Ngee Ann City
by Ho, Stephanie
Ngee Ann City is a shopping and office complex located along Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt that was officially opened on 21 September 1993. A collaboration between Ngee Ann Development and Orchard Square Development Corporation (OSDC), the complex was the largest commercial project in Singapore when it opened.1 The complex is popularly known as “Taka” in reference to its anchor tenant, the Takashimaya Department Store.2
In 1845, the Ngee Ann Kongsi purchased a 29-ha plot of land along Orchard Road from the East India Company to be used as burial grounds. As the Singapore settlement grew, this parcel of land became part of the city hub. Parts of the land were subsequently leased to various parties who built the Mandarin Hotel (opened in stages starting from late 1971),3 Orchard Theatre (opened in 1965 and later redeveloped into the Cineleisure Orchard complex in 1997)4 and Wisma Indonesia (completed in 1964 and subsequently demolished to make way for the Wisma Atria shopping mall, which opened in 1986).5
In 1973, the Kongsi leased 38 acres (around 15 ha) of its land in Orchard Road to OSDC to develop a multipurpose complex to be known as Orchard Square. The complex would comprise a shopping centre, office blocks and residential units.6 At the time, the British Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations owned 75 percent of OSDC, with the remaining shareholders being also British nationals. In 1975, the Crown Agents decided to dispose of the Orchard Square project because of a company restructuring.7 Metro Holdings took over the project by acquiring all the shares in OSDC.8
Even after the handover, the project did not take off. Metro Holdings had difficulty getting government approval for its development plans and subsequently faced opposition from the Kongsi for its revised plans.9 In 1980, the Ngee Ann Kongsi sought to repossess the property. Citing breaches to the 99-year lease by Metro Holdings, the Kongsi sought compensation for loss and damage caused by Metro Holding’s failure to build the complex that resulted in the government acquisition of parts of the site for general development.10
The case was eventually settled out of court and the two parties agreed to put up the site for sale through a public tender in 1984. Unfortunately, the tender failed to attract a serious bid. In 1987, Ngee Ann Kongsi and Metro Holdings announced that they would jointly build an office and shopping complex on the site. The land area of the earmarked site was substantially smaller than the original Orchard Square site due to government acquisition of around 13 ha of land for development.11
On 2 December 1988, Ngee Ann Kongsi and Metro Holdings’s subsidiary OSDC signed an agreement to jointly develop a S$400-million commercial complex at the Orchard Square site. Under the agreement, Ngee Ann Kongsi would get a 73 percent stake in the complex with OSDC holding the remaining 27 percent stake.12
At the groundbreaking ceremony in 1989, the complex was referred to as Ngee Ann City rather than Orchard Square.13 After the ceremony, Japanese retailer Takashimaya signed an agreement with Ngee Ann Kongsi to take a 30 percent stake in its property arm, Ngee Ann Development, for S$300 million. Takashimaya also agreed to lease 48,000 sq m of retail space in Ngee Ann City for 20 years.14 In 1990, Takashimaya struck a leasing deal with Metro Holdings that gave the Japanese retailer full control of the 66,000 sq m of retail space in Ngee Ann City.15
Design, construction and development
Ngee Ann City was designed by architectural firm Raymond Woo and Associates. The complex consisted of two 27-storey office towers and a 7-storey retail podium clad in “African Red” polished granite.16 Initially the towers were planned to be 34-storeys high, which was the same height as the neighbouring Mandarin Hotel. In the end, the height of the towers had to be reduced as one of them was in the way of Singapore Telecoms’s microwave links.17 Architect Raymond Woo’s design of the podium was inspired by the Great Wall of China.18
The contract to build the superstructure of the complex was awarded to Shimizu Corp for S$334.5 million.19
Opening and first year of operations
On 6 August 1993, Ngee Ann City’s retail podium – Takashimaya shopping centre – opened for business.20 The complex was officially opened by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on 22 September 1993. At the time, it was the largest retail space in Singapore and home to the biggest departmental store. PM Goh said that the complex would raise the standard of the retail industry and benefit the tourism sector.21
In addition to introducing new brands and retail concepts to Singapore, the complex also boasted impressive features such as the region’s first 24- screen high-definition video-wall.22 Takashimaya was also the first retailer to offer a smart card for customers and had 100,000 cardholders by May 1994.23
Takashimaya also promoted the shopping complex as a lifestyle store by setting aside 15 percent of its retail space for lifestyle features and customer services. These included an art gallery, a cultural centre and a fitness centre with an indoor swimming pool. Takashimaya was also the first in Singapore to introduce a nursery room where mothers could breastfeed or change their children’s diapers.24
At the end of the first year of operations, Takashimaya had a turnover of S$280 million.25
In 1996, some 13,800 sq m of carpark space on the 5th floor of Ngee Ann City was converted for commercial use. This was done in response to a revision in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s planning guidelines.26
In 1999, Library@Orchard, the first lifestyle library targeted at young adults between the ages of 18 and 35, was opened on part of the premises of the converted carpark space.27 The popular public library closed in 2007 following the decision by the National Library Board (NLB) not to renew the lease due to rising rents.28
On 20 June 1994, an 11-year-old boy from India fell three floors from an escalator in Ngee Ann City. He was taken to the Singapore General Hospital but died 30 minutes after he arrived.29
1994: Best Buildable Design Awards, Commercial and Office Buildings category, awarded by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).30
1994: Construction excellence award, Commercial category, awarded by CIDB.31
1973: Ngee Ann Kongsi leased Orchard Road site to Orchard Square Development Corporation (OSDC).
1975: Metro Holdings bought over OSDC.
1980: Ngee Ann Kongsi sought to repossess site.
1984: Orchard Road site put up for public tender.
1988: Ngee Ann Kongsi and Metro Holdings sign agreement to jointly develop Orchard Road site.
1989: Ngee Ann City ground-breaking ceremony.
6 Aug 1993: Takashimaya shopping centre opened.
22 Sep 1993: Official opening of Ngee Ann City.
1996: Ngee Ann City converted 13,800 sq m of carpark space for commercial use.
1. Much to learn from success of Ngee Ann Kongsi: PM. (1993, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, S. (1993, August 6). Takashimaya ready to face sluggish sector. The Straits Times, p. 48; Cho, K. (2000, May 26). Staying on top. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. New coffee house opens today. (1971, November 15). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Its curtains for Orchard Theatre next month. (1995, January 25). The Business Times, p. 2; Rashiwala, K. (2000, February 19). Cathay Building is to be redeveloped for $100m. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lim, B. T. (1964, April 4). Hotels and shops in Indonesia House from next month. The Straits Times, p. 11; What shoppers think of names. (2007, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 59; Lee, G. B. (1983, December 6). ‘Square’ that never took shape. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chia, P. (1973, March 30). 700-ft tower will be the highest in S-E Asia. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ngiam, T. H. (1975, October 3). Orchard Square project to change hands. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Metro is taking over Orchard Square project. (1975, December 25). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. What might have been. (1983, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Rodrigues, C. (1980, May 22). Ngee Ann files writ to take back Orchard Square. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ong, C. C. (1987, June 19). Orchard Square project being finalised. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Wee, A. (1988, December 3). $400 m complex for Orchard Square. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Do more for education, Dr Yeo urges big companies. (1989, July 19). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Siow, D. (1989, July 19). Big Four sign $412m loan for Ngee Ann City project. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lee, H. S. (1990, December 24). Metro details deal with Takashimaya. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Leading S. African granite producer sets up office here. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Designing lower buildings a greater challenge. (1990, September 9). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Wee, A. (1988, December 3). $400 m complex for Orchard Square. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lim, M. K. (1990, August 7). Shimizu nudges out Takenaka to win Ngee Ann City job. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Ngee Ann City comes alive. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1993, September 21). Speech by prime minister Mr Goh Chok Tong at the official opening of Ngee Ann City on Tuesday, 21 September 1993 at 6.00 pm. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Much to learn from success of Ngee Ann Kongsi: PM. (1993, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. What it takes to be a specialty shop. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 8; George, C. (1993, August 15). Set fact: You can’t miss it. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Takashimaya plays its cards right. (1994, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Ong, S. C. (1993, August 6). Shop, swim, eat, dance. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Kerk, C. (1994, August 20). Takashimaya sales hit S$280m in first year, on course to meeting its target. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. 13,800 sq m more in Ngee Ann City for commercial use. (1995, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 47; Lam, J. (1996, September 4). Ngee Ann City owners to lease out 5th floor retail space directly. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Lim, R. (1999, October 21). A hot link for young adults. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Ngiam, Y. L., & Leong, W. K. (2007, July 26). Not@Orchard for now. Today, p. 4.Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Pearce, S. (1994, June 21). Boy dies after fall from escalator. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Ngee Ann City, Junction 8 win on efficiency. (1994, December 2). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Six projects get CIDB awards for excellence. (1994, December 17). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 29 November 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from out sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.