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I've lived in a landed home in Orchard for 5 years. Here's an insider view on what it's like

I've lived in a landed home in Orchard for 5 years. Here's an insider view on what it's like
PHOTO: Stackedhomes

For most Singaporeans, living right in the middle of our legendary shopping belt is a dream. However, there are downsides we may not have considered; and with ongoing decentralisation, some may even say Orchard is losing a bit of its spark. How true is all of this? We spoke to someone who has actually been lucky enough to live in this prestigious area:

Living within the heart of the Orchard shopping belt 

Our Orchard resident, W, resided in a landed home right behind Paragon Shopping Centre. This would be about a 10-minute walk to the Orchard MRT station and ION Orchard. 

This means just about every retail amenity imaginable is in reach – be it high-end designer brands, or some cheaper shops. One way this was reflected was in the food choices. W says that, while there was a tendency to spend more on food while living in Orchard:

“We also had choices. If we wanted cheap, we could head to Lucky Plaza. There’s a food court there with affordable food. If we wanted something healthy like a salad bowl, there are good eateries in Paragon. If we wanted to go out with the family for lunch, we could easily walk to any restaurant earlier so we wouldn’t have to queue or make reservations in advance.”

One of W’s go-tos is an Economy Rice stall on the ground floor or Lucky Plaza, which is one of the cheapest places in Orchard to eat. 

W feels this is in contrast to where he currently stays, which is in an HDB estate. While it’s still convenient, in that there’s a food centre downstairs and a neighbourhood mall five minutes away, the choices are far more limited than in Orchard. 

As a flipside to this, the notorious Orchard Road traffic is an issue for residents:

“Traffic in the Orchard area is quite bad,” W says, “Especially on weekdays and even on Saturday morning, till around lunch time. The traffic here is a result of commercial vehicles coming in and out to do deliveries. 

Many of them drive around or park outside the landed homes because they need to queue up to unload goods. Most come around the same time, likely to avoid ERP charges at certain times. 

They will park even on roads marked with double-yellow lines, which can obstruct traffic.”

This is compounded by Private Hire Vehicles, which tend to “camp” around the Orchard area in the expectation of pick-ups. W says the quiet times are late afternoons and Sundays; but this is true of most places. 

Best and not-so-good places to live in Orchard

Even in a highly desirable stretch like Orchard, not all areas are equal. While it is a bit subjective, W feels that the Emerald Hill area is one of the best:

“I used to walk around Emerald Hill a lot when I lived there, because in Orchard you don’t have a park within walking distance. This was the closest I could get, and the stretch here is an idyllic enclave within the busy Orchard area.”

However, W says this stops toward the end of Emerald Hill, where the bars cause a ruckus. W says there are always a lot of people using outdoor seating at these bars, raising the noise level and smoking.

W also says the difference between the start of Emerald Hill, and the Orchard Gateway areas, are night-and-day when it comes to congestion and noise. 

In W’s opinion though, the worst location would be “where the four-way junction at Paragon is. It’s also very packed there during the day. 

Oftentimes, you’ll find frustrated drivers trying their luck to cross the junction, only to get held up by the pedestrian green light; and you’ll not hear the end of other frustrated drivers sounding the horn at them.”

Hidden gems and conveniences that Orchard locals would know

Living on Orchard, W came to know its nooks and crannies; and this includes some gems that even other Singaporeans may miss (doubly so in the past decade, where we know some Singaporeans have begun to despise trips to crowded Orchard Road). 

One of these is cheap parking, in the red-light area of Orchard Towers (if you park before nightfall, you won’t even notice the vice activities, which only really start after 6pm). 

W says you can park at Orchard Towers for just $8 for the entire day, which is a steal as far as parking in Orchard is concerned.

If you absolutely must have free parking and don’t care how far you need to walk, W says that:

“You can park at the Goodwood Hill enclave. There’s a single continuous white line at the front but as you go further in, the line ends and you’re free to park there legally. It’s only for those who don’t mind the walk afterwards.”

What Orchard needs to round itself out 

To be clear, Orchard is a prestigious neighbourhood that has no shortage of amenities; but W notices a few qualities are still needed to balance the neighbourhood.

“Orchard past midnight isn’t very happening,” W warns, “Unless you’re at certain spots like Orchard Towers, Cuscaden or Cuppage. If we wanted food, we couldn’t walk to Paragon or Lucky Plaza since those malls would be closed. There is a new 24-hour restaurant called Cafe De Muse at Shaw House, but it’s not cheap supper food. There isn’t a 24-hour supermarket nearby where I lived, though I never found the need for one.”

W also feels that Orchard “needs more life.” 


Perhaps due to past planning, which saw Orchard as little more than a long stretch of malls, it has ended up lacking variety:

“There should be greater collaboration between the different shopping centres to work together, to bring more interesting activities to shoppers, “ W says. 

“We could do with more street level activities with F&B and popup stalls, which I understand is already being done but we could do more of. Think about how it’s done in Shinjuku, Japan: I know it’s clichéd but there’s a lot of potential to transform the stretch into a lively hub of activities. 

The only issue is the weather, which needs to be solved to make it practical. But the real challenge is getting multiple stakeholders to come together and align everyone’s interest.”

Another issue is the extreme urban density of Orchard.

“I think if you’re staying in Orchard, having a greenery view isn’t something you should expect,” W says. “At best, you’d get a city view. Nor should schools be a priority here either. Land value is really high and it makes no sense to put more schools in the area. I wish there was at least a park we could go to to unwind, but we never thought it made sense to have one in Orchard either. Skate Park doesn’t count.”

This is not something we see being resolved soon, or easily. Orchard already has traffic issues; so trying to close more roads to create green spaces will aggravate the situation (at least, until we really achieve a car-lite society). Also, as W points out, aligning the interests of major players like malls is tough – no entity wants their mall to be disadvantaged over others by a road closure, for example; and malls may not want to collaborate if they feel joint promotions help competitors more. 

Decentralisation may cause Orchard to lose some clout, but it likely remains the place the be

W says decentralisation (the process of creating different “hubs” besides Orchard) has an effect. However, it’s unlikely to dethrone Orchard’s primacy anytime soon.

W says decentralisation steals some clout “in the sense that each neighbourhood with its own mall no longer is boring. 

But you can only visit your neighbourhood mall that many times before you find other things to do. Orchard is still the go-to place for tourists, as it has everything you need in a shopping district. As Singapore grows its tourism sector, Orchard Road would increasingly become more and more relevant. You don’t hear of tourists going to Jurong Point do you?”

W also points out another advantage:

“Before you reach Orchard, there’s the Botanical Gardens. Adventurous souls can also visit Orchard Towers at the start of Orchard. Past that, you have malls left right and centre to just bask in air-conditioning and enjoy the multiple cuisines Singapore has to offer. There’s also Hard Rock Café at Cuscaden for those who really need to collect their merchandise.”

For hardcore urbanites, Orchard is still a dream neighbourhood of convenience and retail therapy; and its prestige is likely to last for a long time yet. But for interested buyers, you may want to consider if Orchard would be more comfortable after further pedestrianisation attempts, and URA has balanced out the area better. 

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.

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