As the first building in Singapore to feature outdoor escalators and car lifts, Peninsula Plaza was built at a hefty cost of $110 million. The building is just a short walk away from the busy City Hall MRT Station.
Peninsula Plaza was built in 1979 and it boasts 38,000 square metres of commercial space. The 29-storey development comprises an office tower with a five-storey retail podium and a basement.
The history of the site, however, goes way back into the 1800s. The site was once home to Tan Tock Seng’s eldest son, Tan Kim Cheng. He was one of Singapore’s wealthiest merchants at the time, and he lived there until his death in 1892. The adjacent street—today’s Coleman Street—was named Chin-seng chupi or Chan-seng tai-ok fong pin which means ‘beside Chin Seng’s house’ in Hokkien and Cantonese respectively. Chin Seng was the name that was on the seal that Tan Kim Cheng used.
The site was later used to build Meyer Mansions, an apartment block widely known to be the first ‘flatted residence’ in Singapore. It was demolished in 1970 for the development of the Peninsula Plaza.
Due to its geographical location, the construction of Peninsula Plaza was met with restrictions—a limit was placed on how high the podium could be. The height of its podium was limited to 18.3 metres to avoid obstructing the sea view from Fort Canning. It was also to keep the building in proportion to the neighbouring St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
Construction kicked off in 1976 with an official launch ceremony and took three years to complete. Peninsula Plaza opened its doors to the public in 1979. With 350 shop units, it quickly became a central and convenient place to purchase various electronic goods.
In the early 1990s, Peninsula Plaza turned into a popular gathering spot for the local Myanmar community and became known as ‘Little Myanmar’. One could find traditional clothing, Myanmar Lager, and even a Burmese-language library in the building. The building even served as a space for the Myanmar community to congregate and organise relief operations and raise funds in the aftermath of 2008’s devastating Cyclone Nargis.
Today, eateries, grocery shops, boutique shops, travel agencies, visa agencies, money changers, and souvenir shops colour Peninsula Plaza. Locals and tourists alike head to Peninsula Plaza to get a feel of Myanmar without having to leave Singapore.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of May 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.