A larger portion of the conserved Ellison Building in Selegie, which was slated to be partially demolished to make way for an expressway, will be kept than was previously planned.
Following a public outcry and more than a year of deliberation, just one section of the curved corner fronting Bukit Timah Road will be affected by the construction of the upcoming North-South Corridor. The original plan involved three sections.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a joint release with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday that the revised plan seeks “to maximise the retention” of the structure with the construction of the 21.5km expressway, estimated to be completed around 2026.
The authorities said the affected section intersects the expressway’s tunnelling works. It will be demolished and reconstructed to facilitate the safe access of machinery.
The interior and back of the building’s corner unit, which comprises the three sections, will still have to make way for construction work on the expressway. A portion of the expressway will run under the building’s corner unit.
The authorities added that the section bearing the cupola will be retained. Other historic elements, such as the structure’s original timber window frames and the metal building name plate, will be temporarily removed and stored carefully for future reinstatement.
The authorities met heritage groups on Monday to share with them the results of its “extensive technical discussions and studies” and consultations with conservation and engineering specialists.
The heritage community termed the outcome as positive, noting that pains were taken to reduce damage to the property and to retain its integrity.
International Council on Monuments and Sites (Singapore) president Kevin Tan said: “By and large, everybody was happy that the authorities took real trouble to find a solution that minimises any kind of damage to the property.”
Built for commercial purposes by Romanian Jew Isaac Ellison in 1924, the building at the junction of Selegie Road and Rochor Canal Road was gazetted for conservation in 2008. In August 2016, news broke of its partial demolition and reconstruction.
The heritage community appealed against the decision, while questioning the efficacy of a conservation gazette if it could be so easily overridden. Furthermore, reconstruction, argued experts, was “the falsification of historical artefacts”.
Two months later, the LTA said it would engage a conservation specialist to advise on how best to minimise the impact of upcoming tunnel works on the historic building.
Mr Desmond Lee, who was then the Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, told Parliament that the Government would finalise its plans for the building after discussions with heritage groups.
Mr Isaac Ellison’s grandson, Mr Steven Ellison, 68, is a development consultant based in Australia. He told The Straits Times he was relieved by the turn of events. “Once destroyed, we can only speak of heritage structures in memory, so I appreciate the careful consideration taken for this building,” he said.