Singapore: Comparing Boat Quay and Clarke Quay Development

Singapore: Comparing Boat Quay and Clarke Quay Development

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This post has been updated.

Boat Quay was the place to be a decade or two back when Clarke Quay lost its lustre from its start-up days in the early 1990’s while managed by the then DBS Land. Today its just the opposite. Boat Quay’s nightlife has faded into obscurity while Clarke Quay has been holding up extremely well and consolidating its position as Singapore’s premier waterfront wine and dine destination.

I visited both Boat Quay and Clarke Quay on the Halloween Saturday weekend night in 2013. The contrast couldn’t be more stark! At midnight I walked from Clarke Quay toward Boat Quay. First of all, Clarke Quay was packed and a hive of activity. People were in costumes, there were organized activities and there was a good mix of both locals and tourist. And Boat Quay? 90% of the shops were closed. Of the 10% that were still open there was just a handful of people in each. Even the crowd at Harry’s Bar was pathetic. It’s such a waste considering Boat Quay’s much more appealing waterfront vista compared to Clarke Quay.

Let’s look at possible factors contributing to the disparity in the table below :

Where they differ

Boat Quay Clarke Quay
Asset Ownership Multiple Owners Single Developer
Architectural Typology Shophouse – Small individual floor plate Warehouse – large floor plate
Tenancy Management Tenanted out by individial owner Non-optimised Developer Optimised
Marketing/Publicity Limited Marketing Developer Driven
Common Areas Publicly Managed Developer Managed
Car Parking Limited on-site, mostly off-site On-site and Off-site
Market CBD lunch crowd / some dinner tourist. Limited locals Broad base of tourists and locals especially during the evening/

Are the reasons apparent to you?  With the impending re-development of the multi-storey car park at Market Street the future of Boat Quay looks even dimmer.

Recently, The Straits Times reported that Limited Edition Concepts will take over the master lease of 28 shop along Circular Road. In addition, a section of Circular Road will be pedestrianized. See below location map.

Question is: While both the pedestrianization and having 28 leases under a single umbrella is a laudable move, will this be effective in revitalizing Boat Quay (which is the actual waterfront)?

In today’s highly competitive and integrated retail-f&b-entertainment environments we believe the fortunes of Boat Quay can only be reversed by consolidating the management of this waterfront destination at a higher level. Until that happens you can’t effectively drive an optimal tenant mix, marketing and events which are really what draws the crowds.

The real challenge: Are individual Boat Quay shophouse owners prepared to subject their properties to a single management for the larger good?


Location Map


Photo by: jfrasse

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