Finlayson Green

Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, 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


Vernon Cornelius

1. Magdalene Lum, “Take Another Look at Our Mini-Parks,” Straits Times, 20 March 1985, 2; Loh Tuan Lee, “Shenton Way’s Little Hideaways,” New Paper, 24 March 1990, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 108. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
2. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 108.
3. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 108.
4. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 108.
5. “Former Asia Insurance Building,” Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore, accessed 18 November 2016.
6. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 109.
7. Joyce Teo, “Ascott Buys 2 Prime Properties for $218M in Expansion Drive,” Straits Times, 5 July 2006, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “The Ascott Group Boosts Singapore Presence with Two Citadines and a Luxurious ‘All Suites’ Ascott,” The Ascott Group Limited, press release, 28 September 2006.
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “Former Asia Insurance Building.”
10. “Fact Sheet,” The Ascott Group, accessed 1 October 2017; “2 Finlayson Green,” Straits Times, 6 October 2009, 42 (From NewspaperSG)
11. Kalpana Rashiwala, “1 Finlayson Green Gets $2,500 Psf Record Offer: Sources,” Business Times, 23 May 2007, 4; Agnes Wee, “Growing Taller by the Day,” Business Times, 4 April 1995, 10; Kalpana Rashiwala, “One Finlayson Green Sold to Private Group for $227M,” Business Times, 22 March 2011, 4. (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.

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