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Heartland Malls In SG Then Vs Now – We Look At How Our Iconic Haunts Have Changed Over The Years

Evolution of heartland malls in Singapore


With new malls being conjured out of nowhere every other month, it seems like Singaporeans are spoilt for choice when picking which one to duck into to beat the heat. You’ve got the upcoming Pasir Ris Mall looking to give White Sands a run for its money, while the mall-abundant North-east was recently blessed with the shiny new Anchorvale Village.

But back in the wee early days of the 80s’ to the early 00s’, there weren’t a myriad of air-conditioned havens built just yet to get our daily fix of BBT. Today, we take a look at how heartland malls in Singapore have evolved over the years, and the indelible memories that were forged after walking through their doors for the first time.


– East –


1. Tampines Mall


Then – First malls in Tampines alongside Century Square


Tampines Mall Exterior in the pastImage credit: Post & Parcel

For as long as I can remember, Tampines Mall has been a mainstay in every Eastie’s memories. The mall opened its doors in 1995 alongside Century Square, and this stalwart duo was the go-to after-school hangout spot for students in the area.

Tampines Mall exterior in the past (2)
Image credit: Street Directory

Those who resided in Tampines right before the turn of the century will remember visiting Ponderosa, a Western restaurant chain, to gorge themselves at their free-flow salad bar. Our friends over at Pasir Ris also often made the trip here to catch the latest blockbusters at Golden Village, while level 4’s Timezone attracted droves of teens with its Daytona arcade cabinets and neoprint booths.

DBS Centre in the past
Image credit: Michael Scofield via Facebook

A special mention goes out to the nearby DBS Centre. It housed SOGO, a Japanese department store that went bust in 2000, as well as iconic shops 90s kids loved like THIS FASHION. The Swensen’s here was also a pretty popular spot for parents to treat the kids to a good meal for acing their exams.


Now – Part of a trio of Tampines shopping malls & forever crowded


Tampines Mall current exterior
Image credit: CapitaLand

Today, Tampines Mall and Century Square is joined by Tampines One, which now occupies the plot of land where the DBS Centre once stood. This mighty trio of malls sees crazy amounts of footfall daily, just head down during the evening to see the chaos for yourself.

Swensen’s has moved into Tampines Mall too, and DBS Centre’s Challenger can be found both in Tampines Mall and Tampines One. Bubble tea-wise, there are a whopping 7 brands to choose from among the 3 malls, and Golden Village’s theatres are still going strong after 3 decades.

Tampines Mall
Google Reviews
4.3
(13,934)
Address
4 Tampines Central 5, Singapore 529510
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

2. White Sands


Then – 2-storey McDonald’s


White Sands Exterior in the past
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you were an Eastie over at Pasir Ris and were not willing to hop on the MRT to shop at Tampines Mall, you would bring your business to White Sands instead. You’d head to the 2-storey McDonalds for a fuss-free dinner, or do your shopping at Singapore’s oldest department store chain, John Little.

Movie buffs could catch their flicks at Eng Wah Cinemas, whose lobbies emulated a star-filled night sky with its sparkly ceiling. Kids would scrimped and saved to hit the Timezone arcade once school was out, and people fondly remembered shopping at Singaporean mall staples like Giordano and Delifrance.

The mall was a favourite for BMT recruits, simply because it was the closest one to Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, where recruits would take the bus to and from the SAF Ferry Terminal.


Now – Still remains a hotspot for recruits booking in


White Sands current exterior
Image credit: White Sands via Facebook

Fast forward to today, White Sands still sees its fair share of freshly-shaven heads, as it remains the most logical spot to grab a decent civilian lunch before braving another week in Tekong. Unfortunately, Eng Wah Cinemas shuttered in 1999, probably due to GV enticing customers to travel down to Tampines.

As such, the Pasir Ris residents have to watch their movies at Downtown East’s Cathay Cineplexes. However, for everything else from food options to doing your groceries, White Sands is as convenient as it gets since it’s located right beside the MRT. It even got a new splash of paint back in 2016, alongside a revamped library.

White Sands
Google Reviews
4.1
(6,383)
Address
1 Pasir Ris Central St 3, Singapore 518457
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

3. Eastpoint Mall


Then – Big Pet Safari & wet market at B1


Eastpoint exterior in the past
Image credit: Arcadia Dizon

Eastpoint Mall is located right next door over at Simei, and it’s another one frequented by Easties on the regular. The mall came to be in 1997, and many have fond memories of its colourful and flamboyant neon-lit sign that greeted all before its renovation in 2013.

Eastpoint in the pastImage credit: Arcadia Dizon

In its early days, there was a huge Pet Safari within its premises, and it was said to be one of the largest of its time in all of Asia. Visitors could saunter through the expansive pet store alongside their very own furry friends, and many found it therapeutic looking at the adorable pets on sale.

Unsurprisingly, you could do your grocery shopping at the NTUC FairPrice supermarket, but this outlet was different as it was essentially an air conditioned wet market called The Pasar. A water playground was also situated on the mall’s rooftop, and people were raving about Istanbul Gourmet, a kebab shop run by an ex-sous chef of Grand Hyatt Singapore and his wife.


Now – Home to a bunch of tuition centres & music schools


Eastpoint exterior now|
Image credit: Eastpoint Mall

Some of the regulars of Eastpoint Mall aren’t exactly the biggest fans of the mall’s renovation which took place about a decade ago. For starters, the NTUC FairPrice supermarket was shifted to level 5, which meant that those on grocery runs had to transport their goods down 5 levels when they were heading off. On the bright side, they’re open 24/7 now so there’s that.

The mall also lost a touch of personality when the education centres and music schools moved into level 6. With the shuttering of its water playground, and Golden Village theatre closing in 2002, if you were a child of the early 2000s headed for Eastpoint Mall, it most likely meant unwillingly attending tuition or piano lessons.

Thankfully, you’ll find that the mall is not as populated as the ones over at Tampines even during peak hours, so if you want a quiet alternative to the Tampines trio, here’s where to head. The standalone 2-storey McDonald’s opens till 1am, and has enough seats to accommodate the lunchtime crowd so you don’t have to always opt for dabao-ing your meals.

Eastpoint Mall
Google Reviews
4.1
(7,195)
Address
3 Simei Street 6, Singapore 528833
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

– North –


4. Northpoint City


Then – Used to be called Northpoint Shopping Centre


Northpoint Shopping Centre exterior in the past
Image credit: Frasers Properties

Moving northwards now, the oldies of Yishun will know that the maze-like Northpoint City was previously known as Northpoint Shopping Centre back in the days of yore. Opened in 1993, it was the first suburban mall to be built in the North and was located right beside the old, open air Yishun Bus Interchange.

Yishun 10 in the past
Image credit: Terawis Ayid Shahid via Facebook

The young’uns scampered around the 2-storey Toys”R”Us on levels 3 and 4, while those who wanted to keep up with fashion trends visited haunts like 77th Street and Ocean Pacific. The nearby Yishun 10 building is also worth mentioning; it’s Asia’s first cineplex and like its name suggests, home to 10 theatre halls. Fun fact: Jackie Chan was present for its grand opening in 1992.


Now – Confusing, maze-like layout


Northpoint City current exterior
For the directionally-impaired folks like myself, navigating through current- day Northpoint City is nothing short of a nightmare. Shoppers and delivery riders alike have found its labyrinthian layout to be confusing AF, so there’s no shame if you’ve spent the past 10 minutes figuring out how to get from one wing to the other.

It also doesn’t help that the mall is huge; it has 1,300,000 sqft of retail space and now houses over 400 tenants. Heck, they even have 2 different street addresses for their North and South wings.

Safari-themed Don Don Donki in Northpoint CityThe Don Don Donki here is even safari-themed.

Having said that, there’s no denying that there’s a plethora of shops to enjoy. You’ve got Donki and FairPrice for groceries, an Anytime Fitness gym, and an extensive list of fashion retailers like Uniqlo. Food-wise, the options at the food court are plentiful, and there’s even a Malaysian food street if you’re lazy to hop over to JB.

Northpoint City
Google Reviews
4.3
(14,972)
Address
930 Yishun Ave 2, Singapore 769098
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

5. Causeway Point


Then – Used to house a 10-screen cineplex & popular food court


Causeway Point exterior in the past
Image credit: Dolby Thx via Facebook

Those in the North would also make the occasional trip to a different “point”. In the same year the Woodlands Checkpoint was up and running, so was Causeway Point. The mall started welcoming shoppers in 1999, and Northies who planned for cute movie dates needn’t head to Yishun 10 anymore; they could do it at Causeway Point’s 10-screen cineplex.

Horizon Food Mall in Old Causeway PointImage credit: Taufiq Al-Hidayat via Facebook

The Horizon Food Mall food court was perpetually swarming with peckish shoppers, as people clamoured for affordable meals. But if you were especially thrifty, you would head to the staff canteen in the bus interchange in the basement, as they were dishing out even cheaper plates of chicken rice.

Taco Bell in old Causeway Point
Image credit: Taco Bell

Speaking of the basement, there was even a Taco Bell outlet right here, so we didn’t have to hop the border to feast on their famous Mexican-style delicacies.


Now – Biggest mall in Woodlands with rooftop water playground


Water playground at Causeway Point
Image credit: @causewaypointsg via Instagram

Today, the mall is a popular pit stop for those entering or leaving Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint, causing it to be packed with people during the weekends. The dinosaur-themed rooftop water playground in Causeway Point is also another hotspot for kids to spend afternoons wading about in its shallows.

Causeway Point Current ExteriorImage credit: Causeway Point, Singapore via Facebook

The addition of Woodlands Civic Centre also gave Causeway Point’s shoppers even more options. Surprisingly, the mall doesn’t have a Starbucks despite the Siren-fronted coffee joint being a must-have tenant in malls around Singapore. It moved out of Causeway Point during the early 2000s, and is instead located in the Civic Centre today.

Causeway Point
Google Reviews
4.3
(12,937)
Address
1 Woodlands Square, Singapore 738099
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

6. AMK Hub


Then – Built on the site of Oriental Emporium & the old AMK bus interchange


Oriental Emporium AMK exterior
The nearby fountain was a popular lepak spot and meeting point for people to gather at before heading into the Oriental Emporium.
Image credit: Missy Png via Facebook

AMK Hub is a newer kid on the block, having opened in 2007, but the mall has still been a place of nostalgia for many. We’re not talking about the modern day AMK Hub though, as the plot of land where it stands today used to be occupied by the Oriental Emporium shopping mall.

Oriental Emporium plastic bag
What the plastic bags from Oriental Emporium looked like. This one’s priced at a whopping $500 on Carousell.
Image credit: @coloursshine via Carousell

It was one of many establishments built by the Emporium Holdings group on the Little Red Dot, and those who grew up in Singapore from the 60s to 80s had definitely stepped into their Chinese-inspired department stores at least once.

Back when it was the Oriental Emporium, it was a one-stop shop for people to do their shopping, dine, and essentially spend an entire day at the mall, a concept which was revolutionary for its time. Wedding receptions and grand birthday parties were held at the in-house Oriental Restaurant, and families often went there to have their Yum Cha on weekend mornings.

Old Yishun bus interchange
Image credit: Philip Lim via Facebook

The mall’s surroundings were bustling too. The old Ang Mo Kio bus interchange was busy ferrying Singaporeans around in their Mercedes Benzes, and there used to be a traffic safety garden nearby. It was similar to the one over at East Coast Park, and the kids were able to ride battery operated bikes, cars, and bicycles around a small circuit


Now – Integrated mall with air-conditioned bus terminal and MRT


AMK Hub current exterior
Image credit: Kilowatts

Although the Oriental Emporium is no more, AMK Hub is not too shabby itself. Taking cues from its predecessor, it has everything a contemporary mall should have, from a wide range of F&B joints to a cinema, supermarkets, and various other shopping options.

New Ang Mo Kio Bus interchangeImage credit: Babu Hilary via Google Maps

The new Ang Mo Kio bus interchange and MRT has also been seamlessly integrated within the mall, making AMK Hub a daily stop for commuters travelling around the area. Most importantly, the bus interchange is AC-ed now, so there’s no more sweating while waiting for your ride.

AMK Hub
Google Reviews
4.2
(14,421)
Address
53 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, Singapore 569933
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

7. Thomson Plaza


Then – Used to also be known as Thomson Yaohan


Thomson Plaza exterior in the past - heartland malls in SingaporeImage credit: Simone Lam via Facebook

On the flip side, Thomson Plaza is one of Singapore’s oldest malls, having been in operation since 1979. However, some might be more familiar with its other moniker, Thomson Yaohan. That’s because the department store’s name was plastered on Thomson Plaza’s facade, and boy was it popular.

Thomson Yaohan Opening - heartland malls in Singapore
Image credit: The Long and Winding Road

Many spent their childhood perusing the shelves of Thomson Yaohan, as it was essentially the Don Don Donki of the 80s. You had a toys section for the kids, while the grown-ups had a gander at the latest electronics. Much like Donki, you could also purchase cooked food here, and fan favourites included Japanese fare like anpan red bean bread.

KFC in Thomson Plaza in the past - heartland malls in Singapore
Image credit: Simone Lam via Facebook

On the topic of food, Thomson Plaza holds the honour of housing Singapore’s first Swensen’s, and diners at the KFC at the time vividly remember being served their friend chicken on an actual plate with silverware. The building was also one of the first public spaces to incorporate features to aid persons with disabilities, such as enlarged bathroom stalls and door levers.


Now – Still houses Singapore’s first Swensen’s outlet


Thomson Plaza TodayImage credit: CBRE Singapore

Thomson Plaza today is a shell of its former self, and doesn’t seem to attract as many customers as compared to its Thomson Yaohan heydays. Despite this, it still houses the OG Swensen’s as well as KFC, and the recent renovation works in 2020 has given Thomson Plaza a much needed facelift.

With the recent Thomson-East Coast Line connecting the mall to the Upper Thomson MRT station, let’s hope the newfound convenience is enough to give this dated mall a second wind.

Thomson Plaza
Google Reviews
4.1
(3,136)
Address
301 Upper Thomson Rd, Singapore 574408
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 08:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

– West –


8. IMM


Then – Membership required to do your shopping


IMM old Exterior - heartland malls in SingaporeYou had to walk on a path across a huge field in order to get to the IMM building.
Image credit: u/CleverAx via Reddit

If you’ve always wondered what IMM stands for, let us fill you in. It’s short for International Merchandising Mall, and it was one of the biggest malls in Singapore when it opened for business in 1991. Due to its size, it contained offices and warehouses too, and was a pretty sweet deal for retailers to store huge amounts of inventory and have their shop in one place.

Daiso at old IMM - heartland malls in Singapore
When Daiso products were actually priced at $2.
Image credit: The Journey of Inka and Irza 

Singaporeans’ favourite $2 store Daiso had its first outlet in IMM, and families did their groceries at the aptly massive Giant. Apparently, there existed a different supermarket before Giant, which required shoppers to have a membership in order to purchase stuff.

Apart from a throng of furniture stores and a Popular bookstore, kids could also have a blast at 2 indoor playgrounds. They had features like a bouncy castle and a race track for RC cars, which were all the rage pre-smartphones.

Car show in the old IMM - heartland malls in Singapore
Image credit: Daily Quote Singapore via Facebook

Much like today’s Suntec City, IMM’s colossal size allowed it to house a couple of exhibition halls too. It was common for shoppers to take a detour there to swing by a car show, book fairs, and concerts; Channel U even took over one of the halls to film their 骨牌真情录 variety show.


Now – Filled with outlet stores with massive discounts


Calvin Klein outlet in IMMThe current IMM’s not too different from its 90’s counterpart. It stands as the largest outlet mall in Singapore, playing host to over 100 different outlet stores. If you are looking to score discounts on name brands like Coach, Pandora, and Calvin Klein, this is the place to shop at, as we’ve seen prices slashed by 80%.

IMM current exterior|
Although we’ve got to head to Expo and Suntec City for our large scale exhibitions now, a remnant of IMM’s exhibition space can be seen in the Giant, now a hypermarket, on level 1. If you notice, the ceiling in the middle of the supermarket is particularly tall, suggesting the existence of said halls.

IMM
Google Reviews
4.4
(16,652)
Address
2 Jurong East Street 21, Singapore 609601
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings

9. Jurong Point


Then – Housed SG’s first library in a mall, Jurong West Public Library


Drawing of Jurong Point in the pastA Redditor tried recreating how Jurong Point looked in the early 2000s in this drawing.
Image credit: u/ThrowawayArtistCR via Reddit

Back when Boon Lay MRT was the last station on the East-West MRT line, Jurong Point was the de facto place to get some shopping done if you were a Westie. Familiar malls like Westgate, JEM, and the now-defunct J Cube were not slated to open until the early 2010s, so Jurong Point reigned supreme over the West.

The aroma wafting from Famous Amos in basement 1 has been enticing customers since forever, and Jurong Point was also one of the only places to munch on Carl’s Junior burgers, as the only other outlet was all the way in VivoCity.

Liberty supermarket - heartland malls in SingaporeImage credit: FairPrice Group

The Kiddy Palace was a hit with the lil’uns, and Jurong Point also housed Jurong West public library, the country’s first library in a mall. The Zone-X arcade was always teeming with teens showing off their moves on the DDR machines, while oldies will remember picking up daily necessities at the Liberty supermarket.


Now – Still confusingly located at Boon Lay MRT


Jurong Point current exterior - heartland malls in SingaporeI
mage credit: Wikimedia Commons

Today, we’re still not sure why the mall is still called Jurong Point despite being at the doorstep of Boon Lay MRT station. Jurong Point has also gone the Northpoint City route, as the mall’s layout is pretty convoluted according to shoppers. After a couple rounds of renovation, the mall has been expanded, and is split into JP1 and JP2.

Japanese food street in Jurong point - heartland malls in SingaporeImage credit: Eatbook

You’ve got to navigate though differently coloured zones, and you can’t exactly use the unit numbers to pinpoint the stores you’d wanna visit as the mall is made out of 2 different buildings. But if you can get past its L-shaped floor plan, then it’s quite an extensive mall to visit. You’ve got a whole Japanese food street, a 24-hour FairPrice Xtra, and a 17,000 Timezone arcade to spend hours at.

Jurong Point
Google Reviews
4.4
(21,635)
Address
1 Jurong West Central 2, Singapore 648886
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

10. Jelita Shopping Centre


Then – Iconic Cold Storage with 1-hour free parking


Jelita Shopping Centre exterior - heartland malls in Singapore
Image credit: Street Directory

Jelita Shopping Centre is another one of the malls, if you can even call it one, on the older side. Opened in 1981, the 2-storey building was frequently visited by affluent expats living in the Holland Village area, as they did their groceries at the Cold Storage here.

The Cold Storage is pretty much the only reason why people made a stop at Jelita Shopping Centre. Money-savvy shoppers would take advantage of the free 1-hour parking here to save on parking fees on grocery runs. They would even have time to pick up a bite at the Delifrance or Starbucks before their 60 minutes were up.


Now – Contains SG’s last Times Bookstore & recently sold for $91 million


Times Bookstore in Jelita Shopping centre - heartland malls in Singapore|
Image credit: Alacart via Facebook

Not much has changed about Jelita Shopping Centre in today’s context. The iconic Cold Storage is still going strong, and the free 1-hour parking still draws regulars till this day. Interestingly, it houses Singapore’s last Times Bookstore, perhaps a stark sign of the mall’s antiquity.

Although the mall doesn’t particularly attract a large crowd, Jelita Shopping Centre was recently sold in 2023 for 91 million dollars. As such, there’s been word that the new owners will be renovating the Cold Storage, turning it into a modern CS Fresh. Here’s to hoping that they continue to keep the 1-hour free parking, for the mall’s sake.

Jelita Shopping Centre
Google Reviews
4.2
(805)
Address
293 Holland Rd, Singapore 278628
Opening Hours:
Wednesday Open 24 Hours Show More Timings

– South –


11. Queensway Shopping Centre


Then – SG’s first public escalator in a mall


Queensway Shopping Centre exterior in the past - heartland malls in Singapore
Image credit: Roots.sg

Queensway Shopping Centre is the oldest mall in our list, having opened way back in 1974; that’s half a century ago, mind you. In fact, it was the first mall in Singapore to be fitted with escalators.

Panther shoes sold at Queensway Shopping CentreImage credit: AF Misah via Facebook

A majority of the shops in this humble mall were selling sports goods even in the 80s. While we have Puma today, a popular shoe brand back then was Panther as every cool kid had a pair, and Queensway Shopping Centre was in no short supply of them.

Curiously, the mall was pretty up-to-date with the fashion trends at the time, as many stores were also offering faddish jeans; brands like Wrangler and JNCO are bound to ring a few bells. Alongside your bell bottoms, music cassettes were commonly sighted in stores too, and the arcade in the basement was a favourite amongst the younger crowd.


Now – Still a hotspot for sports enthusiasts to pick up affordable equipment


Queensway Shopping Centre Current Exterior - heartland malls in SingaporeImage credit: Queensway Shopping Centre via Facebook

The Queensway Shopping Centre of today is well-recognised amongst sports enthusiasts, as it’s the best place to visit to pick up affordable sports equipment. From Adidas, to Nike, to Asics, and New Balance, you’ll find shelves of running shoes at every corner, and oftentimes sold at reasonable prices too.

Football fans could spend half a day trying on a seemingly endless selection of football boots, and you’ll spot the occasional uncle busy stringing badminton rackets on any given day. 50 years on, the place still remains a haven for those looking for a wardrobe refresh, as it’s home to quite a few trendy thrift stores.

Queensway Shopping Centre
Google Reviews
4.2
(3,485)
Address
1 Queensway, Singapore 149053
Opening Hours:
Wednesday 08:30 AM - 10:00 PM Show More Timings
Contact Information

Heartland malls in Singapore then vs now

It’s interesting to see how far our beloved heartland malls have come, from bringing joy when we were kids to being just another location we saunter past on our daily commutes. Taking off the rose-tinted glasses, these malls were a great source of childhood nostalgia but overall, they’ve definitely improved for the better in terms of infrastructure. We’re still on the fence about Northpoint City though.

If you’re a little more forward-thinking, Komo Shoppes is another new mall you can look forward to stopping by the next time you’re in Upper Changi. There’s no harm in keeping it classic with Parkway Parade too, but if you’re still undecided on which ones to visit next, here’s a list of the best malls in Singapore, for every type of shopper


Cover image adapted from: Street Directory, Roots.sg