SINGAPORE - Farmers' markets, bistros and farm-to-table restaurants are among some offerings that visitors to Gillman Barracks can expect in future after plans to rejuvenate the area into a lifestyle enclave are completed.
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on Tuesday (May 24) announced plans to introduce more food and beverage and lifestyle concepts - such as unique dining experiences and workshops - to the former military barracks-turned-arts enclave.
SLA will also upgrade the area's infrastructure, including adding covered walkways and building a new playground for families with children.
This is the latest attempt to inject vibrancy into the arts cluster off Alexandra Road, which had seen various art galleries pull out in previous years due to low footfall and poor sales.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said Gillman Barracks' rejuvenation, which will be carried out across two phases from February this year to early next year, is part of SLA's efforts to unlock greater value from state properties.
"By creating more exciting and varied lifestyle, arts and creative spaces, the rejuvenation effort will add to the vibrancy of the precinct for all to enjoy," he said.
Built in 1936, the barracks sits on a 6.6ha site - about the size of 12 football fields - next to a park connector network along the Alexandra Garden Trail which links HortPark, Labrador Park and the Southern Ridges.
The arts cluster opened in 2012, and the SLA took over management of the area from JTC Corp in March 2020.
On Tuesday, the SLA launched five tenders for F&B and lifestyle uses. These contracts will have a longer upfront tenure of five years, renewable for a second term of between two and three years.
Four of the blocks - 5A, 8 and 10 Lock Road, and 45 Malan Road - are currently occupied by Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream and Coffee, Masons, Handlebar and Hopscotch respectively. The fifth block at 9A Lock Road used to house Timbre @ Gillman and is currently vacant.
Gillman Barracks currently has 18 tenants - 10 commercial art galleries, one non-profit institution, one art institution and six F&B establishments.
SLA said the tenders will be evaluated by price and quality, with a higher weightage of 60 per cent placed on the quality component.
"The quality component includes the concept, creativity, and novelty of the business proposals, and how they can contribute to the rejuvenation and vibrancy of the precinct, including round-the-clock engagements that can attract communities from all walks of life," the authority said.
It will also consider whether proposals incorporate green initiatives into business operations, as part of SLA's push to make Gillman Barracks an eco-friendly precinct.
Some examples are energy-efficient lighting and ventilation, water-efficient fittings in washrooms, and the use of sustainable supplies such as biodegradable packaging. Environmentally friendly operations and curated sustainability programmes are also encouraged, SLA added.
Tenders for the five blocks will be open for eight weeks from Tuesday on SLA's State Property Online Information portal. The lease for current tenants will expire early next year.
Two of the remaining F&B tenants - Naked Finn and BurgerLabo, owned by Mr Tan Ken Loon - were given direct tenancy, meaning they do not have to re-tender for their spaces.
The F&B and lifestyle plans aim to bring more footfall to the 10 local and international art galleries at Gillman Barracks.
National Arts Council director of sector development for visual arts Tay Tong said the lifestyle offerings would complement the art galleries.
Gillman Barracks will also undergo infrastructure upgrading. Covered linkways will be added along some walking paths to connect some of the 17 blocks. Wayfindings and pit stops for cyclists will also be installed.
The upgrading works, which began this February and cost about $2 million, are targeted to be completed early next year.
SLA chief executive Colin Low said: "Families, cyclists, hikers, arts enthusiasts, nature lovers, as well as the working community and residents in Alexandra and Telok Blangah, and future residents at the newly announced Greater Southern Waterfront, can look forward to experience varied offerings throughout the day. There will be something for everyone."
Mr Rob Coldman, 58, owner of Verve Holdings that runs Masons restaurant, said the NAC, Economic Development Board and JTC Corporation’s original direction for Gillman Barracks - to be an arts cluster - did not take off as there was no market for it.
“Our site was a fine dining restaurant tender. Six months after we launched Masons in 2012, we realised the market for fine dining wasn’t there,” he added.
“Becoming more approachable and affordable would make a huge difference, so we hope SLA’s plans to focus more on F&B and lifestyle will be successful.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.