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Thread: Dempsey: White hot or too hot?

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    Default Dempsey: White hot or too hot?

    June 13, 2009 Saturday

    Dempsey: White hot or too hot?

    Yet another F&B cluster is to open on hilltop area come September

    By Tessa Wong

    TANGLIN Village, already home to the hip, hungry and thirsty, is getting a third lifestyle cluster.

    Five furniture shops now occupying the seven blocks slated for this new cluster along Dempsey Road will move out by the end of this month.

    In their place come September: A $2 million lifestyle complex called 6ix and 7even @ Dempsey, comprising restaurants, bars and retailers taking up 11 units.

    The master tenant for this part of Tanglin Village is Forward Alliance, a logistics and warehousing company making its first foray into the food and beverage (F&B) industry. It is now sourcing for tenants to rival the two other nearby clusters of restaurants and bars in Dempsey Hill and Dempsey Hill Green.

    Forward Alliance has a few tricks up its sleeve. It plans to bring in restaurants that will serve food that is new in the neighbourhood such as fusion cuisine; 'live' music joints are also on the cards.

    It is planning to have a bicycle boutique housed in a 300 sq m space as well - a one-stop store for bicycle enthusiasts with a cafe, bicycle racks and services like showers and limousine transport home for tired cyclists and their wheels.

    Another novel idea: A caravan park-turned-restaurant. Forward Alliance plans to import about five caravans of between 30 sq m and 50 sq m in size, and then kit them out as private dining rooms for up to 12 people.

    The debut of 6ix and 7even @ Dempsey will mark the latest chapter in the area's transformation from sleepy furniture town to hip dining and drinking destination.

    Nearly half of the 72 businesses there now are restaurants or bars, each paying rents of between $8 and $15 per sq ft.

    Tanglin Village started out in the 1860s as army barracks. In the 1990s, it became known for its furniture shops. Then in 2004, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) stepped up its search for tenants who would put the pre-war blocks to other uses.

    In came upmarket restaurants and wine bars such as Oosh and PS Cafe. Schools, shops, art galleries and offices also moved in.

    In 2007, when Country City Investment (CCI) opened the Dempsey Hill and Dempsey Hill Green F&B clusters, the buzz in the area went up several notches.

    CCI is now taking over several more Dempsey Road blocks to expand these two clusters. Several furniture shop tenants in this area moved out in February, complaining of rocketing rents.

    So the entrance of yet another F&B cluster poses the question: Is the hot spot getting too hot for its own good?

    After all, there are signs that the Government is getting wary of overkill. The Straits Times understands that for the upcoming Dempsey Hill expansion, the SLA has capped the amount of space occupied by F&B outlets to 20 per cent of the area.

    The SLA has also stipulated that some space should be used by furniture shops, in an apparent bid to preserve the original feel of the place.

    But real estate experts - and Dempsey F&B owners themselves - say the area still has room to grow. They also say its unique charm, thanks to the greenery and old buildings, will continue to attract diners.

    Mr Michel Lu, who owns the Hacienda bar, said: 'The nice thing is that the buildings are quite spread out. It is very green, not compact, and does not feel like Singapore.' He is so upbeat about the growth prospects of the place that he is building a cafe extension to Hacienda. It will open in a month.

    Mr Danny Yeo, managing director of property consultancy Knight Frank, said the success of the place depends on its variety of offerings. So as long as the new operator creates new concepts, then it should still do well, he said.

    Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of property consultancy HSR, said master tenants will also need to choose their sub-tenants carefully to protect the area's upmarket atmosphere.

    'Look at Pasir Panjang Village. It used to have that 'niche restaurant' feel. But now, it is just not really there,' he said.

    Foodie Michelle Quah, who has been to Tanglin Village only thrice since its redevelopment, said the offerings will have to be more than just 'pleasant but predictable' to draw her back there.

    Referring to the upcoming outlets, the 29-year-old legal counsel said: 'The food, decor and experience must set them apart from any of your usual yuppie haunts.'

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