Time Stands Still at Singapore’s Veteran Shopping Malls

Compared to the brand new shopping centres, these veteran shopping malls look as though they are forgotten by time. While it is a norm for new shopping centres to have several fast food restaurants, food courts, fashion outlets or even cineplexes, the old shopping malls are instead dominated by foreign-maid agencies, travel agencies and renovation companies.

Not all aging malls are frozen in time. Those which are managed by sole owners can turn back the time through a series of renovations and makeovers. The strata-titled ones are in more tricky situations. They are usually co-owned by different groups of people, making them difficult to be bought over by private developers. The owners also have the freedom to lease their shops to any tenants who are lured by the relatively lower rents, which is why it is not unusual to find similar businesses in the same building.

While the likes of VivoCity, Nex or JCube attract huge crowds, many veteran malls look deserted even during the weekends.

When was the last time you have visited one of these old shopping malls?

The Veteran Heartlanders

Katong Shopping Centre, Mountbatten Road (since 1973)

Katong Shopping Centre was opened in 1973, much to the delight of the residents living in Katong and Marine Parade. The first air-conditioned shopping mall in Singapore, it was then well-known for a concentrated number of textile shops in its early days, as well as its anchor tenant the Oriental Emporium. The building, styled with the iconic holes-in-walls design, was filled with people every weekends.

As time passed, the domination of the textile businesses was gradually taken over by renovation companies, computer-software and gaming shops, employment agencies and other retail outlets. In 1997, Katong Shopping Centre was renovated with a new striking blue outlook. It is now mainly catered to the crowds from the nearby churches and hotels.

Since 2010, the strata-titled Katong Shopping Centre has been undergoing through en-bloc sales. It may be re-developed into a new commercial building if the en-bloc exercise is successful by the end of 2012.

The Oden Katong Shopping Complex beside Katong Shopping Centre was built in place of the old Oden Katong Theatre in the eighties.

Queensway Shopping Centre, Queensway (since 1976)

Completed in 1976, Queensway Shopping Centre is well-known for its large number of retail shops selling sneakers, tennis racquets, soccer boots and other sport apparels. Other retailers deal with fashion, photocopying and tailorship.

Standing at one corner of the busy cross junction between Alexandra Road and Jalan Bukit Merah, Queensway Shopping Centre has seen major changes in its neighbours in the last 35 years. Before 1990, the Archipelago Brewery Company, specialised in the popular Anchor Beer from the 1930s to 1960s, had its manufacturing plant, production line and warehouse at where Anchorpoint (hence its name) and Ikea are standing today. Bukit Merah SAFRA Club was opened in 1982, and was shut down in 2004 after 23 years of services. There are some redevelopment plans in building a hotel to replace it.

The busy cross junction used to be a round-about named Rumah Bomba Circus in the seventies. Malay street hawkers lined up outside Queensway Shopping Centre peddling delicious satay, otah otah and mee rebus, which were extremely popular with the patrons after their shopping sprees at the mall.

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre, Upper Serangoon Road (since 1970s)

Located at the junction of Upper Serangoon Road and Upper Paya Lebar Road, Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre was completed in the seventies. The four-storey heartland mall used to be filled with activities in bookshops, tailor shops, hair salons and even a tattoo shop.

The most famous tenant is perhaps Ah Lim, a nickname fondly called by the shoppers, who is the owner of the evergreen computer shop which sells the latest PC games at lower rates compared to other places.

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre has become a ghost town in the past decade, with more than 70% of of the shops vacated. In 2010, there were plans to sell the building to a private developer for a major revamp, but nothing came out of it. Its fortune was not helped by the opening of Nex, the largest suburban shopping mall in the northeastern Singapore, in 2011.

Bukit Timah Plaza, Jalan Anak Bukit (since 1978)

Deemed as a higher end shopping mall during its heydays, Bukit Timah Plaza used to have many shops specialised in computer hardware and software, household products and a large Yaohan store (see Thomson Plaza below).

The fortune of the plaza declined since the late nineties. With the rapid decrease in the crowds, shops found it difficult to continue their businesses. Rental fees dropped and small renovation contractors companies and maid agencies moved in to become the dominant batch of tenants. Meanwhile, the NTUC FairPrice supermarket replaced Yaohan as the anchor tenant of Bukit Timah Plaza.

Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, Upper Bukit Timah Road (since 1978)

Once popular among the Malaysian tourists for its retail shops selling a wide variety of affordable clothing, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre is now largely dominated by renovation contractor companies and maid agencies, just like the nearby Bukit Timah Plaza.

Even though Bukit Timah Shopping Centre stands opposite of a row of popular eating houses, a lack of human traffic today makes the aging mall pale when compared to its heydays during the eighties. Only a couple of computer gaming shops and billiard saloons are able to lure some youths to the shopping mall, while food-lovers are attracted by a reputed restaurant specialised in nonya cuisine. Otherwise, the building is like a forgotten place frozen in time.

The construction of the Beauty World MRT Station of the Downtown Line (scheduled to be ready in 2015) may bring the old shopping mall back to life, but for the time being, it is destined to retain its reputation as a ghost town.

Thomson Plaza, Upper Thomson Road (since 1979)

Owned by DBS (Development Bank of Singapore), the $30-million project along Upper Thomson Road was handled by Japanese construction company Ohbayashi-Gumi as early as 1977. The shopping complex was fully completed in 1981.

During the eighties and nineties, Thomson Plaza was perhaps more well-known as Thomson Yaohan, due to its anchor tenant Yaohan (1979-1997), a Japanese departmental giant which also had other branches at Plaza Singapura (1974-1997), Bukit Timah (1982-1997), Parkway Parade (1983-1997) and Taman Jurong (1983-1989). After the Asian currency crisis in 1997/98, a bankrupted Yaohan was forced to close most of its operations in Asia. Yaohan Best, Yaohao’s subsidiary which specialised in electronic products, was restructured and became Best Denki.

After the closure of Yaohan, Thomson Plaza went through a period of decline before being revived by a series of upgrading. Its other long-time tenants include KFC and Yahama Music.

City Plaza, Geylang Road (since 1981)

Opened since 1981, the yellow-orange shopping mall at Geylang Road began as a mall filled with shops selling cheap Hong Kong-made clothes and dresses. It also used to have coin-operated massage chairs on its ground floor for tired shoppers.

Today, the mall is a favourite for bargaining experts who like to search for their treasures at the wholesalers in ladies’ fashion. The Arnold’s Fried Chicken on the second level is one of the most popular eating outlets in the building.

Located close to Geylang, the shopping mall has gained a notorious reputation in which old lecherous men can sometimes be spotted lurking around. It has also become one of the gathering points for the Filipino maids in Singapore during weekends.

Beauty World Plaza, Upper Bukit Timah Road (since 1983)

Beauty World Plaza is one of the old shopping malls clustered at Upper Bukit Timah Road, along with Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, Beauty World Centre and Bukit Timah Plaza.

Its name was derived from the Beauty World, an amusement park that once existed at Upper Bukit Timah, and was as popular as Gay World, New World and Great World at Kim Seng. The amusement park was converted into a market place after the Second World War.

Before the construction of Beauty World Plaza, there were the Beauty World Park Market and Beauty World Town, where both of them were destroyed by fires in 1975 and 1984. Years later, some of the stallholders and shop-owners were relocated at Beauty World Plaza and Beauty World Centre to continue their businesses.

Tanjong Katong Complex, Geylang Road (since 1983)

The first fully air-conditioned shopping mall managed by the Housing Development Board (HDB), Tanjong Katong Complex once housed the popular Japanese supermarket and department store Yokoso. In the nineties, other retail shops such as 2nd Chance (First Lady), Toko Lisa and Smart supermarket moved in. The mall is also well-known for selling traditional clothing and textiles. Its current major tenant is Shop N Save.

The construction of Tanjong Katong Complex began as early as 1980, on the site of a former Malay settlement at Lorong Engku Aman. Together with the adjacent Geylang Serai Malay Village, it has maintained its popularity among the Malay community for many years. The Malay Village was demolished in 2011, while Tanjong Katong Complex is given a lease extension of another 10 years, so as to allow the Malay trades to remain in this culturally rich area.

Parkway Parade, Marine Parade Road (since 1984)

An unmistakable landmark of Marine Parade since 1984, Parkway Parade was developed by Parkway Properties. Extremely popular since its opening, it also housed many unforgettable fast food restaurants, such as Hardee’s and Chuck E Cheese, that had long ceased their operations in Singapore.

In 2000, Parkway Parade was sold to Asia Pacific Investment Company, and after a series of upgrades, anchor tenants such as Giant Hypermarket, Best Denki, Isetan, Marks & Spencer and Borders (2007-2012) moved in.

It now boasts eight levels (including basement) of food and beverages, fashion, medical services, beauty salons, family entertainment and a fitness centre.

Holland Road Shopping Centre, Holland Avenue (since mid-1980s)

During the fifties and sixties, Holland Village thrived due to the presence of the British military staying at the nearby Chip Bee Gardens. Holland Village was feared to become a ghost town when the British started their withdrawal from Singapore in 1971, but luckily for the “westernised” neighbourhood, it was able to attract a new group of clientele in the locals and the expatriates.

Holland Road Shopping Centre has three levels of shops selling everything from Asian crafts and jewellery to furniture and carpets. Its large variety in arts, antique and crafts make the mall popular among the expatriates. Lim’s Arts and Living, one of its biggest stores, sells exotic items such as shisha pipes, African statues and Moroccan dinnerware.

In recent years, however, soaring rental fees and the inconvenience due to the construction of the Holland Road MRT Station have affected many tenants. Mama Joe Magazine Corner, one of the iconic tenants of Holland Road Shopping Centre, closed down in 2007 due to bankruptcy.

Holland Road Shopping Centre was given a fresh paint of orange coat after 2009. Before that, it had a white and blue theme.

Other Veteran Malls in Singapore

Serangoon Plaza, formerly known as President Shopping Centre, mainly caters for the middle-class. President Shopping Centre operated from the mid-sixties to early eighties. Mustafa’s founder Mustaq Ahmad first rented a store at Serangoon Plaza in 1985, before acquiring the whole row of shophouses at the nearby Syed Alwi Road to set up Mustafa Centre.

Goldhill Shopping Centre, built in 1969 as a low-rise retail-office hub, was owned by Malaysian developer Goldhill Group. The building will be affected by the construction of the new North-South Expressway scheduled to start in 2013.

Owned and managed by HDB, Balestier Hill Shopping Centre (since mid-1970s) and Boon Lay Shopping Centre (since early 1980s) are more like typical neighbourhood hubs rather than what their names suggest. Another similar HDB neighbourhood shopping hub was the Lake View Shopping Centre along Upper Thomson Road. However, it was demolished in the late nineties.

United Square or formerly Goldhill Square at Novena has been around since 1982, standing beside the Goldhill Plaza and Goldhill Shopping Centre. After successfully reinvented itself as a kids’ learning hub, the mall becomes popular among young families.

A $77 million project, Roxy Square was completed in 1984 at Katong. It is standing on the former site of Roxy Theatre, owned by the legendary Shaw Brothers.

Sembawang Shopping Centre was previously famous for its anchor tenant Sembawang Music Store, which had since ceased its operation in 2009 due to bankruptcy. The mall was refurbished and given a new look in 2007. The popular Sembawang Satay Club used to operate beside the shopping mall before its revamp.

Veteran Shopping Malls at Orchard and City

C.K.Tang/Tang Plaza, Orchard Road (since 1958)

The famous Tangs departmental store was founded by legendary Singaporean entrepreneur Tan Choon Keng (1901-2000), or fondly known as C.K. Tang. Born to a Teochew Presbyterian pastor in Swatow of China, Tang Choon Keng arrived at Singapore at an age of 23.

Began as a humble salesman, Tang Choon Keng soon saved enough to open a small shop at River Valley Road. In 1958, much to the surprise of others, Tang Choon Keng bought a plot of land at the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road for S$10,000. Being a devoted Christian, Tang Choon Keng had no concerns that the new building he was going to build was facing Tai San Ting Cemetery.

C.K. Tang Departmental Store went on to become the landmark of early Orchard Road, and kicked off the development of Orchard Road as a prime shopping district of Singapore. Modeled after the Forbidden City of China, C.K. Tang was designed with green-tiled roofs that remains as its iconic feature today.

In 1982, the former building of C.K. Tang was demolished and replaced by a larger complex made up of Tang Plaza and Marriott Hotel (formerly called Dynasty Hotel). A new slogan called “All the best under one roof” was launched with great success. Due to Tang Choon Keng’s Christian beliefs, Tang Plaza remained the only departmental store in Orchard to close on Sundays until 1996.

Tanglin Shopping Centre, Tanglin Road (since 1971)

Located along the bustling Tanglin Road, Tanglin Shopping Centre was built in 1971 as a luxury mall. One of its famous tenants in the early seventies was Club 21, a humble men tailor-turned-into high-end boutique for ladies.

Today, it has gained a reputation of a heritage and culturally-rich shopping mall where one can find Oriental shops specialising from exotic artifacts and antiques such old Buddha heads and Tibetan prayerbeads, to Southeast Asian textiles and Japanese furniture. There is also an extensive collection of vintage items in old movies, music CDs and books for nostalgia lovers.

Peninsula Shopping Centre, Coleman Street (since 1971)

The site where Peninsula Shopping Centre (and Hotel) is standing today has a prestigious history, going back all the way to the early 19th century.

In 1829, Raffles’ adviser and Irish architect George Drumgoole Coleman (1795-1844) built his residence at 3 Coleman Street (which was named after him). When Coleman left Singapore in 1841 due to ill health, the building changed hands several times. By 1865, it was converted into a high-end hotel until the Second World War. Its deteriorated conditions after the war saw its demolition in 1965, and had Peninsula Hotel and Shopping Centre built in its place in 1971.

Golden Mile Complex, Beach Road (since 1972)

The Golden Mile Complex (formerly known as Who Hup Complex) at Beach Road was one of the first commercial-residential projects in Singapore to integrate shops, offices and residences into one single building. Completed in 1973 (its shopping mall was opened a year earlier), the iconic landmark by the Kallang Basin won several architectural awards in the seventies.

Its fortune, however, declined in the mid-nineties. The lack of maintenance, dirty toilets and poor security caused it to be termed from the pride of a “vertical city” to the humiliation of a “vertical slum”. Others called it an eyesore or a national disgrace, due to its prominence beside the busy Nicoll Highway.

Tour agencies and shops selling Thai goods and cuisines now dominate Golden Mile Complex. It is filled with Thai foreign workers during the weekends. There were plans by its owner to sell the building in recent years but the move did not materialise due to disagreements by its shop and residential owners.

People’s Park Complex, Eu Tong Sen Street (since 1973)

The biggest shopping complex in Singapore upon its completion in 1973, the People’s Park Complex is one of the most prominent landmarks at Chinatown, the 31-storey building consists of 6 levels of shops and offices and a residential block of 25 floors.

For decades, the People’s Park Complex has been popular with the wide diversity of its retail shops, ranging from money-changing services, electronic goods, jewellery to travel agencies. It remains as one of most popular hangouts for shoppers during the Chinese New Year festivals.

Its owner, People’s Park Development Pte Ltd, also owned Katong People’s Complex (Katong Mall) from 1984 to 2009. The mall is now revamped into 112 Katong.

Far East Shopping Centre, Orchard Road (since 1974)

Far East Shopping Centre was one of Far East Organisation’s (FEO) first projects in the retail markets. Built in 1974, the shopping centre was the first mall in Singapore to have an atrium and external escalators.

The success of Far East Shopping Centre prompted Ng Teng Fong (1928-2010), head of FEO and one of Singapore’s richest men, to continue his venture at Orchard Road. Subsequently, Lucky Plaza (1978), Orchard Plaza (1981), Far East Plaza (1983) and Claymore Plaza (1984) were built. Ng Teng Feng became well-known as the “King of Orchard”.

Far East Plaza, in particular, became popular among youngsters from the eighties to nineties with its large variety of trendy fashion shops. 77th Street was one of its most popular tenants, operating at the shopping centre from 1988 to 2012.

Plaza Singapura, Orchard Road (since 1974)

While Centrepoint attracted the likes of trendy youngsters, Plaza Singapura was more suitable for family outings in its early days. One of the largest malls in Singapore upon its completion, Plaza Singapura was managed by DBS Land, which was the predecessor of CapitaLand.

In 1974, Japanese departmental giant Yaohan opened its first store in Singapore at Plaza Singapura. Subsequently, other famous brands such as OG, Times Bookstore, Yamaha Music, MacDonald’s, Ponderosa, Daimaru and Courts Superstore moved in.

After going through two major revamps in 1998 and 2003, and had its basement linked to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station, Plaza Singapura continues to enjoy high popularity till today.

Orchard Towers, Claymore Road (since 1975)

Completed in 1975, the building of Orchard Towers has five levels of retail shops with 13 floors of offices on top. Since the nineties, Orchard Towers became a household name in Singapore, for the wrong reasons.

There are a couple of electronic shops, massage parlours and internet cafes in the building, but when the nights fall, the dozen of bars, pubs and clubs on the first four levels take over. Prostitutes and transvestites roam around, giving the place a notorious nickname of “Four Floors of Whores”. Due to its sleazy nature, Orchard Towers is subjected to regular police raids.

Peninsula Plaza, Coleman Street (since 1981)

Like Peninsula Shopping Centre which is situated on the opposite of Coleman Street, the site of Peninsula Plaza has a long history.

It was once the site of the residence of wealthy Chinese businessman Tan Kim Cheng in the late 19th century. Property developer Manasseh Meyer bought the place and developed it into a five-storey residential apartments with offices and shops known as the Meyer Mansions. The apartments were torn down in 1970. It was not until more than a decade later before Peninsula Plaza occupied its current location.

Peninsula Plaza has largely retained its appearance for the past 20 odd years. Its shops are specialised in a wide range of merchandise, such as household items, fashion, imported snacks and cameras and its accessories. Some of the shops, however, have notorious reputations of high-pressure selling tactics which the shoppers need to be cautious of.

The Arcade, Collyer Quay (since 1981)

The Arcade at Raffles Place, built in 1981, may look out of place standing among the new skyscrapers, but it has a long history stretching back to the early 20th century. Its predecessor was the Alkaff Arcade owned by the Alkaffs, Singapore’s prominent wealthy Arab family.

Completed in 1909, the Moorish-styled Alkaff Arcade was Singapore’s first indoor shopping centre stretching from Collyer Quay to Raffles Place. At four-storey tall, it was also the highest building at the time of its completion.

The former Arcade was demolished in 1978 to make way for the new Arcade at a construction cost of $20 million. The shopping-cum-office building is now famous for the intense competition among its numerous money-changers.

Centrepoint, Orchard Road (since 1983)

Centrepoint was built in 1983, replacing the old Cold Storage building. Renowned British retailer Robinsons became its flagship since then, occupying five levels after its move from the opposite Specialist’s Shopping Centre.

In the mid-eighties, Centrepoint was considered a trendy shopping mall and a popular gathering point among the youngsters, which saw the rise of the infamous Centrepoint Kids. As many as 2,000 teenagers gathered here every weekends. Most of them, dressed in loud outfits and hairstyles, were just engaging in normal conversations among friends, but a few committed illegal activities such as shop-lifting and glue-sniffing. Some fights occurred due to staring incidents. This gave the groups of youngsters a bad reputation, and prompted the police to keep an eye on the premises outside Centrepoint.

In 2006, after a major revamp, Centrepoint Shopping Centre was renamed as The Centrepoint.

Liang Court, River Valley Road (since 1985)

Standing beside Clarke Quay, Liang Court aims to provide an “Asian Fusion by the River” shopping experience for its customers. The 5-levels-2-basements mall takes on a Japanese theme, having MEIDI-YA supermarket and Kinokuniya bookstore as its anchor tenants, as well as a number of Japanese restaurants. MEIDI-YA at Liang Court is the Japanese supermarket’s second overseas branch after its first store in Amsterdam of Holland.

The Singapore River clean-up project was kicked off in 1977, and lasted almost a decade to keep it pollution free. When Liang Court was opened in 1985, the Singapore River was a vibrant and clear waterway beside the brown buildings of Liang Court and Novotel Hotel.

Liang Court underwent a major $40 million revamp in 2008.

Sim Lim Square, Rochor Canal Road (since 1987)

Like Funan Centre (opened since 1985), Sim Lim Square, or popularly known as SLS, is famous for it large variety of computers, handphones, cameras and other electronic gadgets. While Funan Centre is considered more upmarket and expensive, Sim Lim Square caters more for the general masses. It has, however, an unwanted reputation of scams and high-pressured selling tactics.

Consisting of six levels and two basements of retail shops selling all sorts of electronic and computing devices, Sim Lim Square offers the customers many choices at negotiable prices and bargains. However, the well-known IT mall has been plagued by dishonest and unethical business practices of some shops in recent years. Along with Lucky Plaza at Orchard Road, Sim Lim Square has gained a notorious reputation of “carrot-chopping” (scamming) the tourists.

Rise and Fall of Other Shopping Centres

Tay Buan Guan Supermarket, East Coast Road (1950s-2001)

Comprising of a Chinese emporium, jewellery shop, pharmacy, confectionery, refrigeration facilities and even a beauty saloon, Tay Buan Guan Supermarket sold everything from groceries, books, flowers to electrical appliances and household items. Housed in a building made up of 13 two-storey shophouses, the supermarket was a landmark at Katong and frequently patronised by the Peranakans, Eurasians and the English-educated Chinese.

Tay Buan Guan Supermarket’s founder Tay Leck Teck started off as a hawker at Joo Chiat before he saved enough to open a shop, and later set up the shopping centre in the fifties. It enjoyed some forty plus years of popularity and prosperity, but was later outshone by Katong Shopping Centre and Parkway Parade. In 2001, the building was bought over by a condominium developer and subsequently demolished.

Specialists’ Shopping Centre, Orchard Road (early 1970s-2008)

One of the oldest shopping centres at Orchard Road, Specialists’ Shopping Centre was home to Hotel Phoenix Singapore and, more famously, the John Little departmental store. It was originally named Specialists due to the concentration of medical specialists in its early days, and it was built in the site of the Pavilion Theatre in the early seventies.

Owned by OCBC Bank, the 30-plus years old mall and hotel were finally demolished in 2008 to be replaced by Orchard Gateway, a new mall with restaurants, offices, hotel rooms and a library linked between two towers.

Scotts Shopping Centre, Scotts Road (1982-2007)

Scotts Shopping Centre, at Scotts Road, was a high-end boutique mall mainly catered for wealthy Indonesian or other overseas customers. Opened in 1982, it had five levels of retail shops with a 23-storey service apartment building on top. The mall even had Singapore’s first air-conditioned food court, Picnic Foot Court, opened in 1985.

In 2004, Scotts Shopping Centre and the Ascott Serviced Residences were bought over by Wheelock Properties for $345 million. The buildings were subsequently demolished three years later, and replaced by a luxury apartment-and-retail complex known as Scotts Square.

Promenade Shopping Centre, Orchard Road (late 1980s-2003)

Promenade Shopping Centre was built at the site of the former Fitzpatrick’s Supermarket in the late eighties. In 2003, it was demolished to make way for the extension of the luxury high-end mall Paragon.

Other than the defunct shopping malls, major departmental retailers in Singapore that have closed in recent decades were Oriental Emporium (1966-1987), Yaohan (1974-1997), Daimaru (1983-2003) and SOGO (1986-2000).

Published: 13 June 2012

Updated: 29 August 2012

This entry was posted in Historic. Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Time Stands Still at Singapore’s Veteran Shopping Malls

  1. This is Anfield says:

    I remembered all these!

  2. Nostalgia Tan says:

    I think you got the info wrong for the specialist’s shopping centre. Orchard Central is not the shopping centre that is replacing the specialist’s shopping centre. The new shopping centre replacing both Orchard Emerald and Specialist’s Shopping Centre/Hotel Phoenix will be ready in end 2013. For Orchard Central, it was previously a carpark and the site of the former gluttons square.

    You may want to mention that Heartland Mall Kovan was formerly known as Oriential Emporium Hougang, owned by the former Oriental Emporium.

  3. pkisme says:

    i still remember this song………

    “Beauty World~~~ *Cha-Cha-Cha!* I like It!”

  4. Andy says:

    Thank you for this article… That really brought back some good memories.

  5. Alvin says:

    You left out Lucky Plaza, which is the hangout for Filipino maids rather than City Plaza which is the hangout for Indonesian maids.

  6. Some of the old malls are strata-titled, which means individual owners can lease out to whoever they wish. One would remember in the late 90s/early 2000s, there were many “temp” shops in these old malls selling pirated software and pornography.

  7. Raymond says:

    Hi. Thank you for writing about these interesting places. I love your articles! I hope you can write about old cinemas in Singapore, especially the old open-air cinemas. I remember there was one open-air cinema in Kampong Chai Chee in the 70s but unfortunately i do not have any picture of it or remember the exact location.

  8. Danny says:

    Plaza Singapura – there used to be a huge Japanese bookstore on the 2nd floor when it first opened, was wondering if anyone remembers its name?

    • othman says:

      It was Yoahan Shoping Centre at the basement. With pocket money less than 50 cents, managed to reach there most of the Saturday. Enjoyed LEGO toys displayed but never got it.

    • Serene Ho says:

      I thnk the name is Yajimaya Books. They used to provide paper wrappers with the store name for you to wrap your books in.

  9. Missing Singapore says:

    What a great article and pictures. I only lived in Singapore for ten years, but I do remember a lot of these buildings. I understand progress, but it is sad that so many of these land marks are gone or reinvented. Thanks for the memories.

  10. Kelvin Ang says:

    OOOOOO…Ah lim…wahh memories of my secondary school days where that was a favorite haunt, and just one floor below him were all the pirated stores. Is he still there?

  11. Jared Seah says:

    Another great blast from the past!

    I remember hanging out at the numerous arcades in Queensway Shopping Centre during my primary school days. Pacman, breakout, space invaders, fuzzball… Good times!

    Glad to know that both Queensway and Holland Village Shopping Centres are still going strong! Or am I biased since I still stay in Queenstown?

    • Simin Wang says:

      Which years did you hang out at the arcades? I’m trying to find out which was the first year arcades come to Singapore! I hung out in arcades while growing up in the 90s too.

  12. priscilla says:

    the reason for upper serangoon shopping center to become a ghost town is 2 main reason, 1stly the relocation of the residents staying at the nearby old shop houses that have now become a flyover, i know this cause i grew up there. i miss parco funworld.

    2ndly will be the moving of the few schools like chij st joseph convent keke we girls used to hang out there now when my girl ask me mummy u sure u grew up here why i only see roads.

  13. Francis says:

    Thank for bringing back those memories !

  14. Andy says:

    There’s another one I thought of … Coronation Plaza along Bukit Timah Road…

  15. Chris says:

    Wow. I actually remember most of these places, but this is the first time that some of them stuck me as actual malls (like Tanjong Katong Complex and Upper Serangoon SC). They were just buildings with outlets on the first level…

    What about Serangoon Garden Village at 1 Maju Ave? It was Paramount Theatre in the 1950s and now it\’s rebranded as myVillage!

  16. Leonard Martinus says:

    MY friends and I used to attend many movies at the old Paramount Theatre in Serangoon Gardens in the early 1950’s and I recall also going to the ”open air” 10cent movies at the old Serangoon Gardens club soccer field even before the hawker centre ”chomp chomp” was started but you have to be in your late 60’s or early 70’s of age to remember this.

    • Chomp Chomp and Paramount still there at 1981. I frequent Paramount bcos as a student have budget. So $1 movie at Paramount is affordable to me as student wheras other cinema already $2

  17. Henry Lim says:

    The anchor tenant of Liang Court was Singapore Damairu. LC comprises 2 tower blocks, one, New Otani Hotel and the other is the service apartments.

    • Willie says:

      Also the indoor musical water fountain (you don’t need to go to Sentosa in those days to see one), and the main pump that pushes the water up a few levels ! I used to watch the japanese chefs inside Daimaru prepare the sashimi for their japanese clientelle.

  18. yuene says:

    I remember quite a few of these, especially Beauty World and Bukit Timah Plaza, as I lived in the area. I remember the latter especially, because it held the second-last Waffletown in Singapore (the remaining outlet being along Dunearn Road), and we used to go and eat there as children. Kind of sad to watch it decline, as I used to go there every other weekend. It has undergone a relatively recent refurbishment of the exterior, circa 2006 if I’m not wrong. The main tenant was Yaohan, then NTUC Fairprice, and then they established the biggest FairPrice Finest outlet in Singapore there.

    I work near Balestier Hill Shopping Centre (in fact, my boss’s other clinic is there). Totally run down, but it’s increasingly being taken over by Thomson Medical just across the road. They are buying over the leases of the tenants, and converting them into clinics, if I’m not wrong.

    Anyway, you forgot to mention that Peninsular Plaza is one of the few shopping centres in Singapore to have a car lift! Heh.

  19. I wonder what bloggers will say about the IOI mall in 30 years? Maybe its like pop music which is loved then dismissed as trash then brought back as an ‘all time classic!’
    :)

  20. Lam Chun See says:

    I still patronize the Queensway shopping centre. My tailor there says his customers are mostly oldies from decades ago.

  21. Michael Lee says:

    Thks you for writing this entry — a much needed missing section from Straits Times coverages that rave about new malls and blush about the old ones.

    Not sure if you intend comprehensiveness in your listing, but here are other veterans I remember off my head (of which I’ve been only to item 1):

    1. Forum Galleria (http://forumtheshoppingmall.com.sg/), which stands at the former Hotel Intercontinental Singapura (http://i566.photobucket.com/albums/ss102/OMBugge/Singapore/Singapore%201960s/hotel_singapura.jpg)

    2. Old Cold Storage (http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/impressions-of-orchard-road-in-the-1970s/cold-storage/)

    3. Katong People’s Complex (http://www.straitstimes.com/Free/Story/STIStory_162104.html)

  22. Stephanie says:

    You are legend, for keeping a blog like this. I was borned in 1980, and these posts bring back incredible memories and wistful moments. Just saying ‘thank you’ does not convey the gratitude I have for your posts! =D

  23. Michael Wan says:

    Hi all, anyone recalls in Plaza Sing, there were those huge bronze statues?

    I recall when I was a kid, I wil usually play by those things… Wonders what happened to them, and if anyone has some photos?

    • Stephanie says:

      Wow, i remember those! right in the middle, and had a woman bronze statue. i have pics, i’m sure. not digital ones of cos. LOL.

    • It’s the sculpture of Contentment by Ng Eng Teng (made in 1974). It was moved to NUS in 2001.

      His another work is outside Far East Shopping Centre. It’s called Mother and Child (made in 1980).

  24. Eugene says:

    brilliant entry; such a labour of love for our past…I am interested to do a photographic project of old condominiums still existing in Singapore, at least those which are still standing. Do contact me at eoy104@gmail.com if you think there are possibilities for collaboration.

  25. JT says:

    Just the old playground image in the banner alone is enough to bring tears. Sigh… they should put a set in the museum. Great article. Thanks!

  26. Jloh says:

    Hi,
    I want to express my utmost gratefulness of your posting. As a person who is plying my trade overseas and don’t get to visit home as often, your posting really warm up my heart. To me, those days of growing up are golden. Thanks again.

  27. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    Wasn’t Peter Chew one of the first “smart” electronics and camera shops in the Specialists Centre? Before that I used to buy such stuff in Changi Village

  28. Passerby says:

    I think you may have left out Pearl Centre and Outram Park Shopping center – these i recall are popular in the late 70s /early 80s?

  29. DId you miss out Marine Parade shopping mall (still there, I think, though I left Singapore a couple of years ago)? I used to pass through often in the mornings on my way to meetings in the offices above and liked its reto-feel. Thanks for collecting these images – really interesting to see.

  30. A nostalgic look at CK Tang…

    http://sg.entertainment.yahoo.com/photos/a-nostalgic-look-at-tangs-slideshow/

    The façade of the first CK Tang department store was at River Valley Road when CK Tang bought the property in 1939, where he built Gainurn Building, and established himself as the merchant who specialized in Chinese homewares and handicrafts.

    CK Tang bought a stretch of Orchard Road after thinking to himself “If Shanghai can have its Nanjing Road where one million people pass through each day, why can’t Singapore have its own?”

    Paying tribute to its humble roots, the new TANGS store was launched prominently using rickshaws in 1982.

    The entrance to their bustling sale – a sight that’s still common till today.

  31. slmka says:

    Interesting write up. Know some of them, but also never aware some are so old already.

    There’s also another shopping center not in the list – Singapore Shopping Center (next to Park Mall). This one seems quite old as well and its 1st floor corner is occupy by a antique store.

  32. Edmund Lum says:

    Any one got the old pic for Tiong Bahru Market? if yes pls share.

  33. Rupi says:

    what a wonderful blog…! great to see the singapore of the 1980s in black and white. Hey btw, I am an independent researcher and doing a project for the national heritage board and looking at interviewing some kids from centrepoint kids, marina square kids, far east kids, daimaru kids and macdonalds kids of the 1980s. Do you have contacts of any of them ? Is anyone interested to talk to me about this? Pls call me at 96948927. My name is Rupi.

  34. Some old photos of Tay Buan Guan



  35. Lippy says:

    Does anyone remember if Daimaru opened a branch at Thomson plaza after Yaohan closed?

    NTUC only shifted in in the mid noughties, who was the supermarket tenant from 1998-2003/4?

    • Melissa says:

      Hello Lippy, this reply is 1 1/2 years late, but hope you get to read this. I was a Thomson kid and now as an adult it is where you find me every week almost – i GREW UP in this mall, and even now it has a very special place in my heart and memories.

      Anyway, enough of that sap, to answer your question – it wasn’t Daimaru, but for awhile Best Denki was in Thomson Plaza. I think you might have gotten it confused as we never had a Daimaru here. I did spend a large amount of time away from SG, but came back twice a year, so unless Daimaru opened and closed whilst I was away, i kinda doubt it was ever in Thomson Plaza.

      Thomson Plaza had Yaohan, which was wonderful – they had a toy section that most kids like myself LOVED. They also sold groceries i think – which didn’t interest me at that age LoL! And they also had electronics and gadgets and just about anything and everything – think Fairprice meets Best Denki – it was the best of both worlds. Can you tell I miss Yaohan? We don’t quite have a similar place that sells groceries AND electronics – and have both in equal variety. Sigh.

      Okay, when Yaohan closed in 97, 98 or so, it was what i call the “lean years” (98 to 2003) – we never had any supermarket at all!! Can you imagine that? I remember some time between 98 and 03, Best Denki came in – which was quite nice, cos you could pick up electronics there. I remember buying mini digital tapes there – LoL, this was before the days of SD cards! That’s what I loved about this time in Thomson plaza – you could readily pick up small, medium and even big electronics so easily.

      I also remember picking up things like batteries and ear pieces too — very nice place if you need everyday items too. I miss this now. Sigh. Thomson Plaza now doesn’t have much electronics to offer these days. There’s Mini Challenger, but it doesn’t offer as many products as Best Denki does. I sure do miss Best Denki Thomson ………….. so sad. ;(

      Anyhoo – When Fairprice moved in in early 2000’s, I think we all wept tears of joy – I’m exaggerating but you get the picture! I love Fairprice Thomson with all my heart! Finally we have a place to buy groceries and toiletries and other things. So maybe we can’t find electronics in Thomson anymore, but we can buy a chicken anytime we want now!

      Hope this helps!!!

      PS – My memory is very fuzzy about this – but didn’t Singapore have an electronics store called SAFE? It stood for Singapore Armed Forces Enterprise. They went out of biz i think – it used to be in Bishan junction 8. I am not sure but i think it was bought over and renamed Best Denki or Harvey Norman or something, – i often get the two mixed up. But i’m pretty sure the one in Thomson Plaza was Best Denki, but am not sure if it used to be called SAFE. Maybe someone can shed light on this?! Thanks!!!

  36. Another small neighbourhood shopping mall replaced by condo development…

    Hougang Plaza (1996-2012)

    http://lionraw.com/2013/05/02/hougang-plaza-hougangs-first-shopping-entertainment-complex/

    I remember I used to play midnight bowling at the Visions Lanes Bowling Alley of Hougang Plaza with my friends during my university days (late 1990s), then proceeded for supper around that area until 3-4am… Nice memories

  37. Vicky G.B says:

    I wish i could move time to those days i used to hang out with friends in the early 1990s without any lawful problems. $10 dollars was enough to spend nearly half a day. I am sure my age group citizens would have missed those days too…… ): Nice blog Keep it up……. (:

  38. Popular Holland V news-stand owner dies

    The Straits Times
    Published on Sep 21, 2013
    By Melody Zaccheus

    CUSTOMERS in Holland Village have paid tribute to popular news-stand owner Periathambi G., who died on Thursday. The 70-year-old – who was known as Mr Thambi and started distributing papers when he was eight – had been suffering from diabetes and kidney failure for more than a decade.

    “It’s a loss to the community,” said Ms Irene K., a teacher in her 40s. “But he left behind a wonderful legacy and a professional, personalised and passionate approach to the newspaper business.”

    The veteran owner opened Thambi Magazine Store in 1996, but the news-stand can trace its roots back to the 1960s, when Mr Thambi’s father would deliver newspapers on his bicycle when the area was a kampung. Today, the news-stand carries about 4,000 publications from around the world. Passionate about the business, Mr Thambi worked until his late 50s, when he fell ill. He fell into a coma on Thursday evening and died later that night.

    “He has been in and out of the hospital but his death still came as a shock to us,” said his eldest son, Mr P. Senthilmurugan, 39, who runs the news-stand with his siblings, in-laws and mother. Second son P. Govindasamy, 33, added: “Even after my father fell ill, he would ask that we bring him to the shop. He would sit down with a cup of coffee, chat with the residents and ask our workers to tell him what had made the news that morning.”

    Mr Thambi’s wake is being held at Block 20, Holland Drive. A procession will also take place today (21 Sep), stopping outside his shop and tracing one of his old newspaper delivery routes before leaving for the Mandai Crematorium at 5.30pm. The news-stand, which closed yesterday, will reopen on Monday.

  39. A 1985 printed advertisement by Cold Storage at Goldhill Sqaure…


    a can of A&W Root Beer cost $0.39 then

  40. Edwin Sim says:

    Thanks for doing up this list…beings back a lot of memories for me. This is one website that will live to tell a long story, :)

  41. Wisma Atria’s iconic marine aquarium (1986-2008) certainly held a significant place in many Singaporeans’ memories :)


    (Photo Credit: http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/users/354879/)

  42. Bit long but the best post I have ever seen on internet about mall and shopping in Singapore.

  43. Serangoon Plaza, formerly President Shopping Centre, was sold en bloc for $400m

    The Straits Times
    Monday, Nov 04, 2013

    SERANGOON Plaza is better known as the home of the other Mustafa store, beside the well-known retailer’s 24-hour flagship in Mustafa Center.

    But the five-storey freehold building at 320 Serangoon Road will now go down in the books for another reason: as the most expensive commercial property to be sold en bloc in Singapore. The development has been sold to its majority owner in a deal that values the office and retail complex at $400 million.

    Feature Development, an associate of the Tong Eng group, already owns 90 per cent of the strata units. It will buy over the others, which are currently held by more than 10 other owners. The sale was brokered by Savills Singapore, which had set an indicative price of $360 million to $368 million. Feature Development withdrew from the sales committee to take part in the tender process at arm’s length, said Savills Singapore’s director of investment sales, Ms Suzie Mok.

    “Commercial property is currently the most vibrant (real-estate) segment here, so Feature had to put in a strong bid,” she said. “It was a clear-cut winner in terms of price, terms, and fulfilling all the tender conditions.”

    The tender closed on Thursday with Feature’s offer, which works out to $1,946 per sq ft of maximum floor area, tops. The company bought into the building in 1985. It is related to Tong Eng, the developer of several residential projects here, including Poshgrove East in East Coast Road and Three Balmoral in Balmoral Road.

    Built in the mid-1960s as President Shopping Centre, Serangoon Plaza comprises 128 strata retail and office units. All the unit owners agreed to the building’s sale, which means the deal will not need the Strata Titles Board’s approval. The buyer will not have to pay a development charge to redevelop the property, as the current building is under-utilising its space allowance.

    Serangoon Plaza sits on a 68,521 sq ft plot that can host a building with 205,563 sq ft of floor space. The complex’s floor area now is only 104,765 sq ft.

    The property’s sale also marks one of the largest en bloc deals in recent years. It is likely the biggest collective sale since Westwood Apartments was sold for $435 million in November 2007. The transaction caps a good year for collective sales of non-residential property. At least four other commercial and industrial buildings have been sold en bloc since January.

    They are: San Centre in Chin Swee Road, Bright Chambers in Bugis, and Henley Industrial Building and Pak Chong Building off Upper Paya Lebar Road.

  44. Yeo Ying Her says:

    Dear Remember Singapore, Katong Shopping Centre is still survived and has been not re-developed!

  45. Bukit Timah Plaza and Holland Road Shopping Centre in the 1980s!



    (Photo credit: Facebook Group “On a little street in Singapore”)

  46. Noxie says:

    Hmm, you left out the Golden Landmark Shopping Centre in your post too! :D

  47. Zitrone says:

    i remember as a child, my mum brought me to a department store called Cortina. Its logo was something like a globe and there was a small fountain with this globe thing in the middle. It’s a multi-storey shopping centre with a coffee house. But I was too young to know where it’s located. Anyone knows what i am talking about?

  48. Am moving this month to Singapore. Thanks a lot for the massive informative post about Singapore malls. I would love to see in real them.

  49. Mr. Ronald says:

    There are some really nice to see pics of about singapore malls with detail . which is really nice to useful for investment. and any other work. thanks to share it.

  50. Melissa says:

    I am a Thomson kid, Thomson Plaza holds literally a lifetime of memories for me! I might have to get rope and tie myself to the building in protest if they ever think of tearing it down – that’s how much my life is intertwined with that mall. Just as most of have memories tied into buildings, schools and malls of our childhood and growing up years. Thank you for this fabulous post.

  51. Alvin says:

    Thank you for putting KSC first on the list. I used to skip classes when I was in CCHB (another school that does not exist anymore) to play games there. It got so bad that they have to ban anyone wearing school uniform. These days I only go back to Singapore once every 3 years or more and the last time I was back (2010), I still paid KSC a visit.

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