Cooking your meal is new retail concept offered at CBD's upcoming mall

The upcoming mall at OUE Downtown looks set to not only enliven Shenton Way, but also offer bold retail concepts - such as cooking meals in a shared kitchen and having lunch delivered to lockers.

OUE Downtown (formerly DBS Building) in the generally staid financial district is being redeveloped into a mixed-use project comprising offices, serviced apartments and a $195 million mall.

Its landlord, property group OUE, told The Straits Times the Downtown Gallery mall with a net lettable area of 145,000 sq ft will be big on lifestyle, wellness and technology. It is set to open in the first quarter next year.

One fresh idea is a 4,000 sq ft "social kitchen" on level three, to be fitted out with 10 cooking stations, complete with kitchen equipment, crockery and condiments.

"You can book a slot for one of the stations online or via an app, just bring your own raw ingredients and cook. Dining spaces are included too. We want to take social gatherings of friends to the next level," said Ms Patrina Tan, senior vice-president for retail, marketing and leasing at OUE.

The landlord is also creating an auto deli in a duplex unit spanning levels two and three. But there are no food vendors at this deli, only lockers and a casual dining area.

People order food from a menu via their mobile devices and pick up the items - prepared in a central kitchen - from an assigned locker at a specified time. OUE expects to roll out a new mobile app next year with a range of services. "We are working with a renowned food consultant and a team of chefs to design the menu; it will be hot food for the local palate," Ms Tan added.

OUE said nearly 60 per cent of the retail space has been pre-committed. Tenants include a farmer's market by The Providore, dance centre Wings To Wings, pilates studio Upside Motion and boutique fitness studio GuavaLabs, all on the basement level.

Unlike the many malls heavy on food and beverage, just 29 per cent of space at the mall goes to F&B.

The first storey will boast an 11,000 sq ft trend gallery, with pop-up stores and retail counters. Some "athleisure" names to open are Australian sportswear label Lorna Jane, yoga brand Manduka, sports apparel firm 2XU and Britain's SuperDry Sport.

Another confirmed tenant is Mulberry, which will run an 8,600 sq ft pre-school. The landlord said a co-working space provider is taking up 20,000 sq ft of space.

Ms Tan said OUE is also in talks with "two car brands" on the possibility of having an electric-car showroom on the ground floor.

These novel ideas will make the mall one of a kind here in a retail market dogged by weak sentiment, slower sales and high costs. "Every game-changing idea comes with risk but it also comes with big rewards when it is all done and the market gets excited," Ms Tan said.

Downtown Gallery is one of three malls due to open in the Central Business District. The other two - GuocoLand's Tanjong Pagar Centre and Marina One, jointly developed by Khazanah Nasional Berhad and Temasek Holdings - will offer more than 200,000 sq ft of retail space combined.

Ms Tan sees the rival malls as providing "critical mass and a bigger offering", giving consumers a reason to visit the CBD on weekends.

"It's like growing a new shopping precinct for Singapore. Other cities, like Hong Kong, Melbourne and London, all have shopping in the CBD. Why can't we?"

This article was first published on July 15, 2016.
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