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Old April 23rd, 2010, 06:26 PM   #1
hkskyline
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HONG KONG | 2nd Central - Midlevels Escalator

Ladder Street escalator on cards
5 April 2010
SCMP

Historic Ladder Street in Central, where tourists can still catch a glimpse of what life was like in old Hong Kong, has been earmarked for a makeover with escalators under a plan by the Housing and Transport Bureau.

Residents of the area and a historian have attacked the proposal, saying it would destroy a wealth of architectural and cultural heritage.

The bureau has suggested this as a mitigation measure to reduce traffic impact from possible relaxation of building restrictions after 2014, when the MTR's West Island Line opens.

Escalators could be built in five sections of Ladder Street, which connects Caine Road, Bridges Street, Upper Lascar Row, Hollywood Road and Queen's Road Central, under the bureau's proposal.

In a preliminary assessment, the bureau said escalators would assist the elderly population, save travel time and benefit tourism promotion.

It did not mention the heritage impact.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office was not told of the plan, although it gave a grade-one historic status to the street in December.

Ladder Street was built in the 1840s with steps and landings made out of granite slabs and concrete paving.

There are still some old sections of retaining walls and boundary walls visible, according to the antiquities office.

"These old structures provide evidence of the long-term development of the area ... and give visual variety to the appearance of the street," it said in an assessment.

The bureau's proposal was presented to Central and Western District Council in March, and members raised concerns about the impact on architectural heritage.

Ho Pui-yin, associate professor in history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, objected to the plan, saying that Ladder Street was like a "time tunnel", showcasing architecture from different eras in the past century.

"The neighbourhood is a very good place for strolling and appreciating architecture. The last thing it needs is a fast, modern moving walkway, which will ruin the original streetscape," she said.

The street connects the 163-year-old Man Mo Temple, which once served as a place to resolve disputes among locals; the Old Pathological Institute, built in 1906; the Central Building of the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, built in 1918; and post-war tenements in Wing Lee Street. "I am sympathetic with elderly residents who may want escalators to save the walk, but there should be an alternative path at, say, Tank Lane at the next block," Ho said. The government should make plans to illustrate the history instead, she added.

Cheng Po-hung, honorary adviser to the Hong Kong Museum of History, said he was "neutral" to the plan as there was a dilemma between old people's needs and heritage preservation.

He agreed the street was of historic interest, and pointed out that it was where two of the four colleges of the Chinese University of Hong Kong were established in the 1950s.

In a written reply to the South China Morning Post, the Transport and Housing Bureau said it would see "whether a technically viable option can be worked out without causing adverse impact on the historic and archaeological significance" when it conducts a technical feasibility study later this year. The bureau would also explore alternative alignments, such as Pound Lane, as suggested by the district council.

Shum Hiu-fung, a social worker who was taking photographs of the street and its neighbourhood, said he was worried an escalator would set a bad precedent for insensitive development at the expense of heritage.

Mak Wai-shing, a 66-year-old resident, said he would not want to see the streetscape change and that people could always catch a bus or minibus to go to Central.

Another resident, Robert Macdonald, said the steps were "good for fitness" and it would be a shame to ruin an historic area.

Spencer Law, a financial planner who lives nearby, represents another school of thought: "An escalator link is good as it will boost property prices and redevelopment here, just like the system has done in SoHo."
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Old July 12th, 2010, 05:28 PM   #2
hkskyline
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Escalator plan for Ladder Street scrapped over heritage concerns
8 July 2010
South China Morning Post

Transport officials will abandon the escalator plan for historic Ladder Street in Central.

In a letter to the Central and Western District Council this week, the Transport and Housing Bureau said it had consulted the Antiquities and Monuments Office and completed a preliminary assessment.

"If an escalator is built, we need to remove the steps which form half the width of Ladder Street, and conduct underground works, which would affect conservation of the historic structure badly. Therefore, the Transport Department and the Highways Department will look for a route near Ladder Street as a revised route," the bureau said.

The bureau has, after councillors' objections and media reports, dropped its original proposal, which involved building escalators at five sections of Ladder Street, which connects Caine Road, Bridges Street, Upper Lascar Row, Hollywood Road and Queen's Road Central. It suggested this as a mitigation measure to reduce traffic impact from possible relaxation of building restrictions after 2014, when the MTR's West Island Line opens.

In the original assessment, the bureau said escalators would help the elderly population, save travel time and benefit tourism. . It did not mention the heritage impact.

Ladder Street was built in the 1840s with steps and landings made out of granite slabs and concrete paving. There are still some old sections of retaining walls and boundary walls visible, the antiquities office says.
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