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Photo from Singapore River One

Singapore floats plans for new businesses in river precinct

The precinct’s placemaker aims to boost footfall with more immersive activities for all.

Despite its historical significance, Singapore River is often not regarded as a top attraction in the Lion City – something that Singapore River One (SRO) wishes to change. In the next few years, the aspiration is to elevate the river’s status to that of the Seine in Paris or the Thames in London.

In an interview with the Singapore Business Review, Michelle Koh, executive director of SRO, said the not-for-profit place management organisation has a four-year plan that will transform the Singapore River precinct into a destination of choice not only of tourists, but businesses as well.

The first step in the SRO’s plan to improve the business landscape in the precinct is by promoting a “full-breadth of offerings and activities on Singapore River.”

For the Singapore River Festival held in September, the SRO launched activities powered by augmented reality (AR).

Koh said the SRO partnered with BytePlus to “deliver an experiential campaign on TikTok that brings the first-of-its kind immersive, location-based augmented reality (AR) in the region.”

“We are expecting this to generate even more user-generated content from visitors of the precinct and as such, greater awareness and traction of the area and businesses,” Koh said. 

The SRO head also shared that the organisation plans to tap on digital platforms to enhance their walking tour experiences.

Another project included in the four-year plan is the Singapore Digital Heritage Project, which includes the launching of a digital gallery that showcases lesser-than-known stories of the river from SRO stakeholders.

The project also integrates precinct-wide digital wayfinding signs to enhance navigation in the area.

Koh said introducing new activities will attract more visitors to the precinct and increase footfall, creating a more attractive environment for those who invest, work, or visit the Singapore River.

“These projects are aimed to enhance businesses, improve property values and create an attractive Singapore River in which people will invest, work, live and visit,” Koh said.

“Whilst these are the more tangible aspects of placemaking, SRO continues to work closely with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to achieve, shift and shape policies that will Impact the precinct positively,” Koh added.

Importance of placemaking

Koh underscored the importance of placemaking to Singapore’s 10 precincts, saying: “With proper place management… public spaces are enhanced, stakeholders’ needs are represented, and destination marketing is taken care of.”

Since the SRO stepped in as the River precinct’s placemaker in 2012, Koh said there has been fund injection in developments in the area: the redevelopment of Central Square and Central Mall, Canning Hill Piers and CQ@Clarke Quay.

“These redevelopments showcase Singapore River as an attractive precinct to investors,” Koh added.

Apart from fund injections in developments, the SRO has also implemented projects such as the revamp of the Boat Quay waterfront in 2016 with the help of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The SRO has also introduced celebrations in the precinct such as the annual Singapore River Festival and Saint Patrick’s Day Street Festival.

According to Koh, the 2023 celebration of the St. Patrick’s Day Street Festival attracted more than 20,000 visitors leading to a 40% spike in the revenue of SRO-partner merchants.

Recently, the SRO also introduced #WellnessByTheRiver, which is a series of free fitness activities along the Singapore River to amplify the precinct as a holistic lifestyle destination for all. 

Koh said the collaboration with the Health Promotion Board has “thus far, seen a healthy turnout from the workforce around the area.

“Our key objective will be to ensure that the Singapore River remains the premier destination for locals and tourists seeking an antithetic Singaporean experience in a place that connects the country’s past to the present,” Koh concluded.

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