPaper check with business owners has shown a lack of consensus.

About three quarters of businesses along the stretch have a significant part of their seating outside. Some do have tables indoors, but most rely largely on their alfresco dining areas.

Among them is the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant. A kitchen and fish tanks take up its shop space indoors, so all of its seating is outside in the ORA.

"My business will basically have to stop (during construction)," said the owner, who wanted to be known as Mr Hua. "Who will pay for the rent and salaries of my employees when we are not making any money?"

Mr Victor Yap, operations manager of CM Bar, said SRO had suggested it could put bar tables along the main walkway.

"Even if we put our tables there, customers will not like it because of the dust and noise from the construction," he said. He estimates a 40 per cent drop in revenue.

Restaurants also voiced concerns that the project would make the stretch look too "uniform" and cause Boat Quay to "lose its unique feel".

British tourist Linda Edwards has been to Singapore numerous times and frequents the Boat Quay stretch. She said: "This cluttered look is part of its quirky charm. It's a very unique blend that cannot be found elsewhere."

Still, local student Daniel Lim, 21, said he feels the changes will "make Boat Quay cleaner and more vibrant. It is too cluttered now, and the beautiful view can hardly be seen at some points of the street".

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