Defunct Singapore malls & department stores

Another day, another mall’s impending closure is announced in the news. And just like that, social media is flooded with nostalgic posts of people reminiscing about how they used to love the mall. For a walk down that good ol’ memory lane, we’ve compiled a list of defunct Singapore malls and department stores, so you know where your parents used to hang out with the cool kids at.

1. Alkaff Arcade (Closed 1978)

Singapore’s first mall

Defunct Singapore malls - Alkaff Arcade
Image credit: SPH via National Archives of Singapore

The year was 1909: Singapore was shaping up to be a world-class shopping destination, a far cry from her kampung roots. But every shopping haven needs a good mall, and so Alkaff Arcade came onto the scene as Singapore’s first mall. The beautiful building, inspired by Islamic architecture,  housed both salons and tea rooms.

Defunct Singapore malls - Arcade
Image credit: @hall 6263 via Google Maps

Now, it is sandwiched between the skyscrapers of Raffles Place, known simply as the Arcade. Its architectural lustre has dulled; it looks nothing like it used to, and its boutiques have all been replaced by money changers.

2. Katong People’s Complex (Closed 1995)

From prison cell-like exteriors to i12 Katong

Defunct Singapore malls - Katong People's Complex
Image credit: STPB via National Archives of Singapore

One of the most controversially designed malls, Katong People’s Complex garnered a lot of attention for its prison cell-like structures on its facade. This sounded all the bad feng shui alarms to potential customers and is rumoured to be the reason for its initial poor business. It was also a hotbed for criminal activity, with several notable mugging incidents.

Defunct Singapore malls - i12 Katong

Fortunately, it was revamped as Katong Mall in 1995 and later rebooted as i12 Katong. Even as i12 Katong, it’s recently seen an overhaul too, and now champions sustainability through its use of LED lighting, water efficient fixtures, and waste recycling systems.

3. Specialist’s Shopping Centre (Closed 2008)

Orchard’s oldest mall

Defunct Singapore malls - Specialist's Shopping Centre
Image credit: Terence Ong via Wikimedia Commons

Specialist’s Shopping Centre, which opened in 1972, was the first mall on Orchard Road, and the foundation of what is now Singapore’s shopping district.

If you were a kid in the heyday of Specialist’s Shopping Centre, you’d recall the iconic smell of Famous Amos wafting out from the first-floor lift lobby.

It got its name from the medical specialists who occupied the building when it first opened. As the years went by, it turned into a retail haven, housing the departmental store John Little, alongside eateries and even a music store called Gramophone. It closed down in 2008 and was transformed into Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway.

4. Paradiz Centre (Closed 2009)

Transformed into the neon-techno GRiD

Defunct Singapore malls - Paradiz CentreImage credit: Terence Ong via Wikimedia Commons

Selegie Road has always been a gathering area for university students looking for things to do on a budget. The mall right next to SOTA is one of these spots – it was first known as Paradiz Centre in the 80s, and later became PoMo in the 90s.

Defunct Singapore malls - GR.iD

The newest iteration, GR.iD, draws inspiration for its layout and store curation directly from its main customer base: students. The mall has come a long way from being a nondescript white structure to what it is today: a neon-lit, bright orange geometric structure.

5. The Verge (Closed 2017)

Little India’s first shopping mall, now Tekka Place

Defunct Singapore malls - The Verge
Image credit: Lennardchan via Wikimedia Commons

What is now the shiny new building of Tekka Place used to be Little India’s first shopping mall, The Verge. It stands on the graves of several iterations of wet markets and hawker centres and distinguished itself from the more traditional buildings of the area.

The Verge also had a cool, hip sibling attached, called  Chill@The Verge. This building held a host of tattoo parlours and nightclubs, compared to the former’s more traditional offerings of grocery and clothes stores.

6. Shaw Towers (Closed 2020)

Once the tallest air-conditioned building in Singapore

Defunct Singapore malls - Shaw Towers
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1975, crowds of people swarmed to Beach Road in a bid to be the first ones to enter an air-conditioned skyscraper. This skyscraper was Shaw Towers, home to what was Singapore’s largest cinema, Prince Theatre. It was the tallest air-conditioned building of its time and stood out through its brutalist, waffle-like exterior.

The towers were torn down in 2023 to make way for a renovated mixed-use building, slated to hold offices and retail stores. The new building is set to be completed by 2025, and will depart from the OG building’s architecture by incorporating more modern features like glass facades and greenery.

7. The Grandstand (Closed 2023)

Turf City’s complex for dinner after the races

Defunct Singapore malls - The GrandstandImage credit: The Grandstand

Even if you weren’t a polo expert or a horse girl, The Grandstand at Turf City would still have been a great hangout place for you and your friends. It used to be the Bukit Timah Race Course, a venue for thoroughbred horse racing since 1933, before the racing grounds were moved to Kranji Turf Club, and it was reborn as The Grandstand.

The mall allowed guests to unleash their rage with some axe-throwing, train to become Formula 1 racers at the electronic karting track, or just hang out at the Tribeca Bar and Bistro, which used to open till 3am. It departed the greens of Bukit Timah at the end of 2023, with the site slated to become a new housing area.

8. Golden Mile Complex (Closed 2023)

Singapore’s Little Thailand

Defunct Singapore malls - Golden Mile ComplexImage adapted from: @brutalbasil via Instagram

In 2020, we were told that we’d have to say laagorn krab to the signature, yellow-striped Golden Mile Complex. Labelled the “Little Thailand” of Singapore, this was the place to snag Thai outfits, get a massage, and binge on authentic saap food.

Defunct Singapore malls - Golden Mile Complex interiors

The building shuttered in 2023, much to everyone’s chagrin, with stores like the Thai Supermarket having to relocate to different parts of the country. Its memories still live on through its sibling, Golden Mile Tower, and the many documentaries that pay tribute to its legacy.

9. Peace Centre (Closed 2024)

The KTV centre-turned artist haven

Defunct Singapore malls - Peace CentreImage credit: Peace Centre via Facebook

One of the pioneer malls of our country, Peace Centre saw itself at its most popular towards the end of its reign. What was known as Singapore’s “KTV Capital” with a salacious rep to boot, later became an artist’s kingdom.

Its walls were graffitied, and the space transformed into a temporary home for thrift stores, art spaces, vintage electronics sellers and bookstore pop-ups. The biggest takeaway here is that if Peace Centre could glow up months before it shut down, it’s never too late for you.

– Department stores –

10. Tah Chung Emporium (Closed 1999)

The jewel of Queenstown’s crown

Defunct Singapore malls - Tah Chung Emporium
Image credit: biblioasia

Riding on post-independence highs, Emporium Holdings opened its first Oriental Emporium in 1966. Emporiums were competitors to department stores like Robinsons, with cheaper alternative goods from China. One of the most significant emporiums was the Tah Chung Emporium in Queenstown.

Before there was Queensway Shopping Centre or Ikea, this emporium was the landmark of  Queenstown, sporting 3 floors of shopping and eats. Unfortunately, the emporium couldn’t compete against the bigger, flashier malls, and was demolished in 1999.

11. Robinsons (Closed 2020)

One of Singapore’s first department stores

Defunct Singapore malls - Robinsons oldImage credit: Robinsons Singapore

Robinsons is the true alpha gong gong of luxury shopping, with a history dating all the way back to 1858. It was first started with the intention of catering to European expatriates. As the years passed, it became the go-to place for shopping in Singapore, with interiors that could make Takashimaya cry.

Defunct Singapore malls - Robinsons newImage credit: Robinsons Singapore

It was the Covid-19 pandemic that hammered the final nail in Robinsons’ coffin – soon, all their outlets were shut down. Luckily, even though their physical stores have turned into franchises like BHGs and Courts, you can still shop at Robinsons Online, after the brand was acquired by wholesale supplier CanningVale Australia.

A look back at malls and department stores of the past

With all of these closed-down complexes and stores, one thing is abundantly clear: Singapore has always been a shopping mecca. It’s bittersweet to see some of these iconic places close down, but knowing our little red dot, there’ll always be something new on the horizon.

For unique shopping malls and centres, check out:

Cover image adapted from: SPH via National Archives of Singapore

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