SINGAPORE - When the Joo Koon integrated transport hub opens in Jurong at the end of the year, it will be more than a place to shop and dine.
It will also host NTUC FairPrice's biggest distribution centre and its most high-tech.
The centre will occupy 730,000 sq ft of the new $350 million, 16-storey FairPrice Hub, which will also have 260,000 sq ft of office space and 130,000 sq ft of retail space.
The bus interchange being built next to the existing MRT station will be on the first floor of the facility.
The FairPrice store at the Hub will have a unique selling point: It will be the first to operate under the supermarket chain's "new concept of wholesale retailing".
Details will be released at a later date, said NTUC FairPricechairman Ng Ser Miang on Thursday at the Hub's topping out ceremony but he promised "better prices".
"Together with all the innovations in technology that we're introducing such as self check-outs... we'll be passing on all the savings to our customers."
The distribution centre will have a capacity for 52,000 pallets - 15,000 more than its two existing centres in Penjuru and Joo Koon combined.
Equipped with automated storage and retrieval systems, it will be able to handle up to 10,000 grocery cartons an hour - 25 per cent faster than the current process - and will cut FairPrice's labour costs by 28 per cent.
The hub will also include green features such as recycled materials, motion-sensor lighting and an electronic system to detect water leaks.
It has already earned the Green Mark Platinum award from the Building & Construction Authority, said Mr Ng, adding that it is expected to be ready in December.
As for the mix of shops that will occupy the retail area, he said no details were available yet, but the Hub will have "several eateries to cater to people working in the vicinity".
The fully air-conditioned Joo Koon facility will be the seventh integrated hub in Singapore offering the convenience of dining, shopping, and train and bus travel in one place. The others are in Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay, Clementi, Sengkang, Serangoon and Toa Payoh.
Two more are being constructed in Bedok and Bukit Panjang, and they are expected to be completed next year.
There are plans for such complexes in Hougang Central, Jurong East, Marina South and Yishun as well.
"The whole idea is to make the experience pleasant - it's air-conditioned, there is easy access to shopping, and the transfers between bus and train are faster and more convenient," said civil and environmental engineering associate professor Gopinath Menon, who teaches at the Nanyang Technological University and specialises in public transportation.
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