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Punggol’s new mall opens, but old woes remain

SINGAPORE — In a fast-growing town still starved of infrastructure and amenities, the opening of Waterway Point in Punggol is an oasis of shops, dining outlets and services for residents, many of whom have moved into the area in recent months.

The four-storey Waterway Point mall, with more than 200 tenants, caters to nearly 600,000 people living and working in the area. Photo: Damien Teo

The four-storey Waterway Point mall, with more than 200 tenants, caters to nearly 600,000 people living and working in the area. Photo: Damien Teo

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SINGAPORE — In a fast-growing town still starved of infrastructure and amenities, the opening of Waterway Point in Punggol is an oasis of shops, dining outlets and services for residents, many of whom have moved into the area in recent months.

The downside to its popularity? Massive crowds and the long wait for car park lots, which are making some residents avoid the mall during weekends.

On weekends, finding a parking space at the newly opened Waterway Point can prove to be so much of a “killer” for Punggol resident Hanna Aris, 32, that she prefers to park at nearby residential areas and walk there, or limit her visits to weekdays.

“I see triple the crowd during the weekends ... Besides the jam-packed roads, I’ve noticed more unfamiliar cars parking at the car park near my house … But it’s a new mall, so it’s understandable,” said the mother of two, who has seen snaking queues of between 29 and 30 cars waiting to enter the car park.

The four-storey mall with more than 200 tenants caters to nearly 600,000 people living and working in the area. Since it opened to the public in mid-January, it has drawn nearly six million visitors, said Frasers Centrepoint group chief executive officer Lim Ee Seng at the official opening of the mall yesterday.

With the nearest major mall — 1 Sengkang Mall — undergoing renovation, Waterway Point has been a magnet for residents.

A Punggol resident who would only give his name as Victor said the 620 parking lots at the mall were insufficient, especially on weekends. “It’s easier to get parking at Seletar Mall compared with Waterway Point,” said the 39-year-old, adding that waiting times could be around 10 minutes.

He also noted the mall, together with the completion of housing estates in the area, has brought heavier traffic to Punggol, a long-running problem for the area. Last year, some residents complained about the traffic bottleneck near the Sengkang-Punggol exit on the Tampines Expressway after two bus lanes were opened.

“There are too many residents for the number of exits and entrances to the expressway. It’s always jammed,” said Victor.

Businesses at the mall have also had to tweak operations to cater to the crowd. Said Mr Jeff She Shaowei, a 34-year-old server at Fish & Co: “On weekdays, two or three floor staff are sufficient. But come weekends, we probably need double the staff, five or six, to make sure the operations are smooth.”

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Frasers Centrepoint CEO (Commercial and Greater China) Christopher Tang said the company was “pleased” with the mall’s performance and high footfall, even as he acknowledged the teething problems.

Noting that parking shortage is a problem “faced by all suburban malls”, Mr Tang said the company would work towards facilitating cars coming in and out quickly with the help of its automated intelligent-parking system. Most shoppers visit via public transport or walk, and 10 per cent of them drive to the shopping centre, he added.

On a recent report of a rat falling from the ceiling onto the lap of a diner at the mall, Mr Tang said the company is working closely with the National Environment Agency and pest control companies to “ensure the problem does not happen again”.

Punggol resident Ronald Cai welcomed the mall’s family-friendly amenities. “There are many spacious walkways, which make it easier for us to push the strollers around, and many changing rooms (for babies),” said the 35-year-old, who moved into the area about a year ago. However, layout and signage could be improved, as the sprawling layout could make it quite “confusing” to navigate, he added.

Some also noted the way to the mall from the MRT station could pose an accessibility problem for the less mobile, such as the elderly. “The tunnel (linking the mall to the station) with the staircase is a problem. For young people, it’s all right; but older people cannot climb the staircase to reach here,” said Ms Elaine Oei, a 55-year-old salesperson at Unity Pharmacy.

Crowd issues aside, residents and businesses TODAY interviewed were pleased with the mall’s opening. Mr She, who also lives in Punggol, said: “(Now), when you talk about Punggol to people, people will think that Punggol is no longer ulu, or deserted.”

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