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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Design Orchard Official Opening and Orchard Road Rejuvenation Exhibition Launch

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the Design Orchard Official Opening and Orchard Road Rejuvenation Exhibition Launch

1. Good evening. Let me also welcome my colleagues, Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education, Chee Hong Tat, and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Culture, Community and Youth, Sim Ann, who have put a lot of hard work into this. Let me also welcome and thank Mark Shaw, Chairman of Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) and for all the unsung heroes behind the scenes who have made this possible. 

2. Today, we are here to talk about the plans for Orchard Road. For many of us, Orchard Road has a special place in our hearts. For me, Orchard Road is the path that I take on my way back from school every day. TANGS was the first upscale departmental store to open at Orchard Road in 1958. The first McDonalds in Singapore opened at Liat Tower in 1979. Swing Singapore, an Orchard Road street party, had the highest turnout for an outdoor party in the 1990s. This has a special place in my heart as I was a part of the SAF then and I remember helping to set up the barricades for the event. More recently, Southeast Asia’s first Apple flagship store opened at Knightsbridge along Orchard Road in 2017. 

3. Beyond Orchard Road being a place of memories, the many ‘firsts’ demonstrate that Orchard Road also has been a place where new ideas are experimented and brought to life and where people constantly innovate. When we discuss the plans for Orchard Road, it is never about something that is cast in stone. Every day, Orchard Road is brimming with new ideas, and we want that to continue. 

4. As we evolve Orchard Road to the next stage, we need to consider how we define success. If we look back in five to 10 years’ time and say that we are evolving Orchard Road to the next level, what will define success? There are two areas that remain. First, Orchard Road must continue to be a place where Singaporeans from all walks of life build our memories. If Singaporeans come here, foreign visitors will come here to see how we live and how we operate. The second area is that this must continue to be a place where new lifestyle and retail concepts, as well as new experiences, are created for Singaporeans and for tourists. Therefore, memories and innovation are areas that are very important to us. 

5. Having said that, the team that is developing the new ideas for Orchard Road is very conscious that we are not doing this alone and that we are not able to do this alone. There has to be a balance between master planning Orchard Road, and for Orchard Road to have sufficient space for ground-up initiatives so that Orchard Road can grow organically and develop its own character. Therefore, even as we develop the masterplan for the rejuvenation of Orchard Road, we need to keep space for people to grow and experiment new ideas. This is why we are happy to have the partnerships with the business association, businesses, civic organisations, as well as those who visit Orchard Road and those who are unable to visit Orchard Road regularly. This is so that we can hear their ideas on what they want Orchard Road to be - a place where they can grow their memories and a place where they can experiment with new concepts. 

6. Moving forward, we want people to come to Orchard Road to come here and mingle and to make sure that they have a different experience at each and every turn. 

a. At Tanglin, we can curate the area to have more activities involving the arts, to provide people with a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, and this connects to the Botanic Gardens. 

b. The core of Orchard Road will be the retail core, where retail will constantly evolve as a concept. This is a place where we hope new shopping experiences, new products and services and new ideas will be created from here to the rest of the world. We hope that Orchard Road will continue to be the place where people will want to come to see and to be seen for their new products and new ideas. At the side of Orchard Road, such as Cuppage Road and Emerald Hill, are different turns that will have their own unique characteristics. 

c. Somerset can be a place to test out new ideas and to have new innovations, including this place, Design Orchard. 

d. At the Dhoby Ghaut area, above the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station is the Dhoby Ghaut ‘island’. It is an ‘island’ as it is separated from the rest of the area. We can reconnect the area to have something for the families and something for the young to have memories of their own Orchard Road. 

7. These are some of the ways that we can have a different experience at every turn. 

8. As the team was discussing the plans for Orchard Road, we found it very strange that we call this Orchard Road, but we do not seem to see the orchard any more. Therefore, we want to ‘bring back the Orchard’. What do we mean by ‘bring back the Orchard’? We considered whether we could reconnect from Botanic Gardens to Fort Canning and to have a ‘green’ spine that runs through Orchard Road so that people feel like they are walking through the Orchard. Today, we have the technology and ability to control the environment much better. There are pockets of experimentation, such as at the bus stop outside Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, and we have technology to cool the area. This can become a wonderful place for people to stroll with their families and loved ones. We will try to experiment with many of these new areas, but we want to ‘bring back the Orchard’. The orchard is what makes Orchard Road unique compared to all the major shopping and retail streets around the world. Can we connect the Dhoby Ghaut island with the Istana Park to create a new experience? I think we can and if we can do that and we have something unique for our families to come and enjoy. 

9. Lastly, we want to make sure that Orchard Road continues to be a place where innovation happens. We want this to be a place where Singaporeans and local businesses can launch new business concepts. That is why we are committing this prime piece of land in Orchard Road to Design Orchard. We want to showcase designs by local designers here. Some questioned if this made economic sense. Indeed, this is a piece of prime land and this is a sign of our commitment to let the future generations of Singaporeans, entrepreneurs to showcase their talent not just to fellow Singaporeans, but also to the rest of the world. This is not just economics, but beyond economics to keep this place vibrant and innovative. 

10. What is the definition of success for this place? There are two areas. In a couple of years’ time, someone will say that we have run out of space and we will have a long queue of people waiting to showcase their new and innovative products and concepts in this place. More importantly, the other way to measure success is that innovation will not stop in this place, but that each and every property along Orchard Road will have a new and innovative concept and we can see this place become vibrant not just here but across the whole of Orchard Road. I know that many of the property owners here are looking forward to experiment with new concepts, and some may feel that there are some public rules that are constraining this. Let this not stop you. If you have interesting concepts and if you think that you can rejuvenate the space within your current properties; in front of your current properties; or to reclaim the road space to be used for other activities, let us discuss with you these concepts to see how we can make this possible. Someone had suggested to me that in the future, we can perhaps have one or two lanes for people to walk and have a totally different experience. I am happy and excited that our own people are challenging ourselves to think about this. If we have enough activities and buzz to make full use of the sidewalks, we are open to the ideas of expanding the sidewalks; building other structures to support the vehicle traffic; and to let people walk down Orchard Road with an entirely different experience. 

11. We look forward to working with Orchard Road Business Association and other business partners to push the boundaries and to see how far we can stretch the concept of Orchard Road. I hope that in the coming years, Orchard Road can be a place of different experiences at every turn. Second, we will ‘bring back the Orchard’ to make this a uniquely Singaporean lifestyle street where people will want to come here to launch their products. Finally, this place will always be a place where we will constantly innovate and never be static. This is also the reason why the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will not plan out everything on their own. We want to keep sufficient wide spaces for people to try out new concepts, so that every generation will have the opportunity to try out new concepts, rather than for us to plan everything. 

12. Orchard Road is ours. The potential of Orchard Road is for us to unlock together. I am confident that if we work together between the planning agencies, together with the business partners and civic organisations, we can reimagine Orchard Road and keep Orchard Road to always be a special place for fellow Singaporeans and for tourists. When tourists come here, they can see how we are open, inclusive, multi-racial, multi-religious. We also want them to see the ‘spirit of Singapore’ – how we are continually challenging ourselves to be innovative; how we are open and connected to the rest of the world; how we groom our enterprises; how our people dare to try new things. If we can demonstrate the Singaporean way of life for Orchard Road, show the ‘spirit of Singapore’ in Orchard Road, I believe that this place will forever remain in our hearts full of memories and full of opportunities for us to continue to innovate, just as how we build Singapore, so that every generation will have the opportunity to try out new ideas to take Singapore to the level. Thank you for following this journey and we look forward to working closely with you to bring Orchard Road to the next higher level and to always have a special place in the hearts of fellow Singaporeans. 

13. Thank you.

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