What started as an urgent but mundane need to expand Terminal 1 will now end in a Jewel – Changi Airport’s hoped-for iconic centrepiece to wow travellers and enhance the air hub’s attractiveness when completed by 2018.
Merely to expand the terminal would have been a wasted opportunity, said the chief executive officer of Changi Airport Group, Mr Lee Seow Hiang, at the ground-breaking for the retail cum airport complex yesterday.
“To address the capacity bottleneck, we could have just pushed out T1 and built a multi-storey carpark over it. But we felt we could do so much more. We had a chance, for the first time, to hub the three terminals together.”
And so the decision was made to raze T1’s open-air carpark and construct in its place a five-storey-high complex with five basement levels which would link all three passenger terminals.
T1 would also be upgraded and expanded in the $1.7 billion project.
Explaining at length, for the first time, the rationale and thinking behind the project, Mr Lee, who is also chairman of Jewel Changi Airport Development, a joint venture between Changi Airport Group and CapitaMalls Asia, admitted questions had been asked about the project.
Was this a vanity showpiece? In the light of manpower constraints in Singapore, why build another retail mall? Was the airport getting distracted from its core business of aviation?
“This question of purpose is not a trivial one,” he said, stressing that the first driving force behind the project was the growing capacity constraints at T1.