It has been a while since I visited Serangoon Garden. It had been a place that I visited frequently for a time, when the residential estate had a more laid back feel to it. It was just after we had moved to nearby Ang Mo Kio that my family started frequenting “Gardens” as we referred to it, with there being an NTUC supermarket that was probably closest to the new Ang Mo Kio which was starting life as a HDB estate at the end of the 1970s, where my mother could make her weekly visits to the supermarket. The weekly visits would bring us in touch with some of the existing institutions in the area: Chomp Chomp for one, and the already well known NIB second hand bookshop being another. That also brought us in touch with Paramount Theatre, which by that time seemed to wear a shabby and tired appearance.
The second hand book shop NIB was an institution in Serangoon Garden (image source: NLB Straits Times online archive).
The NIB bookshop was a particular favourite of my families, and the weekly visits always included a visit to the bookshop, where second hand books – most of which were in excellent condition could be effectively rented or bought at very affordable prices. I got most of my supply of books through my teens this way and most would remember the shelves and racks that lined the five foot way at the side of the shop that ran along Portchester Avenue, leading up to the barber shop and the ramp up to the car park of the building in which the NTUC supermarket was located. The shop itself was particularly packed – with a few racks filled with stories through which the ladies could live their romantic fantasies out ….
The Paramount right at the other end of Maju Avenue which together with NIB, would have made an appearance some time in the 1960s, would have offered more than that – with many catching popular movies there in the good old days of hard PVC seats in single screen cinemas, steamed peanuts and sweetcorn, and chinagraph scrawled coloured ticket stubs. I can’t say that I have watched a movie there, preferring to catch my movies in the bigger screens down town, but I do well remember the cinema. That went in 1983, shutting down as cinemas found it hard to cope with the appearance of movies on videotapes. The cinema soon found an alternative use, being converted into a Fitzpatrick’s supermarket in 1984 shortly before before the chain was bought over by Cold Storage. And when Cold Storage closed the outlet in 1985, that coincided with the period of my life when I was caught up with the transition to adulthood, and so I stopped my regular visits to Serangoon Garden, although my parents still frequented the area. The Paramount later became the Serangoon Garden Village complex which featured a DBS bank as well as some F&B outlets.
The old seen on the new, an image of the former Paramount Theatre projected onto the façade of the new myVillage, developed by Chye Lee and Sons Pte Ltd which is headed by two sons of the former owner of the Paramount.
It was perhaps coincidental that whilst a few were reminiscing about the old Paramount that I received an invitation to the grand opening of myVillage, a new development on the site of the former Paramount. What is interesting about it is that the developers of myVillage, Chye Lee and Sons Pte Ltd, is headed by Edmund and Edward Chye, whose father had owned the Paramount Theatre (the company was responsible for Serangoon Garden Village as well). While it does not bring back the old Paramount and some of the institutions that many residents of Serangoon Garden might have some nostalgia for, the development does provide a link to the past, at the same time bringing a modern mall concept to the area, similar to what has become popular in many other residential neighnourhoods.
myVillage brings a modern mall into the heart of Serangoon Garden.
The grand opening of myVillage on 20 February 2011 featured a carnival and was graced by Mrs Lim Hwee Hwa, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport, MP for Aljunied GRC.
Some in the crowd were invited to draw laser graffiti on the facade of myVillage together with Mrs Lim.
Laser graffiti that was drawn.
The crowd at the grand opening.
myVillage: An Orchard Road experience in the suburbs
Singapore – With city centre packed with tourists, discerned locals are seeking premium suburban alternatives to avoid commuting to the city area for a good meal and relaxed weekend. Home-grown developer Chye Lee & Sons, has planned for a curated suburban retail experiences with myVillage at Serangoon Garden which opens officially on 20th February.
According to Singapore Tourism Board, tourists arrivals have increased 20.7% this year, with a total of 10.5 million visitors to Singapore during January to November 2010. With such record tourists figures, locals are opting to spend their weekends in suburban malls. To cater for the shoppers who are weary of Orchard crowds, suburban malls are stepping up and creating specialty retail experiences.
“We wanted something that our regulars could relate to and also a curated retail experience,” Edmund Chye stated. “Being nearer to the residents, we knew from the consumer research conducted that they were looking for two things, high retail standards and the individuality that Serangoon Garden is known for.”
This approach was the reason that myVillage currently boasts a tenancy rate of 99%, with huge interest even before the developers started marketing the mall in 2009.
In this gem of a mall, patrons can grab a quick bite at Da Paolo Gastronomia, pick up groceries from Fairprice Finest and enjoy European and Japanese-French country-style bread at Bakerzin Artisan Bread, a new-to-market brand that will open soon in myVillage.
“We were initially looking for a shophouse unit for our first Bakerzin Artisan Bread outlet as we did not want our new brand to be in an impersonal mall,” Mr Daniel Tay, Chief Executive Officer at Bakerzin, said. “myVillage was perfect as it has the best of both worlds.”
In a consumer research done in 2009 by Consulus, regional brand consultancy, the annual average income of patrons from the primary (Serangoon Garden and Serangoon North) and secondary (Kovan, Hougang and Braddell Heights) geographical areas, was $61,634 and $73,405 respectively, compared to Singapore’s overall average of $52,350 (according to IRAS Annual survey 2009).
“The patrons of myVillage are discerning shoppers who appreciate a more curated experience,” Lawrence Chong, Director for Strategy Development at Consulus, said.
To make sure myVillage was appealing to the affluent community, almost $1,000 per sq foot was spent to build and fit-out the complex, an amount comparable to ION Orchard.
“The developers were fully committed to pushing the boundaries in designing this experience, from the selection of tenants to choosing the right fittings and creating the brand story. It has been as intense as developing a mall along Orchard road,” Chong said.
Tenants cited the coziness of the mall as an attractive characteristic for their units. Residents can pause for a foot massage, drop off their laundry and have a coffee while waiting. With Beyond Beauty opening in mid-March, visitors will be able to enjoy nail and spa treatments close to their homes.
“Organic Basic provides homely and personal service and myVillage is a place that we feel at home in and that enables us to build friendships with the residents,” Tracy Lim, Director at Organic Basic, said, whose myVillage outlet is the brand’s first flagship store.
Current dining options include Japanese grill by Shin Kushiya and Chinese favourites at Old Hong Kong Taste, with Relish by Wild Rocket completing the offerings with Western comfort food when it opens. Other dining options opening soon are Daikokuya and Sweet Spring.
Familiar brands like Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Subway, Wang Cafe, Feisiong, Old Chang Kee, Oishii Bakery, Each-a-cup and Jollibean have populated the basement level of myVillage.
New food concepts by local food brands include Obolo Estudio and Berrylite.
myVillage will officially open its doors on Sunday, 20 February with a homecoming carnival for families and friends. All are invited to come in their casual best, let down their hair and do crazy things like eat on beds and use pots and pans as target practice.
The carnival, called myVillage Affair, will begin at noon at the mall and along Maju Avenue. Shoppers can look forward to games with attractive prizes. Radio personality and Serangoon Garden resident Daniel Ong will emcee the event live from 5 to 9 pm, while Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport, MP for Aljunied GRC, will join the festivities at 7 pm as the guest of honour. The carnival will end with a bang at 8 pm with a laser graffiti on the facade of myVillage and a confetti snowstorm.
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Ms Christina Tarigan
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