Shoppers may notice the North Wing of Suntec City has had a spiffy makeover. Over its entrance, a new three-storey canopy hangs, refreshing the facade of the building. Glass windows have been put in for stores on the first and second levels, so shoppers can look inside.
Regulars will also notice that live music bar Balaclava has returned to its old stomping ground near the entrance, after four years at Ion Orchard mall.
No doubt foodies will be pleased with the new offerings here. On the first level, taking advantage of the wide outdoor walkway, five new alfresco restaurants have opened. These include the 90-seat Italian eatery District 10, which has an outdoor bar too.
In the pipeline is the farmer's market PasarBella, which will house 15 vendors when it opens officially on Dec 1.
But the piece de resistance of the North Wing is the Sky Garden, a new foodie haven overlooking the Fountain Of Wealth. The space has 13 restaurants, spread out both indoors and outdoors across the third level between Towers 1 and 5. All of the eateries have opened, except for four which will open soon.
Funky eateries include Arn Nan Alfresco Bar + Bistro, serving Asian food with a healthy twist; and a Japanese multi-concept space featuring seven restaurants.
These changes are the last phase of a massive redevelopment plan for Suntec City that cost $410 million and three years to finish.
Although visitors have already been exploring the new shops in the North Wing since June - different parts of the mall were opened while renovations went on - the celebrations for the collective revamp took place last Thursday.
The redesign was handled by international architectural firm Aedas.
These new additions come off the back of well-received earlier phases which saw big-name retailers H&M and Uniqlo take up anchor spots in the mall, as well as a remodelled convention centre with a three- storey-high, 60m-wide LED digital wall.
In the basement, restaurants were placed next to the iconic Fountain Of Wealth behind floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Even the lucky fountain got spruced up with an auspicious gold hue.
The mall is also more accessible to its surroundings, including two Circle Line train stations - Promenade and Esplanade. It is also connected via a bridge to the new South Beach development along Nicoll Highway.
This is the first time the 18-year- old mall and convention centre has undergone a major revamp. Managed by Suntec Reit, it was originally designed by New York firm Tsao & McKown Architects and Singapore's DP Architects.
Mr Yeo See Kiat, 64, chief executive of ARA Trust Management (Suntec) Limited, which manages Suntec Reit, says the overhaul was timely to tackle competition from other large, mixed-used properties such as VivoCity, Marina Bay Sands and South Beach.
He says: "A retail mall player must always be right up there. If we have a dated, tired model, who will come? Having rejuvenated Suntec City, we're now the jewel in the Marina Bay precinct."
He adds that the revamp took a long time as Suntec City's size required a lot of logistical planning. The management had to wait for lease agreements to expire so it could reorganise store spaces to house more anchor tenants.
Truly a city in itself, the 960,000 sq ft retail space - the size of about 15 football fields - has more than 350 fashion and lifestyle stores and restaurants, offering everything from yoga to home furnishings. Popular brands such as cosmetics chain Sephora, frozen yogurt chain Llao Llao and footwear store Steve Madden have all taken up residence there.
About three million shoppers throng Suntec City every month, says Mr Yeo. "We got about two million visitors every month before the renovation started and we lost some shoppers when the renovations started. But we expect to be stronger every day."
The new look has drawn back an old favourite, Balaclava. Previously located at the convention centre, the restaurant-bar, which opened last month, has moved to the North Wing. A 10-year stalwart of the old Suntec City since 2000, it moved to Ion Orchard in 2010 and closed last year after its lease ended.
A Balaclava spokesman says: "We found that Suntec City had a space for us and what better place than to return to the original location? The revamp has been very well done. Balaclava has been packed from Day One and we don't see it slowing down anytime soon."
The revamp has also drawn new faces such as kitchen and tableware retailer ToTT, which has its flagship store in Dunearn Road. The 4,800 sq ft ToTT@Suntec - one-fifth in size compared with its first store - has a retail section as well as a kitchen studio which can hold up to 24 people. The store opened in June and accounts for about 25 per cent of its total sales, says store director Grace Tan, 37.
And it is not just retailers who are liking the new look.
Ms Rukmini Makkar, 30, a marketing manager, travelled from her office in Changi to have dinner with friends at Suntec City. Enjoying the alfresco ambience on Wednesday night, she says: "It's lovely that they have outdoor spaces to sit and eat, especially after freezing the whole day in the office. It's a nice chill-out spot and I think it will draw more office workers to hang out after work."
Meanwhile, Ms Willyn Goh, 32, a corporate communications specialist who works in the area, is glad the mall operations are back to normal and there are more food options.
She says: "Having to go through the construction was troublesome and it was difficult to get from one end to the other. Now there're more things to eat and more shops. It's also a lot nicer and brighter too."
Four things to like
1 REJUVENATED SKY GARDEN
Once an obscure space, the rooftop green space connecting Towers 1 and 5 is now a foodie haven.
Set amid lush foliage and water features, nine out of the 13 restaurants are open and drawing steady lunch and dinner crowds.
These include Dallas Restaurant & Bar, the second outlet of the popular Boat Quay restaurant; and Arn Nan Alfresco Bar + Bistro, opened by the IndoChine Group.
Those who want to stay out of the haze can pop into the indoor section of the sky garden to Eat At Seven, a 600-seater cluster of seven Japanese restaurants, including Japanese-Italian diner Nigiro Cafe. Only Enbu, a a warayaki and charcoal grill izakaya, is outdoors.
The view is good too. Depending on where you are exploring, you can look out to the Fountain Of Wealth or admire the historical areas in the arts and cultural district such as the War Memorial Park.
The eateries can be accessed via an escalator outside Balaclava on the first level or through the third level of the North Wing.
2 OUTDOOR SEATING
The haze might keep the sun-loving crowd away for now. But once it clears, head outside for a good view of the area's skyscrapers as you eat.
Alfresco dining options include OSG Bar+ on the first level of Tower 1, which serves Western tapas. Live music bar Balaclava is also a stone's throw away.
For cheaper eats, the connection between the East Wing and North Wing on the second level has a Starbucks branch, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlet and Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint.
3 ABUNDANCE OF JAPANESE BRANDS
Japanophiles will rejoice at some of Suntec's new tenants from the land of the rising sun.
Besides numerous restaurants, there is Japanese speciality store Yamakawa Super, where you can stock up on Nippon-produced goods such as confectionary, sauces, instant noodles and drinks. It is slated to open later this year.
Beer buffs will love Ginza Lion Beer Hall in Tower 4. Its highlight is the free-flow two-hour beer buffet on weekends.
4 BRIGHTER HALLWAYS, SPACIOUS WALKWAYS
Before the facelift, the old Suntec felt a little behind the times. The lighting was dismal, the corridors were narrow and the furnishings were drab. Now, the place is all jazzed up. This has to do with the light earthy shade for the floor tiles, better lighting, wide walkways and big atriums.
This article was first published on Oct 31, 2015.
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