May 20, 2008

Waterfront cluster with high-end appeal

New Fullerton Heritage zone has luxury retail and dining outlets to draw the well-heeled

By Michelle Tay

RAFFLES Place may be best known as the arena where high-flying bankers and corporate executives slog away for handsome salaries. But a small patch of it is set to become a luxury retail haven where they can spend their hard-earned cash on art, jewellery and fine dining.

The waterfront strip around the historic Collyer Quay is being transformed into a playground for well-heeled locals and tourists, as developers of the Fullerton Heritage zone seek to lure these big spenders away from Orchard Road.

Features range from a luxury retail cluster in The Fullerton Hotel to a classy Chinese restaurant and bar in Clifford Pier by Hong Kong's trendy Aqua restaurant group.

The overriding strategy is clearly to pull in the well-to-do who might normally shop and dine in and around Orchard Road, the country's main shopping belt.

The Fullerton Heritage's general manager, Ms Sulian Tan-Wijaya, said the waterfront destination will 'create a new luxury retail cluster that currently does not exist in the Raffles Place area'.

Its expected clientele will include business and leisure travellers, executives from the Central Business District (CBD) and new Marina Bay Financial Centre, casino patrons and residents from upcoming condominiums nearby like The Sail and Marina Bay Residences.

The retail element will be concentrated at The Fullerton Hotel, where under-utilised conference rooms have been converted into more than 5,000 sq ft of space for five shops.

The retailers include London-based Singapore fashion designer Ashley Isham; jewellers Mouawad, Vois and Raffles Jeweller; and a high-end Chinese and Asian contemporary art gallery called I Preciation.

I Preciation has been operating since 2003, while the remaining four will open by July - in time to cash in on the Formula One Grand Prix that is expected to draw 240,000 spectators in September.

Ms Tan-Wijaya is confident that the outlets will enjoy 'a steady stream of business' despite the hefty price tags, as 80 per cent of The Fullerton Hotel's guests are corporate clients.

Brisk sales at I Preciation, where art works go for anything between $10,000 and $4 million, back up her view.

The majority of its clients are executives, high-net worth individuals and keen collectors who work in the CBD, said Mr C.T. Lim, one of the gallery's two owners.

Raffles Jeweller director Margaret Lau said she was lured to The Fullerton Hotel from Orchard Road, where she has been operating for the last 15 years.

She said the hotel's rent is not lower than that in Orchard Road, but she looks forward to 'the prospect of opening up the business to an international corporate clientele'.

She is also confident that her regular clients will make the trip to this newly designated 'destination shopping' zone to buy her bling.

The Fullerton Heritage refers to a string of buildings and land opposite Marina Bay owned by Hong Kong-based Sino Land, the sister company of Singapore property giant Far East Organization.

They include existing buildings One Fullerton, The Fullerton Hotel, The Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier and Customs House.

Sino Land, which is controlled by the family of property magnate Ng Teng Fong, won the tender for the Collyer Quay corridor in December 2006 with a bid of $165.8 million.

Its ambitious plan to revamp the existing buildings while preserving the area's distinctive architecture is part of larger plans to rejuvenate the Marina Bay area by 2010.

It is also building a luxury boutique hotel called The Fullerton Bay Hotel, which will have 98 rooms with water views, on the site.

Appetites will be catered for with One Fullerton set for an August relaunch with four new eateries.

And Aqua, famed in Hong Kong for its ultra-stylish harbourfront restaurant in Kowloon, will unveil its plans for its 'Chinese fine-dining' restaurant in Clifford Pier later this year.

'We see The Fullerton Heritage as helping to enhance Singapore's position as a leading tourist, business and lifestyle destination,' said Ms Tan-Wijaya.

[email protected]