Liat Towers

Places
Liat Towers, whose first phase was completed just weeks after Singapore gained independence in 1965, is known for being the site of the country’s first McDonald’s branch in 1979, and first Starbucks outlet in 1996.
541 Orchard Road, Singapore 238881
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Located near the busy intersection of Orchard Road and Scotts Road, Liat Towers is in the heart of the Orchard Road shopping district. It is one of the oldest buildings in the area.

Liat Towers was built in September 1965, just weeks after Singapore gained independence in August 1965. At the time, the building, with its 17 floors and lower ground floor sunken below street level, was touted as the first shopping mall of its kind to have a variety of tenants, including a bank, department store, hair salon, restaurant, and even a Mercedes-Benz showroom.

1970s and Beyond

In 1977, it was announced that the complex would be revamped into a 21-storey mixed-use complex, with new office space, medical clinics and a carpark added.

The building reached a milestone of sorts in 1979, when the first McDonald’s branch in Singapore opened to enthusiastic crowds. Within six months, the fast-food outlet recorded the highest turnover for any single McDonald’s establishment in the world. It was also claimed that the store had set the world record then for the highest volume of burgers served in a day.

Another first was achieved in 1996, when the first Starbucks outlet in Singapore began operations. At the time, it was the second Starbucks to open outside the United States (the first was in Japan).

Not all was rosy for the mall in subsequent years, though. Having its lower ground floor sunken below street level proved to problematic. The outlets located there, including the aforementioned Starbucks and that of fast-food chain Wendy’s, which took over the unit previously occupied by McDonald’s, would be hard hit when flash floods struck the area in 2010 and 2011.

In 2010, heavy rain led to water flowing into the Wendy’s and Starbucks outlets, causing heavy losses due to damages to infrastructure and equipment. In 2011, the outlets were again subjected to flooding due to torrential rain.

After the flooding, the area underwent major works by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to build a diversion canal and detention tank, which would divert part of the water into the Singapore River.

Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of April 2021 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.