Prinsep’s new life

It is a Thursday evening and Prinsep Street is heaving with funseekers. Cars line the narrow street in front of a stretch of shophouses that are venues for several drinking holes.

Yes, Prinsep Street. The once sleepy enclave located opposite Parklane Mall in Selegie Road has undergone a change.

Inside one of the shophouses, the Room Full Of Blues music bar, a four-piece live band entertain a crowded room with good old rock classics.

Next door, karaoke fans are crooning Mandarin ballads at the four-month-old LeBar.

Not far away, students and families are hard at play at the latest venue The Hangout Cafe, which offers boardgames, Xbox and Wii console games.

On weekends, the parking lots at the chill-out district are full and, sometimes, the valets have to turn customers away.

Prinsep Street has recently been drawing more working adults and families to its new food and beverage outlets, including year-old Sumomo Okonomiyaki Japanese eatery at Prinsep Place.

The shophouses along Prinsep are managed or owned by individuals and companies.

Mr Maximilien Fedkiw, who runs Le Bistrot du Sommelier at Prinsep Place, declines to reveal figures but says of the lively business vibe: ‘Surprisingly, the weekdays have been fairly busy and we usually advise customers to make table reservations towards the end of the week.’

Mr Steven Low, 51, who runs Room Full Of Blues, says: ‘The new tenants such as LeBar have attracted more young working adults to the area.

‘There have also been more residents from the residential properties in the Mount Sophia and Wilkie estates coming here to unwind.’

He is one of the oldest tenants along Prinsep Street, having operated the bar there for 11 years.

For new business owners, Prinsep’s proximity to the Singapore Management University, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LaSalle College of the Arts is a draw.

It is also popular among young adults as a game venue with outlets such as Homeground, e-games and The Mind Cafe.

Ms Wong Kai Yun, 25, who runs The Hangout Cafe, chose Prinsep over a space in Bugis Junction as ‘the student community is set to grow with the upcoming School of the Arts’.

The school is located opposite Prinsep Street.

Together with a partner, Ms Wong, a former auditor, sank a ‘high six-figure’ sum refurbishing the 297 sq m premises, which used to house a steamboat restaurant.

The Hangout Cafe, which is divided into two sections, caters to boardgame and console game lovers.

Another new kid on the block, Le Bar karaoke, opened its second outlet in Prinsep Street in October last year. The $300,000 Zen-inspired venue occupies two levels of a shophouse.

Its business development manager, MrZacc Tay, says: ‘The area has matured and it no longer has that rowdy vibe. We also checked out the available space at the Boat Quay area but it seems to draw a younger crowd in their 20s.’

However, the popularity of Prinsep has also led to a rise in rentals.

Mr Low says: ‘It has gone up from $3 to nearly $10 per square foot (psf) in a decade for the commercial properties in Prinsep.’

Ms Wong is paying about $6 psf but she says: ‘I was offered about the same rental for a third-floor space in a shopping mall. But the advantage of being in a shophouse is that you get walk-in traffic from the street.’

She adds: ‘The Prinsep area, which is part of the Bras Basah and Bugis precinct, is developing into a thriving entertainment and arts hub.’

And it is among the reasons British expatriate Russ Aldridge, a private banker, moved into a three-bedroom apartment in Sunshine Plaza in Prinsep Street early this year.

The 29-year-old bachelor says: ‘I was drawn to the quaint F&B enclave. It’s very convenient if you want to wine and dine or entertain friends. I don’t have to travel so far.

‘The shopping malls Iluma and Bugis Junction, plus the Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum, are also a stone’s throw away.’

Source : Sunday Times – 7 Mar 2010

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