The dust has yet to settle and the acrid smell of paint still permeates the corridors – as well as open-concept restaurants that have already begun business. Capitol Piazza, a new mall located adjacent to the neo-Classical Capitol Theatre, is by and large under construction. But its sleek promenade façade and unique tenant mix promise a much-needed boost to a retail landscape that has lost its patina through a deluge of cookie cutter malls.

“We have, for years been hearing repeatedly, comments from industry experts and shoppers that Singapore malls are generic and keep the same collection of brands,” says Sulian Tan-Wijaya, senior director of retail and lifestyle, Savills Singapore. “Capitol Piazza’s strategy is to feature more new-to-market retail and food and beverage concepts to differentiate themselves from other malls. Even existing players are encouraged to create new concepts unique to the mall.”

Although most of the units in the mall’s two basement levels, ground floor retail arcade and sheltered pedestrian mall are still hidden behind minimalist hoarding, brands like Italian clothing label Napapijri, French beauty marque Lancome and local fashion designer Max Tan have already opened its doors. Finnish design house Marimekko, London’s famed Four Seasons roast duck restaurant, and historical French café Angelina will also unveil its first local flagships within the destination soon. For most new-to-market shops, the location of the mall away from the bustle of the main Orchard shopping belt is actually a draw – rather than a deterrent.

“We chose Capitol Piazza as we see potential for growth in this vicinity, as compared to the prime Orchard road retail belt, which can be highly mature and saturated,” explains Kuribayashi Kenta, director of Japanese salon Branche Hair & Nail who reveals that rental for the unit is two-thirds that of a similar space in Orchard Road. “Capitol Piazza is a charming fusion of urban and tradition through the iconic Capitol Theatre, and we feel that the mall’s concept is very much in line with Branché, where everything here is of the highest quality.”

With the influx of unique shopping concepts and retailers on the prowl for unique locations and concepts to sway online shopping devotees, the Orchard Road mall no longer holds as much cachet as a retail institution. While it is hard to imagine a neighbourhood that would rival the traditional shopping strip, retailers and shoppers alike are turning to hipper, less predictable locales for retail therapy.

French café Angelina will soon unveil their first Singapore store.
French café Angelina will soon unveil their first Singapore store.

“We can even see tourists skipping the staple trip to Orchard during their stay in Singapore; instead, they visit areas with more character like Arab Street and Chinatown,” says Walid Zaazaa, CEO and founder of Manifesto.

“Apart from Marina Bay Sands, there is no real shopping alternative to Orchard at the moment; but with City Hall and the promising new concepts it has to offer, it should quickly become the new shopping/leisure destination.”

And unlike other sprawling, soul-less shopping meccas, Capitol Piazza boasts a romantic backstory: it is housed within three conservation buildings (Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House) inspired by architectural periods ranging from Neo-Classicism to Art Deco.

This historic backdrop, carefully integrated into modern extensions by New York-based firm Richard Meier & Partners Architects, is also the main attraction for another French company, Angelina. The famed tearoom first started in 1903 on Paris’ Rue de Rivoli and is known for its signature meringue and chestnut cream dessert, Mont-Blanc.

“The Capitol development is located within an area of great historical importance to Singapore including iconic buildings such as the Raffles Hotel, Supreme Court, National Museum and of course, the Capitol Theatre,” says Aditya Talwar, franchise partner of Angelina.

“Capitol Piazza is an ideal showcase location for Angelina, which is steeped in Parisian history itself. The integrated nature of the development provides us with an opportunity to cater to different customers, ensuring footfall throughout the day.”

“Capitol Piazza is one of the newest luxury malls in Singapore where many Singaporeans, especially working adults, and tourists shop,” says Chian Yu Xian, assistant marketing manager of Napapijri Singapore, known for its outdoor apparel and accessories. “With the premium apartments and a new six-star hotel within Capitol Piazza, we believe it will attract quality Singaporean shoppers and tourists who are our target audience.”

This article was first published in The Business Times Weekend on April 11-12 2015.