A larger part of Ellison Building likely to be saved from demolition and reconstruction

Part of the Ellison Building's affected unit's facade will be demolished and rebuilt to facilitate excavation and underpinning works. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A bigger portion of the historic Ellison Building in Selegie will likely be retained, with just one instead of three of its units to be affected by the construction of the North-South Corridor.

Part of the affected unit's facade will be demolished and rebuilt to facilitate construction, which could include excavation and underpinning works.

The upcoming 21.5km expressway will connect estates in the north to the city centre.

This comes more than a year after news broke in August 2016 that a significant portion of the government-owned heritage structure was slated for partial demolition and rebuilding. Built 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.

The news led to appeals from the heritage community, with experts questioning the efficacy of a conservation gazette in retaining a historic structure. They added that reconstruction "is the falsification of historical artefacts".

The community also called for heritage impact assessments to be done and made public, and for consultation to take place earlier during the decision-making process.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said then that only in an extenuating situation where it is unavoidable and necessary for the larger benefit of the community, would conserved private and state-owned structures undergo demolition or reconstruction.

In October 2016, 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.

The following month, then Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament that the Government would finalise its implementation plans for the building after discussions with heritage groups.

The landmark is known for its cupolas, as well as a Star of David on its facade. In 2008, when the URA gazetted the Ellison Building for conservation, it noted that the Star of David on the building's facade was evidence of the early Jewish presence in the area, and that such buildings "bear social importance in reminding us of the communities that settled here".

The Straits Times understands that these features will be retained.

The grandson of the late Ellison, Mr Steven Ellison, 68, a development consultant based in Australia, said: "Once destroyed, we can only speak of heritage structures in memory, so I appreciate the careful consideration taken for this building."

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