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Old September 30th, 2010, 06:42 PM   #281
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Shutters come down at little shop of honesty
The Standard
Tuesday, September 28, 2010



For more than 80 years, a Yau Ma Tei shop with a name for honesty sold chu yee sing, better known as imitation gold jewelry, and other handmade items.

Yesterday, it enjoyed its best day, with more than 500 customers packing into the 400 square foot premises. It was also the shop's last day of business.

Owner Mok Kam-chung, 77, said he was both happy and sad - happy so many wanted to buy their final souvenirs, and sad he was closing. But he said rising rents and tired bones have taken their toll.

He had operated the shop on Reclamation Street since he was 19, having inherited it from his father, who started the business in 1926.

The company was called Lo Sutt, which, in Cantonese, means honest - a trait Mok said the family maintained.

"Father told me to do business honestly, and I did," he said.
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Old October 2nd, 2010, 03:02 PM   #282
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Slicing history along Hollywood Rd
31 August 2010
China Daily - Hong Kong Edition
Martine Beale

When I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1988, Hollywood Road and Wyndham Street were lined with sleepy carpet shops selling colorful ethnic rugs, small, dusty antique shops crammed with junk, tatty go-downs and tired-looking residential blocks. There were only two bars on Wyndham Street: Mad Dogs and Caroline's. After dark, the metal shutters of small shops presented a blank face to quiet streets.

There was no big glassy Centrium building or LKF Tower. SOHO didn't exist. And the world's longest outdoor escalator which crosses Hollywood Road was not yet built.

Back then the only place you could catch one of the few local bands and take in some art over a cheap beer was the Fringe Club. Originally a cold storage warehouse built in 1890, it still sits at the top end of Wyndham Street on the junction with Lower Albert Road.

"When we moved into the premises in 1983 it was very run down," explains Catherine Lau, administrator of the club. "We spent years restoring the place and putting in new facilities".

It paid off.

In 2001 the Fringe Club received a Hong Kong Heritage Award in recognition of the restoration work and in 2009 the premises was declared a Grade I heritage building.

"Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road started to change after the escalator was built in 1993," she adds. "Now there are more restaurants and bars and the area has become more competitive, which is good as it offers customers more choice. It's also good for the Fringe Club because the neighborhood has become busier".

"Things will continue to change when the Central Police Station compound and former police married quarters sites are up and running," she says. Both historical landmarks will soon undergo massive redevelopment. The former will be transformed into a heritage, arts, cultural and tourism hub.

Proposed to be a balanced mix of cultural, heritage and commercial elements, it will house a 500-seat auditorium, 500-seat theater, two art cinemas, a gallery, a multipurpose exhibition space and supporting facilities.

"I sincerely hope the redevelopment will be sympathetic to the early 20th century aesthetic of the building. And that the tenant mix will be heavily weighted in favor of art galleries," says Shaun Kelly, founder of Zee Stone gallery.

I remember when his gallery opened in 1995, I was impressed by its size and the types of exhibitions it showed.

After 15 years on Wyndham Street, the gallery is moving to make way for yet another trendy bar-restaurant.

"Change is inevitable in Hong Kong," he says. "We're moving to One Hollywood Road where our neighbors will be some of the best galleries in Hong Kong. To me, the Wyndham Street and Hollywood Road area is the most interesting and entertaining area in Central - long may that continue".

Hollywood Road and Wyndham Street are now a hotbed of visual stimulation and social activity. Shiny high-rise buildings have squeezed out many of the old walk-up tenements; the sidewalk pulsates with bars, restaurants, art galleries and energy.

"With all the choices of food and beverage venues the area is very attractive," says Phillip Unicomb, restaurant manager of Tivo Wine Bar, who came to Hong Kong in 1996 to manage Wyndham Street Thai, one of the first restaurants to open on the street.

"We get everything from tourists to a steady number of local regulars as the street is now a thoroughfare for office workers from the city. Hong Kong people demand new and stimulating things. They are very nomadic, strolling from bar to bar in close proximity seems to appeal".

There are plenty of antique shops on Hollywood Road. The new ones are more like galleries, so the older ones have had to keep up on appearances. They are much better kept than when I first arrived. The antiques trade is far from new to the road. When it was built in 1844 it was close to the coastline and awash with sailors and foreign merchants selling antiques and artifacts they had collected in China.

"The world famous Hollywood Road and Wyndham Street antique district has been on the tourist and local collectors map for years," says Teresa Coleman of Teresa Coleman Fine Arts Ltd. "However in the absence of any government zoning regulations the area is rapidly disappearing".

Specializing in Oriental antiques and textiles, she first moved onto Wyndham Street in 1987. Hers is another gallery that later this year will move and make way for something hipper.

"Who knows what will replace me," she says. "It's unlikely to be an antiques gallery, more likely it will be a Starbucks, Seven Eleven, a restaurant or a bar".

Further down on Hollywood Road one place remains unchanged. Built in 1847, the Man Mo Temple, named after the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), has been restored and repainted, but otherwise is the same.

What is changing is its surroundings. Just a few doors away, Contemporary by Angela Li stands out with its white-washed facade, large gleaming windows and uber-modern art. The gallery opened in 2008.

"This part of Hollywood Road has gone from sleepy during the week and only busy during the weekend to busy all week around, thanks to more restaurants, cafes and galleries opening nearby," explains owner Angela Li.

The swanky Centre Stage offers luxury apartments and M1NT, a private shareholders club opened in 2006, has swish parties and events for the rich and beautiful.

Restaurants and galleries are starting to venture even further down towards the Sheung Wan end of Hollywood Road.

Regularly passing through the area I have seen the new opening alongside the old; the avant-garde Cat Street Gallery that sprang-up in 2007. Recently a New York Italian-style restaurant took up residence in an old meat storage warehouse opposite Possession Street, where the British first set foot in 1941. Two weeks ago the modern, glass-fronted Java Java coffee and tea lounge opened along the part of Hollywood Road that once only sold wooden coffins.

To reconnect with nature, I often sit under the trees in Hollywood Road Park at the very end of the road. In the 1960s it was just a plot of land with a night market, cheap food, and entertainment, nicknamed the Poor Man's Nightclub. I wonder what the people who once danced and laughed here would think of the encroaching clubs and chic dining establishments nearby.

Nothing stays the same for long in Hong Kong.
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Old October 10th, 2010, 07:06 PM   #283
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Artists protest at Cattle Depot clampdowns
Government limits on visitors and banners anger village tenants

9 October 2010
South China Morning Post



It's a sprawling arts compound home to more than a dozen tenants but the Cattle Depot Artist Village in To Kwa Wan is now off-limits to the public, photographers and even promotional banners.

Anger over entry restrictions and government orders to remove banners at the village has been brewing for a long time. Yesterday, a group of artists voiced their complaints in a protest outside the Government Property Agency in Wan Chai, which manages the compound.

The village is housed in a converted Grade Two Victorian-era compound of red-brick buildings and sheds that was once the customs and excise office's livestock quarantine station. Its 15 tenants include art groups and individuals housed in private studios.

The simmering tensions came to a head last month when the government ordered the removal of an artistic work - a banner made by conceptual artist Ching Chin-wai.

The banner accused the government of being high-handed in the management of the compound and was put up as part of a nine-day-long arts event, My To Kwa Wan, organised by four tenants.

Alvis Choi, assistant manager at Videotage, one of the four tenants, said the removal order was ridiculous. "Ching's banner was draped outside the door of a tenant. We got a letter from the agency saying that a clause of the tenancy agreement states that display of anything outside the premises of our shops is forbidden," Choi said.

Videotage said the government went so far as to request the removal of innocuous banners showing only the details of the event.

Another tenant, Choi Yau-chi, co-founder of 1a which specialises in visual arts, said they were also frustrated by restricted entry to the compound.

"The security policy, which forbids walk-in visitors and allows entry to only those who get invitations from the artists, creates an image that the Cattle Depot is user-unfriendly," she said.

In addition to restricted entry, photographic activity is also forbidden, with security guards buttonholing visitors at the sight of cameras.

Protest leader Ching Chin-wai said security had been beefed up recently.

"The tenancy agreement states that entry is restricted to [invited] visitors only. But the agency did not implement the clause in the past," Ching said.

"Over the past several months, security has been so tight that security staff have registered visitors' ID information. Which arts village on earth would bar entry to the public and tourists?"

The property agency confirmed that tenants could not display banners outside their units without prior approval.

"The depot is not open to the public as it is not equipped with fire safety equipment, lighting, emergency access and hygiene facilities that meet the [licensing rules for] places of public entertainment," an agency spokesman said.

"For security and management reasons, only visitors with the consent of the tenants are allowed to enter the premises. In order to avoid any nuisance to tenants or their visitors, photography is not allowed in the open spaces at Cattle Depot.

"The Development Bureau is planning to take over the management of the Cattle Depot The existing tenancy arrangements are to be maintained a tender exercise to identify a new management company is expected to take place soon."
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Old October 19th, 2010, 09:03 AM   #284
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Grading system leaves historic site to decay
18 October 2010
SCMP

Elements of a grade one historic building of the former British garrison in the heart of the city have fallen into a dilapidated state, with part of a pillar at the entrance missing and the stone gatehouse full of rubbish and used as a storeroom.

The Old British Military Hospital in Mid-Levels, which opened in 1907, was given the grade one rating by the Antiquities and Monuments Office in December last year, but the entrance and gatehouse were not included.

The three-storey, red-brick hospital, built in the Edwardian neo-classical style, seems to be well preserved, but its entrance appears to be abandoned, overgrown and decaying.

Experts say this highlights the failure of the present process to take into account "associated elements" when grading historic buildings, depriving important structures of protection.

The upper part of a stone pillar at the hospital's entrance, at the junction of Borrett and Bowen roads, has gone missing.

The stone gatehouse is full of garbage and shows signs of internal water leaks. It is being used as a storeroom by a contract cleaner for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).

Joggers who regularly run along Bowen Road said they noticed part of the pillar go missing this year. One suggested the government should clean up the entrance and erect a plaque about the historic building.

"The stone gatehouse and the two pillars ... are yet to be graded," the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) said.

The Government Property Agency is responsible for leasing out the hospital, which is occupied by a number of non-governmental organisations. But the gatehouse and entrance pillars are outside the boundary of the site managed by the agency. The gatehouse is maintained and used by the FEHD, the AMO said.

Antiquities Advisory Board member Dr Lee Ho-yin, who is director of the architectural conservation programme at the University of Hong Kong, said the entrance gatehouse and pillars should be considered part of the historic building. "The starting point of the building is significant," he said. "The gatehouse of the old hospital, like the guard post at the entrance of Government House, should be considered part of the historic architectural complex."

This was an example of the grading process overlooking elements of historic sites, he said. The conservation assessment process concentrated too much on the building itself and overlooked associated elements "such as the entrance and old wall which are also part of the architectural complex", Dr Lee said.

He cited redevelopment of the historic former marine police headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui, now a hotel and mall called Heritage 1881, where the original landscape, an important "associated element" of the site, was not protected by the grading and was completely changed.

The board planned to establish standard guidelines for assessment of associated elements of historic buildings after it concluded its present assessment of 1,444 historic buildings, he said.

The AMO said it had received a suggestion that the gatehouse and pillars of the hospital be included on the list of new items to be assessed by the Antiquities Advisory Board after the conclusion of its assessment of the 1,444 historic buildings.

Central and Western district councillor Stephen Chan Chit-kwai said the pillars and gatehouse should have been included in the assessment and grading of the building.

Historian Ko Tim-keung, an expert in military sites and battlefields in Hong Kong, said of the hospital: "It is part of Hong Kong history of the first world war period, and it was used for wounded soldiers and sick British prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation."

He said documents told many moving stories of the military surgeons and patients of the hospital, which was superseded in 1967 with the opening of the British Military Hospital in Kowloon. The old hospital now houses Mother's Care, Helping Hands and the Carmel School.
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Old October 25th, 2010, 06:42 PM   #285
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Ruling bad news for battles to save tong lau
25 October 2010
South China Morning Post

A Lands Tribunal ruling has cast a shadow over attempts to save old but well-maintained walk-up buildings.

An owner facing the compulsory sale of his flat sought to have the building, designed by a renowned Chinese architect, graded as historic to save it from redevelopment. He applied to the tribunal for it to postpone a decision on a sale order until antiquities authorities could consider grading the building. But the tribunal refused, saying a grading would not influence its decision.

Gordon Li Kit-sang's flat is in a seven-storey building at 8 Observatory Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, which he says has heritage value, along with Nos 2, 4, 6, 10 and 12. They were designed by Robert Fan (pictured) one of the most celebrated Chinese architects of the past century.

But the tribunal said any grading by the Antiquities Advisory Board would have no legal force on any order to force Li to sell his flat.

Most such low-rise buildings, or tong lau, were built in the 1950s and '60s. Unlike new flats whose square footage is inflated by clubhouses and other facilities, buyers of tong lau get the square feet they pay for. As a result, more and more homebuyers seek them despite their age.

But tong lau have increasingly become targets for developers since the government lowered from 90 per cent to 80 per cent the ownership threshold at which a developer can force hold-outs in buildings older than 50 years to sell to them.

Four private companies have acquired more than 90 per cent of the six blocks in Observatory Road. They have applied to the tribunal for a compulsory sale order on Li's flat. The antiquities board has declined Li's application for a historic grading on his building.

Wong Ho-yin, of the concern group People Planning in Action, said the tribunal's response was alarming. More than 20 tong lau have been graded, but Li's case made clear that no such grading would affect the tribunal in ruling on whether compulsory sales should go ahead.

"Although [the board] did not give a grading in this case, the case made it clear that any grading would not be binding," he said. "There is no provision in the law about buildings' heritage value. I'm afraid that in future, private residences, especially tong lau in old districts, could end up being sold compulsorily."

Buildings can be graded one, two or three on a declining scale of heritage value, but only those declared a monument are legally protected.

Li believed the buildings' historic value went beyond the fact Fan designed them. They were inhabited by the families of British servicemen who worked at the former Chatham Road Camp. Architectural details such as flower boxes on the front wall and wooden handrails on stairways were historically important, he said.

The antiquities board agreed with him on these points at a recent meeting, but found them not sufficient to support a grading, saying the buildings were not signature works of Fan.

The tribunal told Li last month, before the board met, that it would not adjourn the case to wait for the grading result because a grading would carry no legal weight.

"I feel so helpless. I can only continue to fight in court," Li said.

The tribunal will consider the compulsory sale case in February.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 02:31 PM   #286
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Flat-out generous
28 September 2010
The Standard

Tenants of shabby tenements on Wing Lee Street - made famous by the award-winning film Echoes of the Rainbow - have been offered 400-square-foot flats in Sheung Wan at less than a quarter of the market rent.

Some flats in the Urban Renewal Authority's 23-story Sheung Wan block even have harbor views.

A property agent said rents for similar apartments are around HK$7,700, but Wing Lee Street tenants can move in for just HK$1,800 a month.

In offering the HK$10 million resettlement package to 30 households, URA chairman Barry Cheung Chun- yuen said the rent is at a similar level to public housing, but insists it will not set a precedent or increase the authority's financial burden.

"It's the first time - as well as an exceptional case - for us to relocate residents who are not affected by redevelopment projects," Cheung said. "We see the arrangement as a social responsibility to urgently improve residents' poor housing conditions." He does not regard the offer as "too generous."

The URA block, Shun Shing Mansion on Des Voeux Road West, offers around 100 flats for those affected by redevelopment schemes on Hong Kong Island such as those in Graham and Lee Tung streets.

The authority revised its redevelopment plan for Wing Lee Street in March after Echoes of the Rainbow poignantly portrayed the 12 tenement buildings.

Under the new approach, the authority will preserve all buildings on Wing Lee Street and maintain the terrace ambience of "Old Hong Kong."

Cheung said the resettlement plan will become effective after a Town Planning Board meeting next month is expected to remove Wing Lee Street from the list of redevelopment schemes. Apart from the favorable rent, households who choose to move to the block will not have to pay rent for six months and will be given a relocation allowance of about HK$7,400 for each family.

Their rental contracts will be renewed every two years. The authority will not ask residents to move out until they are allocated public housing.

Meanwhile, tenants who choose to remain where they are will be given up to HK$80,000 to maintain their flats.

Kwong Shum Sui-heung, who rents a flat on the street for HK$4,500 a month, said her family of four visited the URA block in Sheung Wan but decided not to move there.

"The authorities pledged to allocate us public housing when they first decided to redevelop the area 13 years ago," she said.

"Another temporary relocation will only increase our financial burden. We have no choice but to wait."

Ho Hei-wah, a member of the Steering Committee on Review of the Urban Renewal Strategy, said owners who prefer to stay put have received the least benefits in the resettlement package.

"Most of the tenement buildings are more than 50 years old. The one-off renovation subsidies are far from enough to maintain a safe building structure in the long run," he said.

Rayson Yip Ching-long, who owns a printing company on the street, said he welcomes the provision of subsidies for renovating his "heavily dripping balcony" but hopes the URA will acquire his place at a reasonable price to help him buy a replacement unit for his business. About 20 households in the street held a meeting last night to discuss options.

A URA spokesman said its staff will visit residents tomorrow.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 03:01 PM   #287
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Relics of city's dairy industry under threat
25 October 2010
SCMP

They are part of Hong Kong's heritage, yet lie damaged and almost forgotten.

Hidden among hundreds of huts in Pok Fu Lam village are a stone-walled manure pit and a round tower that were part of the city's largest dairy farm, where production dated back to 1886.

Conservationists want to know why the two farm structures on government land have been neglected for many years, while three structures on the other side of the road - part of the same cluster set up by the Dairy Farm company in 1886 - were given a historic grading and maintained.

An octagon-shaped cowshed and the main office building, given grade-two ratings, were leased to the Academy of Performing Arts, which uses them as a theatre and classrooms.

The third structure, a two-storey Western-style house used as the company's senior staff quarters, has a grade-one rating and is yet to be tendered out for a new use.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) recognised them because "they serve as reminders of the success story of a Hong Kong enterprise".

The stone-walled manure pit, on a hillside at the Pokfulam Public Riding School site, is one of the few remaining such pits. Villagers still call it "cow-dung lake".

Less than 300 metres away, slightly up the hillside, is a silo that was used to store cow fodder. It stands overgrown and the Water Supplies Department has blocked an access path for ground works. It is hardly noticeable because a disused eight-storey Dairy Farm staff quarters stands in front of it.

The two relics do not appear on a list of 1,444 historic sites drawn up by the AMO in 2008, and the office has no record of them.

According to the office and a book, Dairy Farm 1886-1986 by Diane Stormont, Scottish doctor Patrick Manson in 1886 persuaded five influential businessmen in the city, including Paul Chater, to invest in a farm to produce a safe supply of cows' milk, which was then of little interest to local Chinese.

The company settled on a 120-hectare hilly site in Pok Fu Lam, well away from disease-ridden slums in Sheung Wan, with capital of HK$30,000 and a herd of 80 dairy cows imported from Britain. In 1983, the company sold off the herd and parts of the farmland were developed into housing estates, including Baguio Villas.

Steven Chui Chu-kwan, who lives in the village, said he found the pit damaged two weeks ago. "The pit was intact with a concrete curved roof for all those years. But that day I saw a man putting metal sheets over the structure, and the roof was gone.

"I suspect he is illegally occupying the place as there have been quite a few illegal immigrants here in the past," Chui said. He was worried that the silo would also be destroyed.

A visit by the South China Morning Post last Wednesday found window frames and a door had been installed. Bricks and soil were laid outside. No one answered the door.

Gerald Kuh, general manager of the Riding for the Disabled Association, which rents the riding school site from the government, said none of his staff or agents damaged the manure pit.

"We have left that structure empty since we rented the land in 1975. But the site is so big that we cannot fully control people coming in and out. We are organising a joint site visit with the Lands Department," Kuh said.

The department is yet to give a reply on what action it is taking over the pit's damage and occupation.

Chui, 40, who has done research on the Dairy Farm relics and interviewed retired farm managers and workers, said the two items were part of a recycling process for cattle farming: the pit stored cow dung for making fertiliser, which was used to grow elephant grass as fodder.

The silo, which he said was the only survivor of seven similar structures, stored surplus fodder for winter.

"I recall the days when I was a kid. The hills were all grass, no trees, for grazing the cattle. Each herd had a manure pit in different shapes. It was so idyllic, you felt like you were in Scotland rather than in Hong Kong.

"The manure pit and the silo are as significant as other graded items in the farm cluster as they also contributed to the production chain. Why are they treated differently?" he asked.

The Pok Fu Lam Village Cultural Landscape Concern Group, of which he is a member, is proposing that all the sites be linked as a heritage trail.

The Development Bureau said the bureau had not received any suggestions for grading the manure pit and the silo.

"In view of public interest in these structures, the AMO will carry out a site visit and research for them in due course," a spokeswoman said. "If they are of heritage value, we will put them forward to an expert panel and the Antiquities Advisory Board for consideration of the need for a grading."

Antiquities Advisory Board member Dr Lee Ho-yin said the two structures deserved a grading: "If you look at them piece by piece, it's nothing. But the relics should be seen altogether as an integral cluster, which tells important stories about our early society."

He said Hong Kong should adopt the stance of Unesco, which has promoted the idea of recognising past important industrial structures as heritage, as little had been done in this aspect apart from grading the Cattle Depot in Kowloon City and structures of several reservoirs. "After all, historic buildings are not just those associated with important figures or those of aesthetic value."
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Old November 7th, 2010, 04:45 AM   #288
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Former residents sought to bring estate's history to life
1 November 2010
South China Morning Post

The Youth Hostels Association has traced 10 former residents of the city's first public housing block that it is revitalising for hostel use, but it says it needs to find many more to help create an on-site folklore museum.

With the renovation of Mei Ho House in Shek Kip Mei due to start early next year, the association is building up content for the museum to showcase the history of the old public housing estate.

"We need many more people to join our 'alumni network' to give oral history accounts about life in the resettlement blocks," the association's general manager, Iris Tsang Hoi-kee, said. "The history will be an essential part of the museum planned for the hostel and will distinguish the heritage site from other hostels of ours."

As well as the 10 former tenants of Mei Ho House, the association has found 38 others from now-demolished neighbouring blocks and from resettlement buildings of a similar age in Sham Shui Po.

Mei Ho House, rated as a grade-one historic building, is the only survivor of the first eight blocks of the Shek Kip Mei Estate built in 1954, which marked the beginning of the colonial government's public housing scheme. The scheme was launched a year after a fire in the area made thousands of squatters homeless. Residents shared a communal toilet on each floor until renovation in the 1970s.

The association won the site under a government heritage revitalisation scheme. In the past year it has conducted research on the site's history and obtained Town Planning Board approval for its conversion plan.

Tsang said the former residents would be invited to serve as tour guides, to share with hostel guests their stories of life on the estate and to take part in the hostel's activities during festival gatherings. A primary school near the estate is helping the association with the search.

"We appeal to anyone who has lived in Mei Ho House, Shek Kip Mei Estate or Sham Shui Po before to join us. Those who are interested in local history and culture are also welcome," Tsang said.

Past residents in touch with the organisation come from different generations, including some who experienced the fire and moved into the housing block as children. They told the organisation of growing up in a crowded living environment, but also of bonding between neighbours much stronger than it is today.

They donated for display photographs and items they used when living in the block, including three sewing machines, school writing pads and milk cans.

With capital of HK$192 million and an operating seed fund of HK$4.4 million from the government, the block will be converted into a hostel with 124 guestrooms and will open in 2012.

Some rooms will have special features, such as preserved iron gates seen on old public housing estates. There will be no dormitories. A museum will showcase two sample flats with original layouts and old furniture, and a communal bathroom.

Those interested in joining the alumni network can call 2788 1638 or fill in a form on the YHA's website.
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Old November 13th, 2010, 09:24 AM   #289
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Four historic buildings declared monuments
Friday, November 12, 2010
Government Press Release


The Tung Wah Museum at Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei has been declared a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The museum building is in the Chinese Renaissance style, characterised by a composition of Chinese and Western architectural features.


The Man Mo Temple Compound in Sheung Wan has been declared a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The magnificent Temple is a typical example of traditional Chinese vernacular architecture. It is exquisitely decorated with ceramic figurines, granite and wood carvings, plastered mouldings and murals, reflecting superb traditional craftsmanship.


The Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall in Kam Tin, Yuen Long has been declared a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The Ancestral Hall is a Qing vernacular building, constituting a two-hall-one-courtyard plan of three bays.


The Kom Tong Hall in Central has been declared a monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. Kom Tong Hall was built in the Edwardian classical style, featuring red brick walls, granite dressings around windows and doors, and ornate ironwork on balconies.


The Government today (November 12) announced that the Antiquities Authority declared the Tung Wah Museum at Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, the Man Mo Temple Compound in Sheung Wan, the Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall in Kam Tin, Yuen Long and the Kom Tong Hall in Central as monuments under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The notice of the declaration was gazetted today.

The Tung Wah Museum on Waterloo Road was originally the Main Hall of Kwong Wah Hospital. The founding of Kwong Wah Hospital was initiated by the directors of the Tung Wah Hospital and the community leaders of Kowloon. Opened in 1911, Kwong Wah Hospital was the first hospital founded in Kowloon and provided both Western and Chinese medical services to the community. In 1931, Tung Wah Hospital, Kwong Wah Hospital and Tung Wah Eastern Hospital were amalgamated into a single entity, "Tung Wah Group of Hospitals" (TWGHs). In 1970, the centenary year of TWGHs, the Main Hall of Kwong Wah Hospital was converted into the Tung Wah Museum for conservation of the relics and the invaluable archives of the TWGHs. The Museum was subsequently opened to the public in 1993.

The museum building is of Chinese Renaissance style characterised by a composition of Chinese and Western architectural features. Its Chinese style is clearly demonstrated by its Chinese ancestral hall and the decorations at the front elevation, whereas Western architectural elements are displayed through the bull's eye windows and segmental arched windows on the sides and rear elevation, as well as the Western fanlights and Queen post trusses inside the museum.

The Man Mo Temple Compound on Hollywood Road was built approximately between 1847 and 1862 by wealthy Chinese merchants. The Temple has imperative local historical and cultural value, representing the social organisation and religious practices of the Chinese community in old Hong Kong. The main hall of the Man Mo Temple was built for the worship of the God of Literature and the God of Marital Arts; the Lit Shing Kung adjacent to the main hall was built for the worship of all heavenly gods and Kung Sor was constructed as a meeting place for resolving matters related to the Chinese community in the area. The Temple was officially entrusted to the Tung Wah Hospital with the enactment of the Man Mo Temple Ordinance in 1908. Directors of TWGHs and community celebrities congregate in the Temple every year for the Autumn Sacrificial Rites to pay homage to the God of Literature and the God of Marital Arts as well as to pray for the prosperity of Hong Kong.

The magnificent Temple is a typical example of traditional Chinese vernacular architecture. It is exquisitely decorated with ceramic figurines, granite and wood carvings, plastered mouldings and murals, reflecting superb traditional craftsmanship.

Tang Kwong U Ancestral Hall in Shui Tau, Kam Tin, also known as Loi Shing Tong, was built by Mr Tang Tseung-luk in the 40th year of Kangxi Reign (i.e. the year of 1701) of the Qing Dynasty. It was built to commemorate Mr Tang Kwong-u, the 17th-generation ancestor of the Tang clan. The Ancestral Hall underwent a large scale renovation in the 47th year of the Qianlong Reign (i.e. the year 1782) of the Qing Dynasty with donations from the clansmen. With the consent of the owners, a full restoration was carried out in 1995 by the Antiquities and Monuments Office. The scope of the full restoration included removal of recent additions and restoration of the timber roof structure, plastered mouldings and timber carvings, bringing the ancestral hall to its original splendid condition.

The Ancestral Hall is a Qing vernacular building, having a two-hall-one-courtyard plan of three bays. There is a side chamber on each side of the open courtyard. The Ancestral Hall was constructed of green bricks with timber rafters, purlins and a clay tiled roof. The ridges, wall friezes and fascia boards are richly decorated with auspicious patterns and carvings.

Kom Tong Hall on Castle Road was built in 1914 as a private residence by Mr Ho Kom-tong, a prominent businessman, as well as a well-known community leader and philanthropist. He was at the centre of the Chinese and Eurasian commercial communities at the beginning of the 20th century and one of the most influential figures of his time. The Government acquired Kom Tong Hall in 2004 for preservation of the invaluable built heritage and subsequently established the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum there. The Museum has been open to the public since December 2006.

Kom Tong Hall was built in the Edwardian classical style, featuring red brick walls, granite dressings around windows and doors, and ornate ironwork on balconies. It is one of the first buildings in Hong Kong to have been built with a steel frame and concealed in-wall electrical wiring. Internally, the rich teakwood panelling abounds everywhere and the ceilings of the main rooms are ornately decorated with moulded plastered panels highlighted in gold leaf. Colourful stained glass windows in Art Nouveau patterns of the period are situated overlooking the main staircase and in other notable positions.

The four declared monuments are open for public visit. Free guided tours will be provided later for the public to enhance their understanding of the monument buildings and the related local history.

Information on the four monuments is available on the heritage conservation website of the Development Bureau (www.heritage.gov.hk).
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Old November 19th, 2010, 01:26 PM   #290
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Banyans get the chop at historic village moat
Trees removed because they harmed fung shui

18 November 2010
South China Morning Post





Banyan trees outside a 600-year-old walled village in Yuen Long were removed for what residents say are fung shui and environmental reasons, just as the government begins a clean-up of the village's historic moat.

The situation at Kat Hing Wai in Kam Tin sparked alarm on two fronts with environmentalists worried about the removal of the trees, and heritage conservationists calling for the moat to be properly preserved.

Police were alerted when the trees were found cut down last week but said they could do nothing because the banyans were on land owned by the village.

Kat Hing Wai representative Tang Wai-fuk said the trees were removed because their roots dug deep into the ground, destabilising surrounding buildings and harming the fung shui.

He said the villagers discussed their removal with the Home Affairs Department first.

The department did not confirm the discussions, but said the work on the moat, which will be cleared of dirt, drained and beautified, did not require the removal of the trees.

Peter Li Siu-man, campaign manager of the Conservancy Association, said the moat work was part of a minor improvement programme in the village that did not require environmental assessment.

"Being a minor work project does not necessarily mean they are environment-friendly and desirable in terms of landscape character," said Li, who believed the trees could have been kept without affecting the project or the villagers.

Henry Lo Ka-yu, a researcher in architectural conservation at Chinese University, said the remains of the moat at Kat Hing Wai were important as most village moats in Hong Kong had been filled up or were gone. He said the moats originally served for defence and fire-fighting but were neglected when they were no longer needed.

"Many of these redundant moats have been polluted and filled for development after they lost their function," he said.

Moats were not regarded as part of the historic structures of a village but should be better protected, he said.

Tang said the villagers were "extremely careful" before removing the trees. "We don't want to be held liable and that's why we talked to the Home Affairs Department beforehand," he said.

Tang said the existing moat was the only remaining portion of the original moat that used to encircle the walled village, known for its resistance to British colonial authorities.

"Most of the moat has been filled up and we are told by officials that it is better to keep this remaining part. Otherwise, we would have already filled it in," he said.

Tang said the moat became an environmental nuisance over the years as wastewater was discharged into it from houses developed on the other side of a road.

In a HK$1.2 million project, dirt will be cleared from the bottom of the moat, underground pipes will be installed to divert wastewater to a proper collection channel and the area will be beautified with trees planted along the moat.
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Old December 15th, 2010, 03:36 PM   #291
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LCQ9: Conservation of Wing Lee Street
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kwok-him and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 15):

Question:

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) publicly proposed "an alternative implementation concept for conserving Wing Lee Street" (the alternative implementation concept) on March 16 this year for reference by the Town Planning Board (TPB). At its meeting on March 19 this year, TPB rejected URA's application in relation to the Master Layout Plan for the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street Development Scheme submitted earlier by URA, but it agreed that preservation of all the tenement buildings at Wing Lee Street as proposed in the alternative implementation concept was the right direction. It has been nine months since URA announced the alternative implementation concept, but TPB has not yet decided on the way forward for Wing Lee Street, and the affected residents have not yet received any compensation or rehousing offers from URA. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the progress to date of the alternative implementation concept proposed by URA, and whether the Government and URA still intend to achieve "complete preservation" of Wing Lee Street;

(b) given that the Chairman of URA announced to the media in September this year a series of special measures for assisting the tenants and property owners of Wing Lee Street, whether it knows the timetable for launching these special measures, and whether URA will continue to offer voluntary acquisition to the property owners at Wing Lee Street; and

(c) whether it knows when TPB will consider and decide on the planning for Wing Lee Street; whether TPB will re-consider the planning for the other two development sites under the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street Development Scheme, apart from Wing Lee Street?


Reply:

President,

The Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street redevelopment project (H19) is one of the 25 redevelopment projects announced but yet to be commenced by the former Land Development Corporation, which the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has taken over upon its establishment in 2001. The URA has undertaken to give priority to the commencement of these 25 projects. H19 covers Sites A, B and C, and Wing Lee Street is at Site A.

The URA commenced H19 in 2003, the planning parameters for which were revised after legal proceedings took place. As a result, it was not until 2008 that the URA issued acquisition offers for the project. During this period, there were strong community demands for the conservation of buildings with architectural interest and the local culture. In response, in November 2008, the URA proposed a conservation-led redevelopment approach for implementation of this project with a view to preserving the terrace ambience of Wing Lee Street, through abandoning the original high-density development, giving up on high-rise buildings, and only demolishing some of the old tenement buildings which were proposed to be rebuilt as buildings with similar height and form. Under this approach, the plot ratio of the whole project was reduced from 8 as permitted under the Planning Brief to not more than 4.5.

In response to the views of the local community and the public, in March 2010, the URA proposed an alternative concept to implement the conservation of Wing Lee Street, that is, to adopt a "complete conservation" approach. This new concept was supported in principle by the Town Planning Board (TPB).

My reply to the three-part question is as follows:

(a) In view of the support from TPB and the generally positive response of the community, the URA has not changed its "complete conservation" implementation concept for Wing Lee Street. This concept is also supported by the Development Bureau.

According to this implementation concept, as follow-up, URA would provide the TPB with supplementary information, namely, information on the conditions of the existing buildings at Wing Lee Street, the costs involved in rehabilitating these tenement buildings and the special measures adopted by the URA to assist owners and tenants at Wing Lee Street. Later on, the TPB would consider how to amend the approved H19 Development Scheme Plan in order to conserve Wing Lee Street within Site A. Meanwhile, the URA would continue to negotiate voluntary acquisition with all the affected owners within the project. The URA would also continue to make compensation/rehousing arrangements for the affected tenants in line with its prevailing policy. Up to end-November 2010, the URA has successfully acquired 12 out of the 24 property interests at Wing Lee Street. There is another property owner who has just accepted the URA's acquisition offer and sale and purchase for this case is under way. The URA has also completed or is in the process of completing compensation/rehousing arrangements for some nine affected tenants.

As a "complete conservation" approach will be adopted for the buildings at Wing Lee Street within Site A of the redevelopment project, and given that some owners wish to conserve their buildings on their own and are reluctant to sell to the URA, the Development Bureau has indicated to the URA that it is inappropriate to go about conserving Wing Lee Street through invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance.

(b) In view of the historical background and the uniqueness of H19, the URA announced in September 2010 the following three special measures to assist the owners/tenants at Wing Lee Street:

(1) Measures to improve the living environment of those tenants whose landlords do not want to sell

(i) The URA will rent out to affected tenants the flats in the URA rehousing block at No 466, Des Voeux Road West, at a rate comparable to the public housing rental rates. For instance, the URA will charge rental at around $1,800 for a 330-square-foot unit. The URA will also provide a six-month rent-free period and offer removal allowance for each tenant household. Take the example of a three-person household, the allowance will amount to about $7,400. If the tenants are allocated public housing units or they eventually move out from No 466, Des Voeux Road West, the URA will provide them with another removal allowance. The URA will also reimburse them for the rentals they have paid for their stay at No 466, Des Voeux Road West, up to a maximum of six months' rent or 25% of the amount of rental they will have paid;

(ii) The URA will provide a "Home Environment Improvement Allowance" ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 for every tenant household who opts to stay at Wing Lee Street to improve their living environment. The URA will also provide them with an allowance equivalent to two months of their current rental to support them in finding temporary accommodation elsewhere when their flats are under renovation; and

(iii) The URA will also provide a relocation allowance to tenants who opt to move elsewhere. For example, a three-person household will receive about $7,400. These tenant households may also receive an allowance ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 for improving their living environment.

(2) "Special Rehabilitation Allowance" offered to property owners participating in the conservation of Wing Lee Street

(i) The URA will provide a "Special Allowance for Rehabilitation of Common Areas" to the property owners at Wing Lee Street. If the owners agree to carry out rehabilitation, the URA will provide a subsidy up to half of the total rehabilitation cost. The owners of buildings in single ownership can draw a maximum subsidy up to $200,000;

(ii) As regards those buildings at site which are jointly held by the URA and other individual owners, the URA will liaise with the owners concerned to undertake rehabilitation work of the common areas of the buildings. The URA will offer them the "Special Rehabilitation Allowance", subject to a maximum subsidy of $200,000 per building. The amount of allowance receivable by each owner will be calculated on a pro-rata basis according to the proportion of undivided shares the owner holds; and

(iii) In addition, owner-occupiers who succeed in applying for the allowance mentioned above will be eligible to apply for a "Home Environment Improvement Allowance" ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 per household.

The URA has been undertaking preparatory work for relocation of Wing Lee Street tenants to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, over the past few months.

When making the earlier announcement, the URA indicated that the measures mentioned above would not be implemented until the TPB were to decide to invoke the town planning procedures to seek the agreement of the Chief Executive in Council to refer back the Development Scheme Plan of H19 for excision of Wing Lee Street from the boundary of the plan. On the basis of the "people-oriented" approach, the Development Bureau has urged the URA to implement the above-mentioned measures as soon as possible to give early comfort to the affected tenants of Wing Lee Street, and without waiting for the completion of further deliberation and related procedures for revision of the Development Scheme Plan by the TPB. In other words, the URA will relocate those tenants who wish to move to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, as soon as possible. As for those tenants who do not opt to move to No 466, Des Voeux Road West, but who want to apply for the "Home Environment Improvement Allowance", the URA will issue the allowances as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, under prevailing policy, the URA will continue to approach the owners for voluntary acquisition before Wing Lee Street is excised from the H19 Development Scheme Plan. The URA will also explain to them the above-mentioned special arrangements for assisting owners to rehabilitate their old buildings. Once the TPB decides to excise Wing Lee Street from the H19 Development Scheme Plan and completes the gazetting procedures, the URA will stop acquiring the properties at Wing Lee Street.

(c) To facilitate the TPB's review of the H19 Development Scheme Plan, the URA has provided information on the structural conditions of the existing buildings at Wing Lee Street, the costs involved in their rehabilitation, as well as the special arrangements to assist owners and tenants of Wing Lee Street. The Planning Department (PlanD) is consulting the departments concerned and considering the relevant information. PlanD will make a submission to the TPB for consideration in early 2011 and it is expected that the scope for consideration will be confined to Wing Lee Street at Site A of H19, the reason being that the Metro Planning Committee of the TPB had, when deliberating on the project on March 19, 2010, indicated that the proposed use and development parameters of the other two sites (that is, Site B and Site C) outside Wing Lee Street were acceptable and that there would be no need to revisit the planning requirements of these two sites. In fact, it is in the pubic interest as well as in the interest of most of the owners and tenants of H19 that the project, which is a redevelopment cum conservation project, be completed as early as possible.
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Old December 18th, 2010, 06:11 AM   #292
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Voice from past echoes in the future
15 December 2010
The Standard

``We pull down our buildings so quickly that not one has yet, in the 90-year history of the company, ever stood long enough to become of historic value.''

So remarked Trevor Bedford, then general manager of Hongkong Land, in 1978, in a speech to the Hong Kong Heritage Society.

It might seem surprising that we had a heritage association in those days, let alone that one of Hong Kong's biggest property companies took an interest in the subject. It makes interesting reading.

Bedford, a former government official, was forward-looking. He anticipated that the ``ladder streets'' between Central, or Sheung Wan, and the Mid-Levels and their low-rise tenements would become popular among tourists and future generations _ something that started to happen in the mid-1990s.

He urged the government to set up bodies to protect historical buildings and improve property management in older areas, both of which are now taking place gradually.

He forecast that Central would be livelier after 6pm, something his own company helped bring about by including malls and restaurants in office developments such as the Landmark and Exchange Square. He also looked forward to providing more leisure space and pedestrian zones in certain areas of the district, which, unfortunately, has yet to happen.

He summed up by saying that tomorrow's heritage is also important. When older buildings were demolished, he said, we had to think carefully about what we replaced them with _ from a lifestyle point of view. Perhaps, we have been partially successful in this regard, but it is a point worth remembering. Bernard Charnwut Chan, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, sees culture from all perspectives.
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Old January 3rd, 2011, 05:41 AM   #293
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Sino Land, Emperor eye tenement arts site
31 December 2010
South China Morning Post

The Urban Renewal Authority is looking for an experienced operator to run its first arts project at six pre-war tenement buildings in Mallory Street, Wan Chai.

Among the nine cultural organisations and professional institutes invited by the authority to tender for the project yesterday, Sino Land and Emperor Group are the largest commercial companies to have expressed interest in running the tenement buildings.

The two giants formed an individual company, Creative Heritage Foundation and Profit Valley, to compete with other organisations, including the Fringe Club, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Zuni Icosahedron, Osage Art and Ideas, Red Goodss, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Hong Kong Architecture Centre.

The Emperor Group, which runs the city's main entertainment business and grooms pop singers, has its headquarters located next to the Mallory Street site.

Part of its proposal for the site is to set aside space for karaoke.

Sino Land has experience in revitalising historic buildings. One recent example is the redevelopment of the old Tai O police station into a boutique hotel.

The old tenement buildings will be turned into an artists' commune, with each of the 20 flats shared by more than one art group to create round-the-clock activity.

For example, a studio could be used by a dance company for practice during the day and by a painter running classes in the evening.

Rentals in the initial years would be fixed at a low level to attract more users, the authority's managing director, Quinn Law Yee-kwan, said.

"To avoid too many commercial elements, the operator will not share profits with the authority," he said. The operator would be given a management fee to run the place and costs would be paid by the authority.

An open space of 300 square metres will be created through the demolition of four tenements, but their facades will be preserved and linked to the rest of the cluster through two footbridges. The open space will also serve as a performance venue.

Some ground-floor flats planned to be cafes will be reserved for artists to hold talks and exhibit their works. These activities will be free of charge. The operation is expected to begin in 2012.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:59 AM   #294
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History followed along building lines
The Standard
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It is not only ordinary residents who are showing an ever-keener interest in old buildings, for academics are also conducting more studies on the rise of urban Hong Kong.

One example is a series of pamphlets by members of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and published by the Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage.

Urban Transformation in Shau Kei Wan (the others are on Central and Sheung Wan) is not simply concerned with collective memory, which for most people is what built heritage is about.

Instead, it examines building typology.

As that suggests, it concerns different types of buildings.

Just as layers of rock tell geologists about Earth's past, so we can trace the history of a neighborhood by looking at how architecture changes.

Briefly, the pamphlet looks at low-rise apartment buildings that date from the 1950s in Shau Kei Wan and are still seen in a few locations in the district.

They are simple in design and were clearly built for a working-class population who could not afford luxury. But there is space - some have balconies, for example - to remind us that this was a fairly low-density neighborhood.

Residential buildings from the 1960s are taller, 10 or 12-story structures.

We still see such buildings elsewhere, in North Point, Causeway Bay and over in Kowloon City.

Hong Kong was growing in the 1950s. Later decades saw buildings of 30 floors or more as we entered today's high- density, heavily developed era.

It is the story of a place coming of age, and it is written in concrete all around us.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, sees culture from all perspectives.
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Old January 18th, 2011, 06:03 AM   #295
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Calls grow to save Peak mansion
The Standard
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Democratic Party has joined calls to save a century-old European-style mansion at The Peak from being redeveloped into a luxury residential site.

The party's Central and Western district councillors yesterday handed in a petition to the Antiquities Advisory Board to press their demand.

Owner Juli May, a Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary, plans to redevelop the two-story mansion at 23 Coombe Road, pictured, built in 1887, into a modern luxury residential site.

The Buildings Department approved the plans in October.

Temporarily rated a Grade 3 historic building, the mansion is now called Carrick and on lease.

A Grade 3 rating means it is desirable for the owner to preserve some form of the building, or take alternative steps if preservation is not practical, such as making photographic records.

The one-month public consultation on the temporary rating ends on Friday.

The Democrats urged that the mansion be declared a monument so the antiquities authority can prevent alterations to it, or impose conditions upon any proposed alterations.

"It is one of the few surviving European-style mansions in Hong Kong. It will be a great loss if it is pulled down," district councillor Cheng Lai-king said.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 04:35 AM   #296
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Hotung Peak villa saved from jaws of developers
The Standard
Wednesday, January 26, 2011









The Peak villa of late businessman and philanthropist Robert Hotung has been saved from the wrecker's ball after the government invoked executive power to conserve the site.

The owner of Ho Tung Gardens, a granddaughter of Hotung, had applied for the site to be redeveloped into luxury apartments.

Surveyors and other experts believe the 120,000-square-foot lot may be worth HK$3 billion.

But Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Ho Tung Gardens must be saved.

It will be gazetted on Friday to list the structures on the land as a proposed monument and prohibit any development for the next 12 months.

Hotung, born in 1862, died at the age of 94 after being the first non-European to receive permission from the colonial government to live on The Peak. Born to an English father and Chinese mother, he was an influential businessman and philanthropist in the colony.

Ho Tung Gardens, built in 1927 in Chinese Renaissance style, is the only residence directly linked to him.

His son, Robert Ho Shai-lai, lived in it from the 1960s to 1990s. It is now owned by granddaughter Ho Min-kwan.

Lam said yesterday that the government had been negotiating with the landlord over how to preserve the site before contact was broken in the middle of last year. Then the government received an application from the owner to redevelop the site into low-rise luxury residences.

The Buildings Department approved the building plans in December as the application did not violate restrictions.

But it also alerted the bureau, which yesterday decided to propose the site as a monument that will carry Grade 1 historic status.

The Antiquities Advisory Board will decide whether to declare the site a monument within the next 12 months.

Ho Min-kwan had in July last year written to the board to express her disagreement with the idea of Grade 1 historic status for Ho Tung Gardens. She offered reasons including the fact her grandfather had not lived there and that the interiors had undergone considerable alterations.

Robert Ho Hung-ngai, Hotung's grandson, said he respected the government's decision. He added that the site had been owned by Ho Min- kwan - who could not be reached for comment - since 2003.

Lam said the government will explore ways of preserving the site with the owner, including economic incentives. Options include buying back the site or swapping it for another one - as happened in 2008 with King Yin Lei Mansion.

There, the government offered land in exchange for the owner to surrender the 71-year-old building on Stubbs Road.
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Old January 28th, 2011, 07:55 AM   #297
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Ho Tung villa highlights lack of heritage strategy
28 January 2011
South China Morning Post

Ho Tung Gardens villa on The Peak has exceptional historical and heritage value. So it is good that the government has stepped in to head off its imminent demolition. But there is a sense of déjà vu about its late reprieve from the wrecker's ball after building approval for redevelopment was granted. This is a reminder that we still lack a coherent policy for preserving heritage.

The Antiquities Advisory Board listed the property as a grade one historic site. This cleared the way for the government to declare it a proposed historic monument and freeze a HK$3 billion redevelopment plan by existing owner Ho Min-kwan, the granddaughter of late tycoon Sir Robert Ho Tung.

It is not as simple as it looks. Many Hong Kong heritage sites are in private hands and the rights of property ownership must be respected. Ho Tung Gardens is a case in point. Officials negotiated in vain with Ho and her representatives for months over an offer of incentives to preserve the heritage and to assist maintenance work. Last month, the Buildings Department, which is not responsible for heritage issues, approved plans for 11 blocks of four-storey houses.

The freeze will last 12 months. Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says she will revive talks with the owner. Failing agreement, the government is legally empowered to declare the site a formal monument - and the owner has a right to claim financial loss. Other options include a land swap and a transfer of the plot ratio to another site. Buying the site for public ownership is a last option. This approach mirrors the rescue of the King Yin Lei mansion in Stubbs Road with a site swap after demolition had begun - just one other example of how the lack of a coherent strategy means officials can find themselves having to step in at the last minute to quell a public outcry.

The government deserves credit for improving heritage protection with a more transparent grading system under which all interested parties are consulted. As a result, gradings have been proposed for about 1,500 heritage buildings across the city. But only those listed as grade one are afforded the ultimate protection of being declared a proposed historic monument. Otherwise, the government can only negotiate and the owners can dispose of their buildings as they see fit. Instead of relying on the last-minute government rescues, the city needs a comprehensive strategy for preserving heritage that clarifies the question of how to compensate owners. Perhaps it is time to set up an independent trust with the expertise and resources to implement it. Such a body, which would also have an education function, should aim at becoming at least partly self-funding from property income and public support, including donations from our increasingly philanthropic tycoons.

Ho Tung Gardens - a residence built for his wife by a legendary business and community leader, and a distinctive Hong Kong example of the Chinese renaissance style - is truly exceptional. So was Ho Tung, known to locals as the "grand old man of Hong Kong". The basis of his enormous personal fortune was his start as a comprador - the Chinese-speaking middlemen who acted as agents for British and other foreign merchants and took a percentage cut from both sides. Often they became richer and more powerful than the businessmen they were paid to serve.

Such heritage is part of Hong Kong's unique history as part of China. Future generations should be able to look back on the post-handover years as a time when we safeguarded it for posterity.
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Old January 29th, 2011, 06:49 PM   #298
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Ho Tung Gardens declared proposed monument
Friday, January 28, 2011
Government Press Release

The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in her capacity as the Antiquities Authority, today (January 28) declared Ho Tung Gardens at 75 Peak Road as a proposed monument under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance (Chapter 53).

The declaration, which is published in today's Gazette, will be effective for 12 months. During the period, Ho Tung Gardens will be subject to legal protection provided under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. The protection includes the prohibition of any building or other works on the proposed monument, or any actions to demolish, remove, obstruct, deface or interfere with the proposed monument unless a permit is granted by the Antiquities Authority.

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said that the declaration would provide Ho Tung Gardens with legal protection for 12 months and allow more time for the Administration to further discuss options to preserve Ho Tung Gardens with the owner. In the meantime, the Antiquities Authority will consider in a comprehensive manner whether or not Ho Tung Gardens should be declared a monument on a permanent basis under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance.

The Development Bureau has explained to the owner of Ho Tung Gardens the legal effect of the declaration. The Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) wrote to the owner today to formally notify her of the declaration of proposed monument in accordance with the established procedures.

Ho Tung Gardens has high historic and architectural value. Mr Robert Ho Tung was a prominent community leader in the years following the establishment of Hong Kong as a port, actively participating in and making significant contributions to different spheres of local affairs. He was the first non-European to receive permission from the then Hong Kong Government to reside in the Peak area. Ho Tung Gardens symbolises the rising status of the Chinese community and is the only remaining residence directly related to Mr Robert Ho Tung in Hong Kong. It is also a masterpiece among the few buildings in Chinese Renaissance style in Hong Kong.

The Antiquities Advisory Board confirmed on January 25 the Grade 1 status of Ho Tung Gardens and supported the action of the Government in declaring Ho Tung Gardens as a proposed monument. The Development Bureau is actively continuing the discussion with the owner on preservation options.
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Old February 6th, 2011, 07:39 AM   #299
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Gardens a living reminder of our colonial past, say historians
26 January 2011
SCMP

Historians say Ho Tung Gardens is a living reminder of an important chapter in the city's colonial history as Sir Robert Ho Tung was the first non-European to receive permission to live on The Peak.

Antiquities Advisory Board member Joseph Ting Sun-pao said the mansion had to be seen in the context of the anti-imperialist sentiment of the 1920s. "The greatest value of Ho Tung Gardens is that it was an exception to a law that forbade Chinese to live in The Peak."

He said Ho Tung, a Eurasian with good networks with the Chinese, helped mediate a strike that spread in Guangzhou and Hong Kong in 1926. The next year, the then governor Sir Cecil Clementi granted an exemption from the law to let him build the mansion.

"Ho Tung was of Dutch and Chinese ancestry, but he considered himself Chinese and dressed in a completely Chinese fashion," Ting said. "The exemption and the erection of a Chinese-style garden on The Peak carried great significance in that era."

Another board member, Ko Tim-keung, said the Chinese Renaissance style site was of more historical interest than the King Yin Lei mansion in Stubbs Road and Haw Par Mansion in Tai Hang. "Ho Tung Gardens is beyond compare. The other two sites do not have such interesting stories behind them."

Ho Tung, born in 1862, started his career with British-owned trading firm Jardine Matheson. He served on the boards of charities, helped set up the Chinese Club and was its first chairman. He was knighted in 1915 and 1955.

The 120,000 sq ft mansion site, called The Falls because of a stream on the grounds, was built for Ho Tung's second wife Clara. The house had a room for Ho Tung, who stayed a few nights in his wife's last days. The mansion was bombed during the second world war. The swimming pool was used to bury dead soldiers and mules from both the British and the Japanese sides.

The current owner Ho Min-kwan, a granddaughter of Ho Tung, told the government last year that the site was not worth a grade-one historic rating because Ho Tung did not live there for long, no important family events were held there and the building's interior had been considerably altered.
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Old February 14th, 2011, 04:19 PM   #300
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Sale threat to juice shop's 63-year sugar cane reign
9 February 2011
South China Morning Post



A shop in Central that has been selling sugar-cane juice for 63 years is facing closure as the historic building that houses it is to be sold for HK$100 million.

The building will be preserved, but rent for the shop is expected to shoot up once the deal is closed.

The Tsui family, who have been running the shop, fears its days are numbered as they will not be able to afford a steep rent rise.

Tsui Chi-san, who took charge of the family business 20 years ago, helped by his wife and two sons, said: "Recently, estate agents kept coming and asking us about the sale of the building. We have no idea and the landlord won't tell us his plan."

Kung Lee, on the corner of Hollywood Road and Peel Street, has been selling its signature sugar cane juice to white collar workers, residents and tourists since 1948.

The ground-floor shop, as well as the three-storey tenement building, is a landmark in SoHo. But the building owner, named Kenny Kwong Kam-kin according to land records, is expected to close a deal soon to sell it.

The tenement was built in the 1920s and is a grade-two historic building. Eric Ng Yim-ming, assistant sales director of Midland Realty, the agent in charge of the sale, confirmed yesterday a deal was expected.

"Several low-profile, rich families are interested in this antique building. They don't plan to demolish the block but will look for character tenants such as galleries," he said.

"Those buyers didn't say they want to kick out the herbal tea shop, but a rent rise is almost certain."

He said the owner proposed a selling price of HK$100 million. The deal is likely to be completed this month.

The owner raised the monthly rent from HK$40,000 to HK$70,000 last year, said Tsui's wife, who declined to give her name.

"At that time, we almost wanted to give up the business. But our customers told us they would support us even if we raised the price of our juice and tea. That gave us confidence," she said.

The price of a glass of sugar cane juice was raised from HK$7 to HK$9 this week. Tsui's wife said the price should have been increased sooner, but it was done only after the Lunar New Year to follow Chinese tradition.

"It's very tough to meet the rent. We can't survive if the rent is raised further after the building is sold," she said.

With the rent rise, the couple could not afford to recruit workers and now rely on their two sons.

Opening from 11am to 11pm every day, the four take care of all the work - peeling, cutting, washing and steaming the canes.

Over the years, the family added more products to meet changing times and tastes.

On top of sugar cane juice and tea, Tsui's wife devised a recipe to make sugar cane pudding. The shop also brought in tortoise jelly and more varieties of herbal tea.

"Sugar cane is a natural and healthy diet. It's affordable to everyone. I want to keep on in this business. I believe this is also part of the heritage here," she said.

The family has been looking for a shop in Central. The owner of the building next door once indicated his willingness to let them move in at HK$40,000 a month, but later rented the space to a bar.

"I want to make an appeal here. If any shop owner in Central is willing to charge us rent at HK$40,000, please let us know," Mrs Tsui said.
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