SINGAPORE: Maxwell Chambers, which houses the world's first integrated dispute resolution centre, will be tripled in size to bolster Singapore's position in this aspect of legal practice.
A total of 120,000sqf will be added by taking over the adjacent Red Dot Traffic Building which is home to the Red Dot Design Museum, announced the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on Thursday (Jan 5).
The Singapore International Arbitration Centre said it has seen new case filings increase three-fold over the last decade. In 2016, 212 arbitration cases were heard at Maxwell Chambers, an 18 per cent increase from the 179 cases the year before.
In 2015, Singapore was ranked by the International Chamber of Commerce as the number one seat of arbitration in Asia, and the fourth most preferred seat of arbitration globally.
"With this expansion, it will really enable us to put in the kind of infrastructure and facilities that would be very advanced for international arbitration,” said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.
Tenants at the Red Dot Traffic Building must leave by Apr 30 this year. The iconic colonial building, which was built in 1928, used to house the former Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters. The building was given conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2007.
As part of the expansion, about 50 offices for international dispute resolution institutions, arbitration chambers and law firms will be added to the new building. The existing building will be dedicated to hearing and preparation rooms for commercial dispute resolution cases.
An overhead link-bridge will be constructed to connect the two buildings.
"A centre like this creates a certain buzz when everybody come together," said the head of the Arbitration Chambers Lawrence Boo. "So that you find that the who's who in international arbitration, when they see each other, they'll find that this is a very important central and convenient place to meet."
MinLaw said the expansion would accommodate a waiting list of potential tenants keen to establish a presence in Maxwell Chambers as well as help Singapore capture new opportunities.
It is a view shared by Mr Chan Leng Sun, president of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. “Singapore did not become an arbitration centre by accident, just as it did not become a commercial and financial centre by chance,” he said. “We must actually work on it and to have that facility actually is part and parcel of what we want to do.”
RED DOT DESIGN MUSEUM TO FIND A NEW HOME
Master tenant Red Dot Design Museum Singapore said it has been in discussion with the authorities on the future of the museum here. And while its new location has not been confirmed, a spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia that the museum will continue its presence in Singapore.
The museum has been a tourist attraction since it opened in 2005, receiving an average of about 7,000 visitors each month.
Other tenants were not surprised by the news of the building's acquisition. Most of them said they have been aware since two years ago that the building may be redeveloped, adding that it is a "pity" that they have to leave the iconic building.
"It's really sad, though, because we have been here for a couple of years and we love this place because there are shophouses and it has such cool vibes,” said Mr Benny Ong, a trainer at management consulting firm Startup Academy.
“Everybody loves to work in a place where there's just a little bit more fun vibes; we have F&B, we have pubs downstairs and all,” he added.
MinLaw will take over the Red Dot Traffic Building from May 1. Award-winning Singaporean architect Mok Wei Wei has been appointed to lead the expansion project.
Additional reporting by Loh Chuan Junn.