A great number of the shops are closed, and the paint is flaking, leaving only the eateries and KTV lounges in Golden Mile Tower continue their normal business.
Meanwhile, since last year, a different type of crowd has been visiting the tower, adding a fresh colour to a complex that has been existing since 1973.
With lattes and film brochures in hand, visitors could use the lift to the fifth floor to the formerly famous Golden Theatre, now home to independent art-house cinema, The Projector.
The Projector uses two halls on the fifth floor, renamed the Green Room and the RedRum.
The Green Room is a cinema hall with 220 seats, and the RedRum – “murder” when reflected in the mirror a la Stanley Kubrick’s 1979 movie The Shining – is a multi-purpose hall with 150 seating capacity.
Started officially in January, The Projector was conceived by Pocket Projects, a development consultancy specialising in redevelopment of old areas for reuse.
Its founder, Ms. Karen Tan, 34, was informed about the availability of the cinema halls by Mr. Randy Chan, principal of Zarch Collaboratives, an architecture firm on the fourth floor of the building.
Her team visualize the possibility of offering a different experience from other cinemas, by creating an avenue for people to watch films and interrelate with other people.
Her sister, Ms. Sharon Tan, 30, a former urban planner with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, now manages The Projector.
She said that they chose the area because of their interest in the difficult areas, and wished to make old areas significant, a place where people would feel free and enjoy themselves.
She mentioned their former project, The Lorong 24A Shophouse Series, where they revamped shop houses in Geylang, notorious for being a supposedly danger zone.
Golden Mile Tower, too, had a reputation issue, as anchor tenant Golden Theatre previously screened adult films and Chinese blockbusters.
Started in 1973 by Chong Gay Theatres, Golden was the biggest cinema when it was opened with 1,500 seats.
The main hall was split into three halls in the 1990s.
Nowadays, the single hall of 1,000 seats in the Golden Digital Theatre on the third floor screens Tamil and Hindi films while The Projector screens films curated by Mr. Gavin Low of Luna Films daily. Indie, local, foreign, classic, and cult favourites are shown.
The Projector’s redesign was handled by FARM, a cross-disciplinary practice that upheld several elements in the past.
These are evident in the old signage of the two halls, Golden 1 and 2, and the painted wall drapery in the cinemas- all preserved.
Although the reupholstering of the seats was done, the old numbers, steel frames and chipped paint remained.
Ms. Sharon Tan declared that they did not want the place to look totally new, but just restored.
The new cinema has attracted many film buffs to the boxy building, which has the “brutalist” style of architecture common in the 1970s, containing an visible concrete exterior.
Many people may not have noticed the 24-storey tower typically eclipsed by Golden Mile Complex nearby, referred to as “Little Thailand” for several Thai restaurants, supermarkets, and massage parlours.
Mr Andrew Ang, 21, an undergraduate who viewed a picture in The Projector through the Singapore International Film Festival last December, said: “I was seeing a picture called As You Were, which featured its characters being transported back in time, and that I felt the exact same manner seeing it in this kind of historical place.”
Although The Projector has made the building popular, the new crowd has not translated into increased sales for businesses there. Many were not even cognizant of the new tenant.
In his late 60s, Mr. Yong Guan Heng, and the owner of Loong Siang Coffee House, said that “There has been no change in business. I didn’t even know about the new cinema.”
The eateries depend on their regular customers, commonly office workers, to patronize them.
Golden Mile Tower has an isolated feel. Most shops are closed, the owners having left or not opening regularly.
A tenant that opens his shop regularly and who has been using the shop since 1974 is Mr. Steven Aw, the owner of Happy Philatelic Agency.
His basement shop is filled with collectibles like the first stamp ever issued in the world, the British 1840 Penny Black.
Mr. Aw who is in his late 60s said that the placed has not changed but has gone done recently because the owners have been renting out their shops to other tenants. The place is not well taken care of, and they dump refuse everywhere.
Ms. Shinn Teo, 24, a hotel company executive, has visited the famous Golden Mile Thien Kee Steamboat Restaurant in the basement close to 10 years. Even though her family eats there regularly because her grandma enjoys it, but she has not explored the building. She further stated that the building felt so empty at night that she dared not walk around after her meals.
But Mr. Ang, an undergraduate, felt the place is written off by many younger Singaporeans as it is old. He, therefore, urged them to give the building a facelift and the result would be awesome.