by Cornelius-Takahama, Vernon
Finlayson Green is the name of both a traffic island (a small raised area on a road which provides a safe place for pedestrians to stand, and acts as a divider that channels traffic flow) and a street in the Central Business District. The green lung served as a road divider in the busy city centre, but little is left of it today.1
Finlayson Green derived its name from John Finlayson, who worked for Boustead and Company in Penang until 1882, and was chairman of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company between 1883 and 1895. He also served as a legislative councillor and as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.2
A triangular island oasis of flowering shrubs and trees, Finlayson Green was designed for visual pleasure, and for providing shady cool breaks amidst the towering, high-rise buildings. Since the postwar years, its size has considerably decreased due to road-widening works.3
The green space is bounded by Collyer Quay, Raffles Quay and Finlayson Green, the road that takes its name. The buildings around the greenery have traditionally been shipping offices and insurance companies.3 The 18-storey Asia Insurance Building (1955), located at the corner of Collyer Quay and Finlayson Green, was a landmark of Singapore’s skyline in the 1950s and ’60s.5 The same site was first occupied by the Union Insurance of Canton, and then later the South British Insurance Company, until the building was demolished to make way for the Asia Insurance Building.6
In 2006, The Ascott Group purchased the Asia Insurance Building from the Asia Life Assurance Society for S$109.5 million as part of its strategy to double its volume of serviced apartments in Singapore.7 The group also announced its plan to conserve and refurbish the building rather than tear it down.8 On 18 April 2007, the building was gazetted for conservation.9
The Ascott Group spent about S$60 million to restore and convert the building for its new use. Renamed Ascott Raffles Place, it opened for business as a 146-unit serviced residence in 2008. Several features of the original building have been preserved, including a mosaic staircase with timber railing. Not only has the brass mail chute been kept, it continues to be used. Some modifications to suit commercial needs have been necessary, though. For example, while the existing window frames with brass handles were retained, the windowpanes were replaced with new glass panels to block out the noise from outside. A gym and a rooftop swimming pool were also added.10
The only other building on the road itself is 1 Finlayson Green (or “One Finlayson Green”) owned by Hong Leong Group. The 19-storey building was completed in 1994.11
1. Lum, M. (1985, March 20). Take another look at our mini-parks. The Straits Times, p. 2; Loh, T. L. (1990, March 24). Shenton Way’s little hideaways. The New Paper, p 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 108. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
5. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). Former Asia Insurance Building. Retrieved 2016, November 18 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=AIB
6. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 109. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Teo, J. (2006, July 5). Ascott buys 2 prime properties for $218m in expansion drive. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The Ascott Group Limited. (2006, September 28). The Ascott Group boosts Singapore presence with two Citadines and a luxurious ‘all suites’ Ascott [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, October 1 from The Ascott Limited website: http://www.theascottlimited.com/en/investorinfo/news/news710.html
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2014, October 13). Former Asia Insurance Building. Retrieved 2017, October 1 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=AIB
10. The Ascott Group. (2006, September 28). Fact sheet. Retrieved 2017, October 1 from The Ascott Limited website: http://www.theascottgroup.com/downloads/pdf/NewsCenter/FactSheet_NewsRelease710.pdf; 2 Finlayson Green. (2009, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. 1 Finlayson Green gets $2,500 psf record offer: sources. (2007, May 23). The Business Times, p. 4; Growing taller by the day. (1995, April 4). The Business Times, p. 10; One Finlayson Green sold to private group for $227m. (2011, March 22). The Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.