(UPDATE: We’ve added in the Project Jem brief video below – do check it out if you’re interested to join! — April 4, 10.44am)

All the hubbub over the Jurong Lake District is finally coming to life. With JCube’s launch this week comes a brand new mall that is set to add some more diversity into the West’s shopping and lifestyle options. Jem touts itself to be the first lifestyle hub in the west of Singapore that combines mid-plus shopping and entertainment in an Orchard Road-like setting with 280 local and international retailers.

We were invited to the media breakfast at Tanjong Beach Club but alas, all of us have our day commitments so based on what we know (and have heard) about the mall, here are 5 things you should know about Jurong’s newest glossy babe:

1) It is not your average heartland mall

So, we know the mall is huge – Singapore’s third largest suburban one to be exact. Every mall is huge now. What makes JEM different? For starters, the west has been pretty sleepy for a while now, even though we now have a Silicon Valley-meets-Manhattan-meets-Virginia Tech in Buona Vista’s one-north. (Sorry Science Park.) JEM’s idea to bring the modernity of Orchard Road into Jurong is a good idea to connect the business district there with the development of Jurong Gateway.

© Lend Lease

For the longest time, Singapore has been touted as too small a place to divide further into towns and places. However, the changing modernity of suburban towns such as Tampines, Clarke Quay and Bras Basah prove that there is room for different towns in a country like ours. Manhattan’s done it well with the boroughs and so will Singapore. Jurong Gateway is an exciting future town with its added boutique hotel and mini-village options, and JEM will serve well to complete the lifestyle options in the West with its über-chic approach to suburban shopping and urban greenery.

I’ve been trying to find the words to say to describe the mall’s downtown appeal, but Jem’s flythrough video explains it much better, so here you go:

2) Downtown bigwigs, you are invited

© Lend Lease

Now here’s the part where I get very excited: Robinson’s is occupying 85,000 square feet in Jem spread across 4 floors! H&M is opening outlet number two in JEM spanning 19,000 square foot over three floors and McDonald’s gets a 2-storey glasshouse. Oh wait, there’s more. Uniqlo and Marks & Spencer both have duplex stores, Courts will have an in-house coffee bar in the store and Swarovski will be there to bring the Jurong tai-tais out. (Plus points if you caught the reference.) I’m just happy to get Crabtree & Evelyn, because those biscuits are delish.

The tenant list is not out yet but the 5-storey mall is 80% leased, so we are hanging tight for more tenants to be announced very soon. Its 12-storey office is also not left out. Major tenants include the Ministry of National Development, Building & Cobnstruction Authority and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. Yes, Big Brother is watching down on you, literally. Happy shopping.

3) Jem’s staff will be wearing some funky uniforms

At least, if the winning designer puts out one snazzy one. Jem launched Project Jem, a nationwide designer competition in search of a fashionable set of staff uniforms for Jem’s employees. From the winning entry, the concierge uniform will be extended to maternity sets and offshoot versions for housekeeping, security and maintenance. Entries are to be submitted to Jem’s project office by 5.00pm on 17 May 2012. Three finalists will be shortlisted on Jem’s Facebook page and the winner will be picked based on a combination of public votes and a presentation to the judges, including Jem’s management and a special judge whom the winner will receive a mentorship under.

(Which brings us to our 4th point…)

4) Jo Soh is involved!

© Lend Lease

How rad to hear this! Jo Soh is the designer of label hansel, whose chic and playful options have received much acclaim since its inception in November 2003 at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week. After graduating with first class honours in fashion design and marketing in London’s Central St. Martins, Jo dabbled in several assignments globally before setting up hansel, named after a Jack Russell Terrier she rescued from the streets. In February 2011, she debuted diffusion line hello hansel with a focus on wearability, colour and vibrancy. She also owns design consultancy arm hansel Design Consultancy.

Jo comments on what she hopes to see in Project Jem submissions: “The uniform designs should be easy to maintain and allow for freedom of movement. They must also cater to the requirements of gender while meeting the functional demands of the concierge, housekeeping, security and maintenance duties at Jem. The uniforms must convey the perception that Jem’s staff are pleasant, genuine and professional.”

5) Largest cinema multiplex in the West belongs to…

The Platinum suites at The Cathay (© Cathay Cineplexes)

…anchor tenant Cathay, which will also bring their Platinum halls and lounge to this side of the island, in a bid to introduce exclusivity in a suburban concept. The cineplex will occupy 47,000 square feet and span 10 screens seating 1,700 people. Some might say this could be in direct competition with Shaw Cinemas, who are anchor tenants in JCube, but it must be noted that both cineplexes offer a different edge and cater to a slightly different audience. Here’s also hoping Cathay will somehow revive the Picturehouse format it dropped as a standalone in The Cathay. The Picturehouse’s FAQ website page does state that such an expansion is possible, so there has to be enough space in Jem for some arthouse flicks to boost Jem’s exclusivity and diversity even more. Pretty please, Cathay?

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However, there seems to be a severe lack of support for Singapore designers to stock their wares with only one level dedicated to regional and local fashion and food options. The same is happening in JCube which is highly disappointing considering Parco is only one of very few department stores that serve to introduce Singapore designers into the mainstream. Breaking in is tough stuff. I really hope more can be done towards this, especially with established brands like Raoul, Reckless Ericka and alldressedup who could afford an expansion into these future towns.

Jem’s retail section is set to be completed and officially launched in the second quarter of 2013.