SINGAPORE: Across the road from the Prison Link Centre in Changi is a gleaming three-storey building with a modern red and grey facade, sporting elongated, tinted windows that add to its sleek design.
But look into the Liv@Changi mall, located at the junction of Upper Changi Road North and Mariam Way, and you will see there is nothing inside.
The road leading to the mall's car park is lined with red cones. The front doors say "welcome" but are locked shut. A SafeEntry sign is taped on, anticipating an opening that has yet to take place.
The mall was granted a Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) in December last year, its developer Fortune Assets Changi said on Friday (Sep 11) in response to queries from CNA.
But the mall has struggled to attract tenants because of planning restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail sales in Singapore plunged 40.5 per cent year-on-year in April as the coronavirus and "circuit breaker" measures shuttered non-essential businesses.
"Leasing of the retail spaces was affected by the pandemic with the circuit breaker measures implemented in April," Fortune Assets Changi director Keev Tan said.
"Additionally, the planning guidelines restricted certain desired trades, such as cafes and restaurants, which are essential for the mall to draw traffic."
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in February rejected the developer's request to turn six shop units on the first and second floor into restaurants.
"The proposed restaurants cannot be allowed, as stated in planning condition (f) of the Written Permission, to safeguard the amenities of the surrounding residents," the URA said in a document seen by CNA.
According to the latest planning conditions issued in March 2019, URA said the mall was not allowed to have restaurants, bars, health centres or nightclubs.
One resident who lives in a private estate nearby said she was looking forward to the convenience of a mall for her shopping needs.
"I don't know what happened," said the 63-year-old who only wanted to be known as Ms Esther. "Maybe COVID-19 affected it."
Another resident, a 70-year-old who gave his name as Mr Lim, presumed that the mall had run into planning issues.
"I need a supermarket," he said, adding that nearest shops were in Loyang, about 2km or a 15-minute walk away.
One resident who wrote to CNA said residents have not been updated on the mall's plans going forward. "Looks like a new white elephant mall," he said.
The process of leasing out the retail spaces is ongoing, the developer confirmed, although there is no indication when the mall might open.
"The objective of the mall has always been to provide quality amenities and services to the residents in the vicinity," Mr Tan said.