SINGAPORE: Nightlife establishments were shut down at the infamous Orchard Towers earlier this year after the government said no to license extensions. The closures were part of “continued efforts to manage the law and order situation and disamenities.”

Recently, refurbishing works have been carried out on the exterior of the building, which is, after all, nearly 50 years old. New tenants have been incentivised by lower rental rates to move in. However, there may be a long and not-too-easy road ahead in rebranding Orchard Towers to align with Singapore’s squeaky-clean image, and certain challenges stand in the way.

The 18-storey building, situated at the corner of Claymore Road and Orchard Road, was completed in 1975. It houses several embassies, including the embassy of Cambodia and the embassy of Romania. More recently, establishments such as restaurants, pharmacies and furniture stores have opened up, and a CNA report says that even more family-friendly establishments, such as tuition centres, have said they’re interested in setting up shop in the building and that the occupancy rate is now at 70 per cent.

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But the building’s past may not be easy to separate from. CNA also said that the management still regularly receives complaints about illicit activities outside the building “week after week.” It would seem that old habits die hard.

New business owners may perhaps be reluctant to relocate to Orchard Towers despite a rental rate around 15 per cent lower than its neighbours in the area due to its shady past. While some may no longer easily recall the double murder that occurred in 2002, where the bodies of the deceased were left in the building’s car park, the memory of a 2019 killing, carried out by six men and a woman, may still be fresh. The same goes for a brawl last year that led to three men being charged.

What it takes to carry out a successful rebrand

A key component in rebranding is a complete change of many key elements, including the name. This was suggested at Orchard Towers, but many said no to the proposal, claiming the name has sentimental value, CNA said.

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Other elements of a successful rebrand include a change in the logo (perhaps it’s time to change even the font of the “Orchard Towers” signages), messaging, and even colours.

Another thing the management can do is attract certain establishments to be its key or anchor businesses within the building, which would be a surer way to entice foot traffic for members of the public who already trust those establishments.

Can Orchard Towers successfully revamp its image? It can be argued that it’s been done even recently in Singapore at Bugis, a rebranding one article referred to as “from sleazy to sanitized.”

Read also: ‘40 years to build… a few months to wipe out’ — Future uncertain for employees at Orchard Towers’ nightclubs after closures /TISG