Arts cluster Gillman Barracks set for another transformation
Arts cluster Gillman Barracks set for another transformation. The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) is set to transform the quiet but beloved arts cluster Gillman Barracks, promising a broader lifestyle mix of dining, leisure, and arts offerings for all visitors.
SLA made the announcement on Tuesday (May 24), concurrently with the release of five tenders for F&B and lifestyle uses. It hopes that potential tenants will come up with innovative ideas like farmers’ markets, farm-to-table dining, bookshop-cafés, dining-cum-pottery classes, and wine-and-painting parties.
SLA plans to invest S$2 million in the infrastructure of the precinct, including the construction of more covered walkways and a new children’s playground. “SLA is constantly reviewing the timely introduction of innovative ways to unlock the potential of our State Properties and add value to the economy and community,” SLA CEO Colin Low explained.
All five tenders will be evaluated based on price (40%) as well as quality (40 percent ). (Sixty percent). “We want proposals that can add to the vibrancy of the precinct… while also demonstrating a commitment to sustainability,” Low said.
Tenders for the five blocks will be open for 8 weeks starting Tuesday; interested parties should go to SLA’s one-stop property portal State Property Online Information.
The former military barracks-turned-arts-enclave now houses several art galleries and food and beverage establishments, some of which have been open since the site’s grand opening in 2012. Several galleries have left over the years, citing low footfall and poor business.
However, other galleries have remained — and even thrived — indicating that there are other factors besides location to consider. Galleries such as Mizuma, Ota, and Sundaram Tagore have been present in Gillman Barracks since its inception, while newer entrants such as Yavuz and Richard Koh have reported generally healthy sales.
Similarly, the fortunes of food and beverage establishments have been mixed. While some have closed, others, like Naked Finn and Burger Labo, have thrived, drawing foodies from all over the island and region.
“We’ve been here since the beginning because we like this space,” said Ota Fine Arts gallery manager Jodi Tan. Over the years, we’ve seen slow and gradual improvements to this location, such as covered walkways and toilets. The National Arts Council’s efforts, such as more frequent social media posts, appear to be successful in attracting the public… We are optimistic that the most recent round of transformations will benefit us.”
Gillman Barracks was built in 1936 on a 6.6 ha site surrounded by lush greenery. It is located alongside the Alexandra Garden Trail, which connects Hort Park, Labrador Park, and the Southern Ridges.
The National Arts Council, Economic Development Board, and JTC Corp. were previously in charge of Gillman Barracks. SLA took over management in March 2020, but due to Covid-19, it was unable to carry out its plans to revitalize the precinct. According to Low, SLA now believes the time has come to reimagine the 17 colonial state properties as a lifestyle hub “similar to Dempsey.”
The leases of the majority of the current tenants will expire early next year.
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