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New Funan: From tech hub to live-work-play mall

SINGAPORE — Crockery-return robots at Kopitiam; a drive-through shopping service and an indoor cycling lane that cuts through the mall. These are some of the features the new Funan live-work-play mall will have when it opens for business in the fourth quarter of 2019.

SINGAPORE — Crockery-return robots at Kopitiam; a drive-through shopping service and an indoor cycling lane that cuts through the mall. These are some of the features the new Funan live-work-play mall will have when it opens for business in the fourth quarter of 2019. 

After 31 years, Funan DigitaLife Mall, the shopping centre best-known for computers and other electronics, was shut down in June to be redeveloped into an “experiential creative hub”. The redevelopment is expected to cost an estimated S$560 million. 

On Wednesday (Sept 7), plans were unveiled for the new Funan, to show how the mall would connect the online world to the offline world, and vice versa, for shoppers brought up in the digital age. 

Analysts TODAY spoke to said that amid the many challenges brick-and-mortar retailers face ­— from the economic slowdown, competition from e-commerce, a manpower crunch, rising business costs and lacklustre tourist spending — Funan’s reinvention is a signal of the direction mall operators need to take to gain an edge over their competitors.

The upcoming integrated development — which will have a total gross floor area (GFA) of 887,000sqf — will include a six-storey retail mall, two six-storey office towers and one nine-storey tower of co-living apartment units, said CapitaLand Mall Trust, the owner of Funan, at the mall’s groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday. Retail will take up more than half of the GFA at 500,000sqf. 

IT, while no longer the main focus of the mall, will still play a relatively large part, with an entire floor dedicated to the latest digital gadgets and technology products. CapitaLand is in discussions with several of 
Funan’s previous tenants about coming aboard the new mall, it said.

As part of the integration of online to offline shopping experiences, Funan will also offer a drive-through click-and-collect and hands-free shopping service, where shoppers can choose to either pick up their purchases at Funan’s concierge when they are done, or have their shopping bags delivered to their homes.

Meanwhile, three tenants have already signed on: Golden Village, Kopitiam and Climb Central.

Movie operator Golden Village plans to offer the first multi-dimensional cinematic experience for feature films in Singapore, with details to be unveiled in due course. 

Local foodcourt operator Kopitiam will introduce a high-tech food court named KO-PItech, featuring self-ordering kiosks, food collection conveyor belts, and tray and crockery return robots. 

Indoor climbing gym operator Climb Central will offer a climbing facility 15m high and extending from Basement 2 to Level 2. A futsal court will also be built on the sixth-floor roof next to a food garden. There will also be a 25m swimming pool and a world-renowned gym. 

For cycling enthusiasts, Funan will offer full amenities and end-of-trip facilities such as bike cafes, bike shops, lockers and shower facilities. The mall will also become Singapore’s first commercial building to allow cycling through the building.

In line with the mall’s “experiential” focus, Funan will feature a 4,000sqf urban farm, where people can learn about the origins of their food and “adopt a plot” to grow their own produce. 

Aside from the retail mall, Funan will also feature two six-storey Grade A office towers and a nine-storey block housing 279 co-living apartment units. There will also be a smart car parking and smart-access system, with video analytics and product curation functions.

“The paradigm shift in shopping is becoming more evident in the face of technological disruptions permeating through every aspect of our lives, and it is clear that the brick-and-mortar shop will be inadequate in today’s context. As such, it is essential for all major stakeholders to reinvent their operations to drive the retail scene forward and CapitaLand’s Funan mall certainly sets a very high standard by embracing technology and lifestyle,” said Ms Christine Li, director of research at Cushman & Wakefield. 

“CapitaLand is thinking out of the box to reinvent itself and combat the trend of retailers moving from offline to online. It is interesting to see how Singapore’s Funan project could become their pilot project for all their assets in the region. I believe that if Funan becomes successful over the medium term, CapitaLand will try to implement similar concepts on some of the retail malls in other regional markets.”

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