Meet the man who helped draw up Funan Centre
Landmark in North Bridge Road to close next year for major renovations to convert it into a new creative hub
His first job as a draftsman was to draw Funan Centre.
Mr Mark Yan's voice lit up when he talked about his pride and joy in being part of the team that worked on the 30-year-old mall, an icon of Singapore's IT retail history.
The mall on North Bridge Road is set to undergo a major renovation.
It will make way for the development of a new "experiential creative" hub, said CapitaLand Mall Trust Management in a press release.
The mall will be closed for three years, from June 30 next year.
Mr Yan had just completed his national service when he joined a Urban Redevelopment Authority team that worked on the construction of the Funan Centre in 1983.
Funan Centre was opened in 1985, two years before Sim Lim Square.
It was renamed Funan DigitaLife Mall in 2005.
Mr Yan, then a URA structural technician, said: "When the team first sketched out the plan for Funan Centre back then, we had a vision of a bustling shopping destination.
"Back in the day, if people didn't want to go to Orchard Road, they would walk around North Bridge Road, visit Peninsula Plaza or catch a movie at the Shaw Towers," said Mr Yan, now 55 and the father of two.
He was very proud of Funan Centre when it was completed.
PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
"It was a huge privilege for me to be part of the team. So much work was put into it and I felt honoured that I got to contribute."
He is now a real estate agent.
In the early 90s, Mr Yan recalled an influx of electronics and IT retailers to the mall that catered to the surge of digital technology.
"In those days, everyone was very excited about owning electronic gadgets like handphones or Walkmans, so the mall was really convenient because everything was under one roof," said Mr Yan.
These days, he frequents the mall whenever he needs to buy accessories for his electronic gadgets or service them.
When The New Paper told him about the closure of the mall next year, Mr Yan said the news was "a long time coming".
"It's about time for the mall to be revamped so that it can keep up with its surroundings. In the meantime, I will have to live with buying my stuff from Sim Lim Square," he said.
Logistics executive Mohd Faizal Osman, 31, said: "When my friends or relatives from out of town come to Singapore and ask me for places to get electronic goods, I immediately tell them to go to Funan DigitaLife mall.
"It's reputable and, most importantly, safe. I really hope they will sustain the vibe of the mall after the development," he said.
Another regular patron of the mall, full-time national serviceman Joseph Chai, said that the atmosphere at Funan DigitaLife Mall is different from Sim Lim Square.
The 19-year-old, who is an avid fan of computer games and action figures, goes to the mall almost every weekend with a group of friends.
"I like to hang around the mall because it has everything that I need. I can find all the latest games and action figures without anyone rushing me or giving me the side-eye," said Mr Chai.
"Once Funan closes, I will need to start sourcing for other places to find the things I need. Hopefully it doesn't include going to Sim Lim Square."
Retailers scrambling to find alternatives
Even though the rumours have been flying about for the past six months, yesterday's confirmation that Funan DigitaLife Mall will be closed next year has left retailers scrambling.
Mr Muthiah Nagappan, managing director of Worldwide Computer Services, said that the closure will result in big losses to his company.
His shop is one of more than 170 shops at the mall. He spent $80,000 on renovations for his shop, which was opened two years ago.
"When I received the e-mail from the landlord yesterday, I was quite taken aback.
"Even if I open my shop every single day from now till the mall closes, it will not cover my expenses," said Mr Muthiah, 53, who also has a shop at Sim Lim Square.
"Now I'm really trying to find an alternative solution to this. Maybe I'll just open another shop at Sim Lim Square," he added.
In an e-mail to tenants, CapitaLand Mall Trust Management Limited (CMTML) said it would endeavour to find alternative spaces at its other properties for the Funan tenants, subject to conditions such as availability and rental rates.
Mr Muthiah said he will consider the offer.
Mr Jeffrey Phua, owner of gaming computer and accessories retailer GameproSG, said that the move will be a hassle but the bigger concern is the customers.
"Since all the retailers have to relocate, the shops in Funan will be scattered all over Singapore.
"So the challenge is to retain regular customers," said Mr Phua.
Fortunately for Mr Phua, he has another branch in Sim Lim Square but is not looking to expand it.
"I'd rather relocate my shop than expand the one in Sim Lim Square because it caters to different customers.
"I'm very doubtful that customers from Funan would actually shop at Sim Lim Square," said Mr Phua.