SINGAPORE - Once a sleepy district that came alive only after sundown, Balestier is seeing the first waves of renewal through a new mall and two brand-name hotels.
In an area filled with old Art Deco shophouses, the new developments, along with an office building which was completed in March, provide a burst of modernity with their sleek marble floors and minimalist bamboo facades.
The Ramada and Days Hotels, which are run by the United States-based Wyndham Hotel Group, have added another 800 rooms to an area known for local budget hotels such as the Hotel 81 chain. And they are already starting to see a flurry of tourists from South-east Asia.
The two-storey Zhongshan Mall at Ah Hood Road will only officially open by the end of the year, but around 20 of its 30 tenants, including FairPrice Finest and a ThaiExpress food outlet, are already open for business.
Ms Charlotte Tan, group general manager of developer HH Properties, hopes the mall would not just cater to Balestier's residents, but also draw overseas and local visitors.
Still, the development does not forget Balestier's rich past.
The mall is named after the founding father of the Republic of China, Dr Sun Yat Sen, who is also known as Sun Zhongshan - paying homage to its close location to the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, a two-storey villa which Dr Sun once used to plan his revolution.
Balestier has seen a lot since Mr Joseph Balestier, the first United States consul to Singapore, set up a sugarcane plantation in what was once a swampy area in 1834.