Food square in Katong

SINGAPORE - A new food cluster will emerge when the two-storey Katong Square development along East Coast Road opens early next year.

It will house more than 20 food and beverage outlets as well as food-themed businesses, which could include a gourmet grocer or cooking accessories store. Plans were released yesterday for the concept of the development, which is still under construction.

Mr Michel Lu, 46, executive chairman of Revolver Asia, a boutique consultancy which focuses on branding and curating tenancy mix for Katong Square, says the owners decided to stick with a single concept - food - as the site is not big enough to accommodate a spectrum of shops, unlike a regular-sized mall.

So he is putting together a mix of tenants that include new-to-market concepts and established local brands, though they will not be a repeat of what is available at the next-door neighbour, I12 Katong.

Already, a high-end Japanese restaurant group which has about 12 outlets in the country has expressed interest in opening its Singapore flagship at Katong Square.

Mr Lu is also in talks with a Taiwanese dessert company to set up shop.

Well aware that the food hub is opening in an area already known as a haunt for laksa and Peranakan food, Mr Lu says: "One thing is for sure - we can't compete with the guys in the shophouses, which they are already famous for. It's just not the same eating Katong laksa in a mall.

"What we will offer are brands that haven't been in Katong before, such as those available only in the city, which might be too far for those who live in this area to drive out for on weekends."

The development is jointly owned by Katong Holdings, comprising three Singapore-based developers and builders: Master Contract Services, Keong Hong Construction and Asia Development.

Aside from dining establishments, two hotels, slated to open early next year, will take up residency on the site.

InterContinental Hotels Group will open a 451-room Holiday Inn Express, its third few-frills hotel here under that name.

At the 131-room Hotel Indigo, the first local boutique hotel for the global brand, guests can expect stylish Peranakan- themed interiors by Eco-id Architects and Design Consultancy. It is also behind the interior of the whole building. Architecture firm Ong&Ong is designing the building.

Fronting the new retail portion is the former Joo Chiat Police Station, a two- storey building constructed in the 1920s. It was gazetted for conservation in 1993.

It used to house the 24-hour Old Hong Kong teahouse, while the rest of the area was known as Katong Village and had popular food establishments such as Waraku Japanese restaurant and Samy's Curry.

Hotel Indigo will open a cafe on the ground floor of the station - it will be linked to its lobby - and Mr Lu is looking for another eatery to take up the remaining space. He says: "The area has a lot of heritage and cultural links to the past. We have given the station an update to fit in with the new part of Katong Square."

The project also includes a sizeable lawn in front of the station, intended to host events such as food festivals.

The entrance to the development is framed by a glass canopy, sheltering diners from the weather. Restaurants and cafes on the first level will also be open, separated only by planter boxes.

Mr Lu says: "There will be no boundaries between the eateries. It's just like one big open dining hall, where you can hear people chatting. We're trying to create that sociable space on the first floor."

Katong looks set to get busy with more developments. Across the street, the former Red House Bakery will be rejuvenated as a five-storey serviced apartment complex called The Red House. There are plans for a bakery and a Heritage Gallery showcasing Katong's history.

The nearby Marine Parade MRT station, which is part of the Thomson-East Coast Line, is slated to open in 2023. Next to Katong Square, another small mall is being constructed.

Mr Lu says: "We want to make this mall like a town square, where there'll be music, cultural and art happenings. It'll be a vibrant place."

This article was first published on May 23, 2015.
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