By Crystal Chan
THE upcoming Iluma shopping centre in Bugis is taking the road less travelled.
While many new malls are showcasing the biggest and best international fashion brands, Iluma is focusing on the arts and entertainment.
The 10-storey mall opposite Bugis Junction is devoting about 60 per cent of its space to restaurants, a cineplex and dance clubs.
Dedicating most of the space to arts and entertainment was a tender requirement for the 8,921 sq m plot (about 90 four-room flats) on Victoria Street, opposite Bugis Junction.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority had launched the plot for sale in 2005, intending to turn part of Bugis into an entertainment zone.
Iluma's developer, Jack Investment, has pumped $160 million into the project.
Award-winning architecture firm Woha, whose portfolio includes the Church of St Mary of the Angels in Bukit Batok and Newton Suites condominium, was given the task of designing the mall.
Woha's co-founding director, Mr Wong Mun Summ, told The New Paper on Sunday that Iluma would have a unique design.
He explained that the exterior of Iluma comprises an interactive medium.
He said: 'The plan is to invite art schools in the vicinity to use this as a platform to display their works.
'A specially written software will allow the students and artists to design artwork which can then be displayed on the wall. We have tested it and the effects are fantastic.'
The art wall is a collaboration between Woha and realities:united, a Berlin-based lighting design arthouse.
There is also an indoor events plaza and a outdoor civic plaza.
Mr Wong said: 'All the floors are undulating (curved) so it gives shoppers an amphitheatre experience.
'The rooftop has sky terraces and restaurants, which will provide an alfresco dining experience.'
He added that discussions to connect a link bridge, which will be completed in six to eight months' time, to Bugis Junction, are underway.
To demonstrate its commitment to the arts, Jack Investment will grant discounts on rent or even full venue sponsorship to artists.
This means that artists could use the open space on the rooftop, the indoor events plaza and the outdoor civic plaza for performances.
More than 150 shops will be targeted at the young, hip and trendy. Unlike many malls, Iluma will not have a supermarket.
The New Paper on Sunday understands that almost all of Iluma's shop units have been rented out. Rents are between $10 and $30 per sq ft.
Jack Investment, which also owns Leisure Park Kallang, is also opening a Filmgarde cineplex in Iluma. The nine-hall cineplex will boast 1,400 seats.
Located on the fifth floor, it aims to bring back the 'glamour' of movies, with gala premieres planned.
This year's Silver Screen Awards, part of the Singapore International Film Festival, will be held at the cineplex next month.
Tenants include Japanese pasta chain Waraku and Style Evolution, which sells bags and wallets from the US and Europe.
Waraku's chief financial officer, Mr Francis Thong, said: 'In good times, many people fight for well-located shop spaces and rents will be more expensive. But a crisis also means more shop units in strategic locations will be available at lower rents.'
Mr Thong noted that Bugis attracts a young crowd which makes up the bulk of Waraku's customers and expects the new outlet to do well.
Ms Angie Ng, a former merchandiser from streetwear chain 77th Street, is opening a fashion and lifestyle shop called Red Velvet in Iluma.
77th Street founder Elim Chew had encouraged and advised Ms Ng in the process.
Ms Chew told The New Paper on Sunday: 'Angie has been travelling and she has seen the latest trends. She was inspired by Iluma's concept and it spurred her to work towards a lifestyle shop there.'
The mall was supposed to open at the end of last year, but sources said the launch was delayed as renovations could not be completed on time.
Business as usual
MS PAULINE Tan, centre manager for Bugis Junction, which is linked to Bugis MRT station, said the opening of Iluma will not affect it much.
She said: 'As most visitors commute via the MRT, which is directly linked to the mall, we are confident that shoppers will continue to patronise Bugis Junction.
'Bugis Junction will continue to work with our tenants to provide value-add promotions and thematic sales-driven campaigns to reward our shoppers.'
Some tenants in Bugis Junction are understandably wary about the new kid on the shopping block.
A salesgirl in clothing store Giordano said: 'Singaporeans tend to flock to new malls so I'm sure the crowds here will be smaller when Iluma opens.'
But restaurant chain Crystal Jade is confident its regulars will continue to patronise its outlet in Bugis Junction.
Ms Stella To, special assistant to Crystal Jade's managing director, said: 'No doubt new malls will attract more shoppers during the opening period but over time, the crowds will stabilise.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.