Lately, a couple of developers who have pushed for shoebox apartments and factories have turned their attention to push for shoebox shops. The URA has received applications from them proposing to build malls featuring mainly shoebox shops, with sizes as small as 9sqm. At 9sqm, the shop will be even smaller than a car park lot.
In many cases, the number of proposed shops in their proposed redevelopments will end up more than 10 times the number of shops in the original malls!
Small shops have a place in our retail landscape as they support our entrepreneurs and cater to certain trades, such as stationery shops, florists and moneychangers. But when they are the predominant shop type in a shopping mall, we have to be concerned about the viability of these shops and the shopping experience of the customers. If these shops are not suitable for most retailers, then the developers’ motive is probably to target individual property investors rather than genuine retailers. Who will the individual property investors sell or tenant to after the developers have sold these units to them? Moreover, too many small shops in a mall can generate disproportionate traffic and parking issues.
Industry stakeholders, including Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) and the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), shared the URA’s concerns as well. The URA has therefore formulated a set of guidelines to address them, in consultation with the industry players. The guidelines will henceforth require a minimum average retail unit size and minimum corridor widths for all new developments with retail floor area.
These guidelines take a fair, balanced approach. They give developers and architects the flexibility to propose a suitable mix of larger and smaller shops for their developments. At the same time they benefit shoppers and retailers, ensuring that all new developments have a good mix of shops and incorporate the latest Universal Design principles to accommodate all shoppers, including families with strollers and wheelchair users.
I hope that these guidelines will ensure that Singaporeans continue to have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience. After all, shopping is a great Singaporean pastime.
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