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 February 07, 2001
Street Hawking To Return To Singapore's Chinatown

 New food street in Chinatown promises a variety of delectable delights

The hustle and bustle of street hawking will no longer be a thing of the past. Open-air cooking and dining is soon to return to Singapore after a 20-year break as Smith Street in Singapore's Chinatown district will be transformed into a fully-fledged food street. The Smith Street hawkers are expected to open for business by August 2001.

These landmark developments have been made possible under the Smith Street transformation project, which is part of the Chinatown Experience Guide Plan, a multi agency effort spearheaded by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and supported by the Chinatown Business Association (CBA).

Street hawking was last seen in Singapore in 1982 when a ban was introduced due to concerns on the level of hygiene and sanitation in open-air stalls. But things look set for a change now with a new and self-contained mobile cooking kiosk modelled after the original hawker stall and Smith Street will be the first to benefit from this.

Construction works at the street have just begun. When completed in May 2001, the street will house a 300-seat outdoor eating area with 18 of the permanent outdoor hawker stalls where meals will be cooked. These hawker stalls have been specially designed by Nanyang Polytechnic to meet the stringent criteria set by the Ministry of Environment, which has been represented in the Street MarketCommittee that leads the Smith Street transformation project.

Renovation works have been planned to ensure that conditions are conducive to open-air cooking and to create an environment that is comfortable, yet authentic, for outdoor dining. Renovation works, which cost over $1 million, include installing greasetraps for the shophouses, upgrading electrical wiring, resurfacing the back lane, extending the sidewalk, placing signage an installing street furniture and hawker stalls. Renovation is funded by the STB.

Land Office owns the 19 shophouses along Smith Street and out of these, two are currently occupied by restaurant operators. 16 shophouses will be filled by tenants with restaurant concepts that align with the proposed plan for the food street. The Street Market Committee assures that, together with the hawker stalls, these shophouses will bring people and business back to Smith Street.

"Food will only be one of the attractions" promised Mr Edmund Chua, the STB's Deputy Director, Thematic Development Unit. &It is the vibrancy and activity that are going to return to this part of Chinatown that will draw the crowd of locals and foreigners8, he said confidently.

"The return of street hawking will serve to instill a sense of nostalgia for those who saw the Chinatown of yesteryears. But more importantly, they will reflect what Chinatown is today ) and the people who live, work and operate businesses here", said Mr Chua. "We have ensured that the plans incorporate the requirements of this community." The Chinatown Business Association's Chairman Mr Koh Tian Seng said he couldn't agree more. "We hope that the success of Smith Street will have spill over effect and benefit the other businesses in Chinatown. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved", he added.

The Smith Street transformation plan received a warm welcome from the shopkeepers on both sides of the street when it was presented to them late last year. Whether they directly benefit from the renovation or not, the shopkeepers are confident that the increased level of activity in the area, resulting from the food street, will boost their business.

Many support the plan and are willing to bear with the temporary inconvenience caused by the renovation works. Mr Mok Yip Peng, Managing Director of the Soup Restaurant in Smith Street, for example, has decided to keep the restaurant open even during the renovation.

As existing restaurant operators eagerly await the opening of the food street, Premas International Pte Ltd, which is the leasing agent, is looking for potential tenants for the hawker stalls and shophouses.