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Old September 8th, 2008, 05:49 PM   #121
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Repulse Bay hotel plan to be released for public consultation
6 September 2008
South China Morning Post

The Town Planning Board has agreed to release the rezoning plan of the Seaview Building in Repulse Bay for public consultation, amid disagreements over its architectural value and doubts about the commercial feasibility of a hotel business on the site.

The beachfront site is proposed as a "comprehensive development area", allowing a range of uses including a hotel, barbecue spots, eating places, shops, and recreation and sports. Height is capped at 13 metres, less than 2 metres higher than the present building.

The draft outline zoning plan will be gazetted for public consultation then return to the board for approval, it decided at a meeting yesterday.

Meanwhile a businessman has told the board he is interested in running a business in the Seaview Building. In a letter, Dmitry Fedotov, who runs cafes with a partner on Big Wave Bay Beach and South Bay Beach on Hong Kong Island, said his group was ready to invest and revive the building as a cultural and recreational venue, with activities such as a spa and yachting classes.

He said the group would submit a restoration proposal during the consultation.

Board member and architect Bernard Lim Wan-fung, who visited the site some years ago, said he did not see any great architectural value in it.

"The balustrades seem to have been added by restaurant operators and look fake. It looks as if the structure was expanded over the years," he told the South China Morning Post after the meeting.

He said he saw no need to preserve the building if it was unsuitable for new commercial uses, adding that he was satisfied the planning rules would ensure the redevelopment would not be too large.

Some months ago district councillors were shown a government archive picture indicating the building in the 1960s had a different look.

Lee Ho-yin, architectural conservation programme director at the University of Hong Kong, said he could not judge the merits of the building from the photo and maintained the Antiquities and Monuments Office should release its study to clarify the confusion about when alterations and additions were made to the original fixtures.

"It doesn't hurt if the study proves it is not historic," said Mr Lee, who a day earlier said the building could have been built in a hybrid style known as Chinese Renaissance. "But the contents should be released to convince people. It's the procedural transparency that matters."

Another board member, surveyor Raymond Chan Yuk-ming, said it was up to the public to decide whether to demolish or preserve the building but he doubted that a hotel would be the best commercial use.

"Hong Kong has a lot of hotels. The small site and height restriction would only result in a hotel with 10-odd guestrooms. And it cannot provide much privacy to guests with a public beach in the front. It wouldn't seem a good idea," Mr Chan said.

He was also concerned that the hotel would block access from Beach Road to the coast, and urged the future developer to maintain a public passageway through the site.

The Seaview Building is thought to have been built during the 1940s and 1950s and was a restaurant until 2005. The proposed commercial or hotel development would include the building and the adjacent open-air car park, which lies along one-third of the beach.
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Old September 8th, 2008, 05:51 PM   #122
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Heritage grant scheme called too restrictive Incentives needed, critics say
4 September 2008
South China Morning Post

A government grant scheme for maintaining private historic buildings is too restrictive and officials should include more technical aid to raise incentives for building owners to take part, town planners and conservation experts say.

Their comments came a week after the scheme, revealed in the chief executive's policy address as part of the new heritage policy, began accepting applications last Thursday. No applications had been received by yesterday.

The scheme, aimed at more than 200 privately owned historic buildings, runs parallel to a HK$1 billion plan for non-government organisations to revitalise public historic sites.

Successful applicants can receive up to HK$600,000 to help them renovate their buildings, but with a budget of just HK$2 million this year, critics doubt it is adequate to satisfy demand.

While terming the scheme "a good pilot", Antiquities Advisory Board member Ng Cho-nam said the total sum was too small. "Only three or four buildings will be saved. But there are many schools and temples on the list which need help."

He hoped enough applications would come in to reflect the genuine demand, pushing the government to provide more money.

The Development Bureau said the sum could be increased to meet large demand. The scheme would run continuously, and owners could apply more than once for the same building, a spokesman said.

Successful applicants cannot demolish or sell their buildings within 10 years after renovation work is done, except with the government's consent.

They should also allow "reasonable public access", normally free of charge. They must suggest parts of the building and times for opening to visitors.

"The public-access requirement narrows the scheme's scope. Some private properties may not want to open to the public. The government will need to think about management arrangements," Dr Ng said.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong's architectural conservation programme, said the government was asking owners to deal with too many technicalities.

Applicants must find contractors for the maintenance work, submit progress reports and obtain no fewer than five quotations for the work contract. They must also state how the building can benefit the community.

Given the limited resources, the government will give priority to buildings with urgent repair needs, more public access and higher benefits to the community.

"Many owners are old people who know nothing about conservation," Dr Lee said. "The Antiquities and Monuments Office should not only supervise but also participate in the process. Otherwise a mere grant is no adequate incentive to preserve."

Diocesan Boys' School has indicated interest in the scheme. Headmaster Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung said the maximum grant would suit the school's needs.

The Grade3 historic building, dating back to the 1920s, has needed constant repairs. Water leaks through the roof tiles and termites attack the wooden pillars. The school has spent more than HK$1 million to fix the problems in the past four years. Maintenance projects costing more than HK$2 million are paid for by the Education Bureau.

The school would find no difficulty meeting the no-demolition and no-sale requirements for the grant, Mr Chang said.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 04:35 PM   #123
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Preserving past best way to revive Tai O, say design winners
9 September 2008
South China Morning Post



The winners of a design competition seeking ways to revitalise Tai O have called for "minimal intervention" in the old fishing village.

Cultural tourism was the main theme of the first-prize submission among entries from professional groups.

"Too much new development will affect residents' lives and make Tai O commercialised and over-touristy," said Fanny Ang Bing-hun, 31, an architecture graduate now working for the government.

She and her teammates and former classmates - Stephen Chow Hon-bong and Jimmy Tsui Ka-chun - spent two months on their design and decided that the best way to enliven the village would be to preserve rather than develop.

The group identified dozens of spots in the area that are in need of minor improvements to facilities rather than new buildings. For example, stilt houses would be repaired for residents while some vacant residences would be converted to house oral history archives and historic photos and drawings. Several piers would be added to different spots to strengthen the local traffic network.

Noting that the residents of Tai O have a dragon boat team, the designers included waterfront stands for watching races. Another site would be arranged to stage performances of San Gong Opera, a Cantonese style of drama performed in temporary structures during festivals. Instead of building a new lookout to view the mangroves and wetlands, the team suggested converting residents' rooftops to serve the same purpose.

The competition, which attracted 36 entries in the professional group and 69 in the open group, was part of the public consultation for the Tai O revitalisation plan.

While presenting prizes yesterday, Development Bureau head Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would fully consider the winning proposals when working out a revitalisation plan. A sum of HK$600 million has been reserved for the project.

Officials are studying a comprehensive revitalisation plan, and are to finish by the middle of next year. Priority works, including flood prevention and a pilot scheme for repairing the disused salt pans, will start in 2010. Officials are looking for a site for the pilot project.

The salt pans will likely become an exhibition, rather than a business operation, for students and tourists.
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Old September 15th, 2008, 12:50 PM   #124
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Heritage grant scheme called too restrictive
Incentives needed, critics say

4 September 2008
South China Morning Post

A government grant scheme for maintaining private historic buildings is too restrictive and officials should include more technical aid to raise incentives for building owners to take part, town planners and conservation experts say.

Their comments came a week after the scheme, revealed in the chief executive's policy address as part of the new heritage policy, began accepting applications last Thursday. No applications had been received by yesterday.

The scheme, aimed at more than 200 privately owned historic buildings, runs parallel to a HK$1 billion plan for non-government organisations to revitalise public historic sites.

Successful applicants can receive up to HK$600,000 to help them renovate their buildings, but with a budget of just HK$2 million this year, critics doubt it is adequate to satisfy demand.

While terming the scheme "a good pilot", Antiquities Advisory Board member Ng Cho-nam said the total sum was too small. "Only three or four buildings will be saved. But there are many schools and temples on the list which need help."

He hoped enough applications would come in to reflect the genuine demand, pushing the government to provide more money.

The Development Bureau said the sum could be increased to meet large demand. The scheme would run continuously, and owners could apply more than once for the same building, a spokesman said.

Successful applicants cannot demolish or sell their buildings within 10 years after renovation work is done, except with the government's consent.

They should also allow "reasonable public access", normally free of charge. They must suggest parts of the building and times for opening to visitors.

"The public-access requirement narrows the scheme's scope. Some private properties may not want to open to the public. The government will need to think about management arrangements," Dr Ng said.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong's architectural conservation programme, said the government was asking owners to deal with too many technicalities.

Applicants must find contractors for the maintenance work, submit progress reports and obtain no fewer than five quotations for the work contract. They must also state how the building can benefit the community.

Given the limited resources, the government will give priority to buildings with urgent repair needs, more public access and higher benefits to the community.

"Many owners are old people who know nothing about conservation," Dr Lee said. "The Antiquities and Monuments Office should not only supervise but also participate in the process. Otherwise a mere grant is no adequate incentive to preserve."

Diocesan Boys' School has indicated interest in the scheme. Headmaster Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung said the maximum grant would suit the school's needs.

The Grade3 historic building, dating back to the 1920s, has needed constant repairs. Water leaks through the roof tiles and termites attack the wooden pillars. The school has spent more than HK$1 million to fix the problems in the past four years. Maintenance projects costing more than HK$2 million are paid for by the Education Bureau.

The school would find no difficulty meeting the no-demolition and no-sale requirements for the grant, Mr Chang said.
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Old September 19th, 2008, 10:14 AM   #125
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巿建局保育活化20幢戰前唐樓
星島
9月19日

巿建局計劃動用13億元,保育活化太子道西近花墟及上海街合共20幢戰前唐樓。伸延至行人路的露台,由兩條磚砌的支柱支撐俗稱「騎樓」,是戰前唐樓的最大特色,30年代興建,揉合中西建築風格,當時被稱為「摩登住宅」。在太子道西花墟附近,有全港現存的唐樓群;在上海街,相連的唐樓形成長長的廻廊,行人不用日曬雨淋。本港目前只剩下70多幢唐樓,不少已經很殘破,不適宜居住。巿建局計劃動用13億元,收購上海街及太子道西20幢唐樓重建,涉及70多戶,巿建局表示,會保留唐樓群的特色。市建局人員今日去到太子道西近花墟,10幢有廣州式「騎樓」的戰前唐樓,進行凍結人口登記,防止有人趁機要求賠償。工作人員貼出告示,指這些樓宇會進行活化保育。市建局表示,會以市值租金讓7檔花檔繼續經營,樓上加入書店及舞蹈室等,變成文藝花墟。至於上海街10幢屬於一級歷史建築的唐樓,殘破不適合居住,市建局會收購60戶單位,再加入特色發展。市建局主席張震遠表示,太子道西現在經營的花店商戶,他們的計劃希望商戶能繼續留下,因為現在的構思是保留花墟賣花特色,而上海街這個項目,以往有不少出名的大眾食肆,公眾可以想想是否用地道飲食文化為主題。市建局年半後會展開收購安置,進行維修鞏固工程,預料2014至2015年完成。
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Old September 19th, 2008, 01:34 PM   #126
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Preserve or pay the price
17 September 2008
South China Morning Post

The Hong Kong government was taken aback by the passionate protests triggered earlier this year by the demolition of two iconic landmarks - the Central Star Ferry Pier and the adjacent Queen's Pier.

While few will argue these structures were "architectural gems", it was their historical value and the regard in which they were held by millions of commuters and tourists that used them that ensured the community loss was deeply felt.

Unfortunately, many iconic buildings have gone the same way and the architectural landscape that gives Hong Kong its flavour is under threat. Urban planners should proceed with caution.

A visit to the markets in Central and Wan Chai reveals nothing but bustle, a pointer to their popularity. Nobody will argue that the eight-storey tenement buildings around such markets are "architectural gems" and if this means they may suffer the same fate as the Central Star Ferry, will planners take into account that their destruction and expected redevelopment may terminally affect the markets?

Consider Soho, which mushroomed from seemingly nowhere on completion of the Mid-Levels escalator in the early 1990s. The lesson is that small tenement buildings may be rejuvenated to fit today's leisure needs and increasing their value for owners, investors and the government alike.

Visitors to Singapore cannot fail to be impressed with the way that many of the city's old shophouses have been transformed into bars, restaurants and boutiques.

Many of these structures are older than Hong Kong tenement buildings and were not built to stand the test of time or tropical climates. However, their value now monetarily and socially means their survival is secure and allows Singaporeans and tourists an opportunity to see a living museum of the city.

In London, despite the recent housing slump, nobody can argue that property prices in locations such as Camden Market, Greenwich and Notting Hill are far higher today than they were in the 1970s.

Why are these areas considered desirable and attracting buyers willing to pay top dollar for fairly average older housing? Why do tourists visit and what makes them hip and fashionable?

In Hong Kong, there are commendable examples - Lan Kwai Fong, Soho and even the embryonic Tsim Sha Tsui East, where older buildings are being reused, their use changed - and the districts are flourishing. They flourish because of the older buildings not despite them.

The government needs to realise that areas of historic and social value should be maintained for future generations. These historical locations should be renovated - not bulldozed for more gleaming towers.

Why is it so different when the government or quasi-governmental agencies are involved? Why is the focus on new, grandiose projects built on podiums and thus allowing no foot traffic?

For an example, visit the project dissecting Hanoi Road/Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, or the plans for the Central and Wan Chai markets or the proposed 160-metre "viewing" tower above Victoria Prison.

It is our hope the government will stop looking at short-term revenue from land sales at sites where we have historic buildings and instead impose restrictions on developers' plans to refurbish the sites. I fear another public outcry at the soon to be completed Tsim Sha Tsui Marine Police Station when it is unveiled.

How to address the loss of government revenue from land sales?

Firstly, the loss of revenue from sales of individual plots will be outweighed eventually by increased rates to refurbished areas, which are now more valuable.

It will be interesting to see the rateable values of the Soho district 20 years ago compared with today. Again, the principle of short-term gain from a one-off land premium must be balanced by the longer-term value to the community and the effect these areas have on surrounding areas in terms of rents and property prices.

Secondly, there is the matter of the long overdue rezoning of industrial districts and subsequent sales and redevelopment.

Areas of Tsuen Wan, Lai Chi Kok and Cheung Sha Wan that are now low-cost commercial buildings can be rezoned to provide the housing or commercial needs of our city. There is no reason to have these ultra high-density districts other than to keep the relative higher value and land premium concentrated in these districts.

The people of Hong Kong have shown they are becoming more socially conscious, and are reassessing what are the true values of our heritage and our collective memories.

Simply listing individual buildings with "architectural merits" is myopia at best. It is time to think of communities, districts and our way of life other than simply the physical aspects of bricks, mortar and concrete. Policies must take into account conservation issues and the preservation of our heritage.

By imposing far stricter planning restrictions on renovation of heritage buildings it is true that the market will pay an initial lower premium for these sites in the short term.

Longer term, we should see increasing rateable value, rising property values and the subsequent social value in preserving these still vibrant areas. Surely this outweighs any short-term monetary gain for our already cash-rich government.

Are we not being selfish in cashing in now and asking the next generation to pay for it?

David Chan is an architect and a director of an international property consultancy
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Old September 20th, 2008, 02:15 PM   #127
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From news.gov.hk:
20 pre-war shophouses to be preserved
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 08:34 AM   #128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkth View Post
One of the renderings shows modernization more than preservation. The facade looks completely different!
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Old September 24th, 2008, 10:47 AM   #129
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Keep district flavour, say tenants
20 September 2008
South China Morning Post

Shop tenants and residents like the plan to preserve pre-war buildings in Yau Ma Tei, although there are worries that shophouses would lose their flavour if turned into restaurants.

Ms Tsui, who runs Prince Edward Road East's Kwan Kwan Garden florist shop, supports the plan so long as she can stay. "I have been in the flower business for over 20 years. I don't know where else I can go."

It was a good idea to keep florists together, she said, "because people come here for more choice".

A florist next door, Cheng Shui-mui, is also worried. "We've had a hard time paying about HK$60,000 for monthly rent. I hope they won't raise the rent."

She agreed with the plan to hand over the shops upstairs to the arts community. "This keeps the area in order, and can attract more visitors."

On Shanghai Street, one resident expressed hope that his family could be relocated to a better home. Gao Ke, 28, lives with his wife and son in a cramped 75 sq ft flat in one of the verandahs.

It is an illegal structure on the rooftop, the unit has no windows and no kitchen. On typhoon days, it floods. The last time he "dared not sleep. I was afraid the roof would collapse". He hoped the authority would relocate him to public housing.

Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Hui Tak-leung, however, has doubts about turning the Shanghai Street units into restaurants. The buildings are too dilapidated, he said, and large-scale renovation would ultimately alter their style and the historic flavour.

"It is the facades that are the most beautiful features. Tourists can simply look up in the street and take photos.

"The interior needs maintenance but not intensive use. Large scale renovation will drastically change the old flavour. It will also overload the units if turned into restaurants," Mr Hui said.

But if the authority is to start the project, the councillor suggests enhancing the surroundings to attract tourists. "They can pedestrianise the street, for example."
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Old October 16th, 2008, 08:26 AM   #130
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Historic sites earmarked for wine and creativity
16 October 2008
South China Morning Post

The wine trade and creative industries will be offered the chance to revitalise two historic sites - the Haw Par Mansion in Tai Hang and the former police quarters in Central where remains of one of the city's first schools have been discovered.

The mansion, retained when the Tiger Balm Garden - one of Hong Kong's first theme parks - was demolished for the Cheung Kong (Holdings) luxury property development, The Legend, could be adapted for uses associated with the wine trade, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in his policy address.

He said the trade had been looking for a location for wine shops and wholesalers, storage, a museum, bars and restaurants and somewhere to stage auctions and wine appreciation classes and run a wine school.

While so far only non-profit organisations had been invited to revitalise historic buildings, some heritage sites were suitable for commercial use, he said. To test market and community reaction, the government planned to designate the mansion for commercial use.

The mansion, built in 1935 in the Chinese Renaissance style as a residence for Aw Boon Haw, founder of the Tiger Balm medicine business, is a grade II historic building. A government source said wine trading was just one of the potential uses for the mansion. Meanwhile, the former police quarters in Aberdeen Street where parts of the foundations of Central School have been unearthed, will be permanently withdrawn from sale for redevelopment and designated for educational and creative industry use. A government source said it had not been decided whether the quarters would be demolished.

As well as proposing the site be used by the creative industries, Mr Tsang announced the setting up of a creative industry office to co-ordinate the work of departments to develop relevant skills.

The office would "consider providing more effective support for our creative industries through integration of resources". It is expected to open next spring.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong's architectural conservation programme, worried that the Haw Par Mansion would become an exclusive place for wine-lovers. He said whichever company took it over should be asked to open it to the public at least once a week.

Dr Lee said turning the Central School site into a base for creative industries would protect it from dense development. But he urged the government not to demolish the quarters, built in the Bauhaus style.

Meanwhile, the government will help fund the private Hong Kong Maritime Museum's relocation to Pier 8 in Central, where a bigger display could be housed.

The museum's lease at Murray House in Stanley runs out in 2010.
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Old October 16th, 2008, 08:02 PM   #131
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24-site heritage tour for Wan Chai
Access to some buildings on trail uncertain

6 October 2008
South China Morning Post

The government has identified 24 spots to form a heritage trail that tells the story of old Wan Chai, although the fate of some of the buildings is still up in the air and they may eventually be closed off to the public.

There are also concerns that merely erecting information signs to create the trail, as the government has done in the past, does not go far enough.

The locations identified by the Old Wan Chai Revitalisation Initiatives Special Committee cover landmarks like the Blue House on Stone Nullah Lane and the old Wan Chai Market. Two privately owned mansions and the Sikh temple are also on the list. Not all sites are open to the public, however.

Nam Koo Terrace on Ship Street is owned by Hopewell Holdings, which has yet to decide whether to make it open to the public or keep it private.

No64 Kennedy Road may also end up off-limits to the public. The owner applied to allow for higher-density land use, but is facing objections from concern groups.

In addition, the fate of the Wan Chai Police Station is still up in the air. The government has said police would vacate the building, but it is unclear whether it will be preserved.

The Old Wan Chai Market, shophouses on Burrow Street and Mallory Street, and the Blue House have been designated for revitalisation, but when they will be ready is uncertain.

The convenor of the revitalising committee, Stephen Ng Kam-chun, said members were still studying the details to come up with a design for the heritage trail. The committee has suggested putting up signs and decorating two historic temples with special lights to improve the area at night.

Anthony Siu Kwok-kin, a research consultant to the committee, said the trail should take about two to three hours.

Professor Siu suggested starting the route in the east along Queen's Road East, zigzagging through the heart of old Wan Chai along Tai Yuen Street and Spring Garden Lane to end on Johnston Road. "But signs would not be enough to tell history. We need well-informed guides," he said.

Ho Pui-yin, a historian at Chinese University, also said a trail with signs about the buildings would not be enough to put them into proper context.

People on the fringes of society gravitated to Wan Chai in the 19th century, she said. "It was those who could not set foot in Sheung Wan and Central, like coolies working at the piers, that came to live on Queen's Road East."

Buildings such as the Blue House were examples of "primitive" housing. "People cramped in these small buildings. Balconies were narrow and lacked decoration.

"The drainage pipes exposed on the exterior walls are symbolic of the contemporary sewerage," Professor Ho said.

Spring Garden Lane was a red-light zone, said the historian, and there was an orphanage on the same street, run by nuns, to take care of abandoned babies.

Towards the west of the trail, Wo Cheong Pawn Shop and Nam Koo Terrace, with western-style facades and wider balconies, signalled the rise of the middle class by the turn of the century, she said.

"Wan Chai is an important part of modern Hong Kong identity. When the government says this is its first district-based conservation project, it should use the trail to show how society evolved."
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Old October 19th, 2008, 04:42 PM   #132
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Kowloon shophouses saved as part of preservation plan
Residents to be moved as buildings become galleries, cafes

20 September 2008
South China Morning Post

Two clusters of historic shophouses in West Kowloon are set to escape demolition - one group of buildings will be preserved for florists and artists, and the other will offer affordable dining in a bid to encourage people to visit the area.

The Urban Renewal Authority yesterday announced its largest heritage conservation plan, which covers 20 blocks of pre-war shophouses on Shanghai Street in Mong Kok and on Prince Edward Road East. No buildings will be torn down.

The project, costing HK$1.33 billion, is part of the authority's initiative to conserve 48 shophouses across Hong Kong.

One-tenth of the sum will be set aside for renovation, and the rest will be spent on acquiring the 73 property interests involved.

The shophouses, built in the 1920s and 1930s, share architectural features such as a long veranda linking the blocks, balconies and geometric patterns on the facade.

Shanghai Street's 10 shophouses have been occupied by shops on the ground floor and residents upstairs, typical of an old commercial street. They are Grade 1 historic buildings. The authority says it is open to any options for how they will be used, while its chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, suggested that cheap eating places could be a good idea.

The Wo Cheong Pawn Shop, a preservation project in Wan Chai that now houses an art gallery and serves gourmet food, has drawn criticism that it is too expensive a restaurant for most people.

The authority has learned a lesson. "We are concerned about criticisms of Wo Cheong Pawn Shop. This time, we hope the public will be able to enjoy using the verandas," Mr Cheung said.

The 180 residents would be relocated, Mr Cheung said, because of "appalling" living conditions. "Some flats have no toilets and there are no residential amenities. It is hard to turn them into residential use."

Four blocks built in 1960 will be altered to house lifts and fire escapes and offer disabled access.

The cluster on Prince Edward Road East, forming part of a flower market, will remain.

"We do not wish to disrupt the thriving flower trade there. We hope the seven flower shops can stay," Mr Cheung added.

These shophouses were built by a Belgian construction company. They were marketed as "modern homes" and targeted at middle-class buyers.

Mr Cheung said the authority would not set "unreasonable" rent levels that would chase the florists away. "We do not expect to recover our development costs at all. The rents will only be used to sustain future operations."

As for the shops upstairs, the authority plans to reserve them for the arts community, such as for bookstores and dance studios.

That project is expected to be completed by 2014, and the Shanghai Street project one year later.

The authority will consult the public about the plan in the coming months, after which it will submit a development plan to the Town Planning Board for approval.
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Old October 20th, 2008, 11:45 AM   #133
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Taoist NGO fears museum plan is doomed Heritage board questions project
16 October 2008
South China Morning Post

A Taoist group that has proposed turning a historic building on Ma Wan Island into a museum is dismayed at the possibility it may be withdrawn from the government's heritage revitalisation scheme.

The Yuen Yuen Elderly Centre believes its plan for the Fong Yuen Study Hall is feasible, and does not want to see its efforts wasted.

Its fears were raised after the chairman of the scheme's advisory committee, Bernard Chan, said the study hall would be "challenging" to revitalise because of its poor accessibility and small size.

He did not rule out the possibility that the committee would pull it out of the scheme.

The plan by the group - part of the Yuen Yuen Institute, a Taoist NGO - was the only one of eight proposals to be shortlisted, which meant it had a good chance of being successful.

The centre has proposed turning the ungraded study hall in Tin Liu Tsuen into a museum showcasing artefacts of the old fishing village on Ma Wan, located between Lantau and Tsing Yi.

The museum would run eco-tours, putting visitors on boat trips to see the fish rafts. At night, the museum would become a centre offering courses on Chinese culture - such as painting and calligraphy - for local residents.

"The study hall was once a traditional Chinese school. We suggested returning it to its original use," said Calvin Yip Wai-lam, who is in charge of the centre.

He said he believed Ma Wan's population of 10,163, including the Park Island residential development, would be a large enough source of nighttime users.

He said that the 140 square metre floor area was too small for such purposes, so the front yard would also be used.

The hall is one of the seven government-owned historic buildings designated for the Development Bureau's revitalisation scheme, which invites NGOs to participate.

The school, blending Chinese and European architectural characteristics, was built by villagers for their children between 1920 and 1930.

The government has suggested uses for the building that include a small library, study room and community building.

Mr Yip said his group would be disappointed if the building was withdrawn from the scheme.

"We've put in a lot of effort and resources on the application, approaching professionals to prepare the drawings and design. If the conditions do not qualify, the government shouldn't have included it in the first place."

He said that the present transport network, with ferries and rural buses linking Hong Kong Island and the New Territories, would be insufficient to attract visitors, and the museum would depend on the full opening of Ma Wan Park and its road-improvement works to bring people in.

He estimated that the museum would attract 10 per cent of the visitors to the theme park.

Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties has been building the theme park on the island. Some facilities, such as a nature garden, have already been opened.

Ma Wan Fisheries Rights Association vice-chairman Chan Sung-ip said eco-tourism would serve a good educational purpose.

"People can come fishing, or simply take a look at how we work."

The area had about 80 fishermen, he said, but he had yet to invite them to take part.
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Old October 21st, 2008, 08:34 AM   #134
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Expert calls for heritage branding
21 October 2008
South China Morning Post

An architectural conservationist who has attempted to modernise the image of a colonial monument in Central using images has proposed "heritage branding" to raise commercial potential of historic buildings.

Chan Yiu-hung, an architectural photographer and image-branding consultant for property developments, has taken photos of the Helena May building in Garden Road to package it like a modern hotel and increase its appeal.

Mr Chan, who is studying for a master's degree in architectural conservation at the University of Hong Kong, volunteered for the project along with 10 colleagues.

Their aim is to highlight the historic features of the building built in 1914, such as its balconies, wooden staircases, arched doors and bells.

"Good photos in a property sales brochure can boost sales. I guess it's the same theory for heritage," he said at the exhibition at the Helena May yesterday.

The Helena May was opened in 1916 by the wife of then governor Sir Henry May, to provide a refuge for women arriving in the colony alone.

"People think this is an English club where only ladies gather to play bridge, but it's actually a hidden treasure," manager Betty Simpson said.

The club, which had seen membership shrink to 500 has 800 members, and a new image would help raise income to support maintenance, she said. Maintenance costs have been high. Renovation of the bathroom and repair of the fire staircase respectively cost HK$3 million and HK$1 million last year, she said.

The club will revamp its website with the photos next month, and distribute photo booklets to visitors.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the architectural conservation programme at the Hong Kong University, said the government could consider applying the same branding strategy to its seven historic buildings designated for revitalisation by NGOs. "A proper branding, identifying the heritage's core values, can boost visitor numbers and in turn make the operation financially sustainable."
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 04:26 AM   #135
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Treated like dirt
Hong Kong's soil reveals that it was much more than just a fishing village, but its archaeological heritage is threatened by official indifference

15 October 2008
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong is typically described as being no more than a small fishing village before five major clans settled in the New Territories during the Song dynasty about 900 years ago. But archaeologists now say it's probably far older and was a more prosperous community than is generally thought.

The problem is that relics offering clues about Hong Kong settlements that may date as far back as 6,000 years are in danger of being lost or destroyed because of insufficient government protection, they warn.

Surveys commissioned by the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) in the 1980s and 90s found relics buried in 237 sites across the city. About 800,000 items - mostly stone artefacts and shards of pottery - were unearthed during test digs and excavation work over the years, but they have mostly remained in storage.

Many sites are "disappearing both legally and illegally", says archaeologist William Meacham, an honorary research fellow at the University of Hong Kong's Centre of Asian Studies.

Last year, the Hong Kong Archaeological Society found that Luk Keng Tsuen on Lantau, where some Tang dynasty kilns were found, had been turned into a barbecue area.

"They [archaeological sites] are a heritage treasure shared by all. If you destroy them they'll be gone forever," says society chairman Cheng Kai-ming.

About five years ago, Meacham was outraged to find several large village houses being built near the Pak Mong site on Lantau, a repository of pottery from the Western Han period.

According to the AMO, construction around Pak Mong and Luk Keng Tsuen is not on "major deposit areas" at the sites. But Meacham says the government should at least allow archaeologists to assess the site and its surroundings as more relics may be buried nearby.

"You never know - what looks like a minor site may turn into a major one when you start digging."

But the AMO says it does all it can to protect sites, often seeking funds from related government departments to conduct "rescue excavations" when developers begin building on an archaeological site. For instance, HK$6 million has been allocated for a dig at So Kwun Wat in Tuen Mun, where there are plans to build a school.

Yet other than that, the AMO leaves many important sites untouched. It says this is in line with the international practice of putting off digs until necessary because technological advances are likely to allow historians to retrieve more evidence than is possible with existing tools, which may destroy more than they reveal.

"Our principle is not to excavate the site if possible because a dig is an irreversible experiment. Some archaeology textbooks even call it a destructive process," says Kevin Sun Tak-wing, the AMO's archaeology curator.

Sun says that has been a global trend since the 70s as historical preservation is balanced against social and economic development. A regulation that came into force this year now requires heritage assessments to be made before any construction work is undertaken in Hong Kong. The developer or organisation behind any project must commission a licensed archaeologist for a study of the area and to make recommendations on a course of action.

Although archaeologists agree with the AMO's approach for new excavations, they say the government should launch a scheme to monitor conditions at known sites, which may be threatened by human activity.

Steven Ng Wai-hung, an archaeologist at an environmental management company, says that relics in Hong Kong extend beyond the 237 identified sites, but that many areas have been damaged because of a lack of government attention. "Shouldn't [heritage authorities] at least send staff to check on these sites once in a while {hellip} to make sure they're still intact," he says.

Ng says the government could set up museums or archaeological parks to preserve major sites and attract tourists. It's not an issue of money but of how conscious people are about protecting their heritage, he says, citing how prosperous villages in the Pearl River Delta set up display centres when historical sites are uncovered during construction projects.

By contrast, Ng points to inaction in Hong Kong following a dig at Ma Wan in 1997 that uncovered 20 graves with cultural relics dating back to the late neolithic and early bronze ages.

"The excavation at Ma Wan was voted one of China's 10 major archaeological discoveries that year by mainland experts," he says. "Shouldn't the government consider preserving the site or building a museum there? If they did so, Hong Kong would have one more tourist attraction. But they decided just to dig everything out and put the relics in storage."

Liu Mao, a researcher at the Hong Kong Institute of Archaeology, says the government has done more to preserve cultural heritage as public concern about such issues has grown in recent years, particularly following the demolition of the Star Ferry Pier. "But efforts are mostly concentrated on historic buildings and there's no mention of archaeology," she says.

Ng, who stumbled upon a site at Wong Tei Tung, in Sai Kung, during a hike in 2003, says a dig uncovered about 3,000 stone artefacts dating back more than 4,000 years. They found evidence that early settlers were quarrying stone for export. Meacham reckons the relics are between 5,000 and 7,000 years old, but some experts estimate they could date back 20,000 to 30,000 years.

"If that's true, it would be hugely important in world archaeology," says Meacham, adding that further investigation is needed to determine the age of the site.

"Even if my estimate is correct, it is still a very important site. You don't have many of those around the world because it's a huge effort to quarry stone and [settlers] were obviously exporting and trading it."

Indeed, experts say Hong Kong has a richer history than most people realise. It was well known as one of China's 26 salt-making centres during the Song dynasty, but the discovery of a number of ancient kilns across the New Territories has also led Ng to conclude that Hong Kong had a flourishing lime-making industry during the Tang dynasty.

Early coastal settlers were also found to have made notched quartz rings for export to the mainland as ornaments, suggesting that Hong Kong was a significant production and trading centre some 4,000 years ago, he says. "For geographical reasons Hong Kong had become a port, a way station and a stop along the sea route to Southeast Asia. Many different people visited and stayed here, and as a result many artefacts were left behind," he says.

Liu urges the government to make better use of its excavated relics instead of leaving them in storage. The artefacts should be properly studied and displayed in exhibitions to educate the public about the city's history, she says.

"People should know that Hong Kong was more than a fishing village. This is particularly important for the younger generation. The older generation who came from the mainland generally don't think about the history of Hong Kong, but these young people were born and raised here. They should have more respect for their history."
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Old October 22nd, 2008, 07:29 AM   #136
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Comparison : old and renovated buildings in Kowloon

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Old October 23rd, 2008, 09:15 AM   #137
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Historic preservation is not always about buildings, it is also about culture as well. The two will likely intertwine.

灣仔靈異遊 認識舊社區 街坊當導遊 借鬼故推保育
10月23日 星期四 05:05

【明報專訊】下周五便是萬聖節。近年香港人過萬聖節,總愛到主題公園排長龍,靠化妝演員喊破喉嚨嚇自己。但原來要聽靈異故事,走入社區也可以。多名灣仔老街坊從歷史檔案及長者口述相傳,選出該區八大「靈異景點」,由街坊充當導遊,帶領團友入夜出發,沿途「鬼話連篇」,只望有心人認識區內文化歷史。究竟摸黑遊歷要注意什麼?導遊黃秀屏微笑中帶半分認真︰「記緊數齊人數啊!」弄得記者也突然有點「毛管戙」!

舊街市傳說「賣人肉」

「許多人或許已聽過區內鬼古,但聽還聽,始終不及親身遊一趟過癮!」40多歲的秀屏一語道破參觀人士的心態。她身形嬌小,身上沒配襯奇裝異服,簡單手執一本灣仔資料集便帶記者出發,首站是結業不久的灣仔街市後門。

秀屏指着鏽迹斑斑的鏡子說︰「40年代灣仔淪陷,街道鮮見行人,街市旁邊的防空洞是日佔時期街坊的逃亡避難所,許多人不幸被炸死,會被日本仔拖到街市地牢存放,更恐怖的,就是被人割去大髀肉出售,『吃大髀肉』的傳說當時十分流行,亦不時傳出有人在附近見鬼,所以有人在後門放了一道桃木劍和鏡子來辟邪。」她慨嘆灣仔街市不久將會改建成一幢46層高住宅時,不禁大呼「很異相」。

遊南固臺同濟中學聽鬼古

天色漸漸轉暗,跟着秀屏腳踏昏暗小路,無論是荒廢已久船街南固臺、同濟中學,或是高尚住宅區星街附近的八公廟,她都能把背後的鬼古及歷史資料娓娓道出。別以為秀屏是文化研究學者,她只是一名平凡家庭主婦,看見子女長大便騰出時間做喜歡的事。她說﹕「灣仔是個很可愛的地方,但近年發展急促,在重建過程中,是否有些重要特色被拆掉了?我希望人們可多了解這區可愛之處。」

為設計行程,她和幾位街坊四出訪問老街坊、小販及鄰居等,並到圖書館找資料,花了數周選出8個必遊地點。該「鬼古團」已舉辦了3、4年,參加者包括中學生、教師、外籍人士及一家大細等等,每次帶團數目不超過20人。

「我經常提醒團友,參觀時要保持安靜,因為這是善意參觀,晚間遊覽必須互相留神以防走失,無宗教信仰的,經過廟宇時不要大驚小怪。」秀屏說,今年趁萬聖節快到,活動特別名為「黑暝暝好『鬼』徑—靈異傳說遊」,由聖雅各福群會及灣仔民間生活館舉辦,暫得一團,明晚8時至10時出發,由於反應熱烈,名額早於本月初爆滿。不過秀屏表示,若閣下「湊夠」十人,也可致電聯絡,若時間許可,可以加團。

「灣仔靈異傳說遊」報名方法

只要湊夠至少10名朋友,便可獨立包團,詳情可向灣仔民間生活館查詢。

價錢︰每位58元

電話︰2835 4376

明報記者 彭碧珊
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Old October 29th, 2008, 07:32 PM   #138
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Opinion : Don't destroy unique qualities that make SoHo so special
26 October 2008
South China Morning Post

The H19 proposal, the Staunton Street/Wing Lee Street Urban Renewal Authority project, will destroy what is uniquely Hong Kong. The vibrant neighbourhoods may soon be replaced by just another tall building. This does not have to happen.

Years ago, I lived in the historic neighbourhoods of New Orleans. The dying warehouse district was transformed into thriving neighbourhoods of apartments, art galleries, shops and restaurants. This was not done by replacing the warehouses with new buildings but by recycling existing buildings and renovating them inside and out. The special characteristics of neighbourhoods that make each city unique were maintained. There is evidence this is happening in the SoHo area, with new stores, bars and restaurants opening every year.

Consider the impact of changing the population dynamics. The vertical increase of population density will reduce traffic to a standstill. There is very little space on the pavements and pedestrians sometimes have to walk on the road. Unless these streets are widened with the increase in population density, the congestion that will follow development will cause unintended consequences that cannot be solved after the density is changed.

This kind of urban renewal carries a high cost to existing communities and in many cases results in the destruction of vibrant neighbourhoods. This type of urban renewal is a regressive mechanism for enriching the wealthy at the expense of taxpayers and the poor. What happens to the people who cannot be relocated or those who have lived in that area their entire lives?

Areas like SoHo can be preserved by enacting preservation laws, making it historic as it reflects certain characteristics that are unique to the city. If the stretch of Hollywood Road between Central and Mid-Levels were designated a historic area, this would increase awareness of Hong Kong's uniqueness, boost tourism and raise tax revenue. Imagine a Hong Kong without Lan Kwai Fong, but instead high-rise apartments, or going to The Peak and not being able to see the harbour because of tall buildings. Before we know it Hong Kong will turn into just high-rises.

K. B. Elliget, SoHo
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Old November 2nd, 2008, 06:31 PM   #139
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Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower Restoration (11/2)





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Old November 4th, 2008, 05:08 PM   #140
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關公廁藍屋居民解決難
04/11/2008




【本報訊】政府去年推出活化灣仔藍屋計劃,雖然表明「留屋又留人」,但留下來的藍屋居民卻要為解決基本的生理需要而煩惱。由於藍屋屬舊式唐樓,單位內沒有廁所,居民一直使用灣仔舊街市內的二十四小時公廁「解決」,但隨尠舊街市上月關閉,新街市的公廁又於每晚八時後關門,居民晚上「人有三急」,再難找到解手的地方。

最近公廁要行五分鐘
退休人士劉先生住於藍屋逾三十年,三代同堂。他表示,雖然交加街公廁二十四小時開放,但該公廁距離藍屋甚遠,路程達五分鐘,難解居民之急,因此自灣仔舊街市的公廁停用後,屋內長者索性在廚房水渠小解,「如果大解就用膠袋,之後當普通垃圾扔走。」

發展局發言人回應,上月中已知悉舊街市廁所關閉後,藍屋居民大為不便,當時已安排交加街公廁二十四小時開放。
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