URA looks to past for shops scheme
Hong Kong Standard
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The Urban Renewal Authority has come up with a HK$3.8 billion redevelopment plan to turn a century-old wet market and its surroundings in Sheung Wan into Hong Kong's first "Old Shops Street," with an area for hawkers.
"We hope to retain as much as possible ... We will see if we can create an old shops street in the area to bring back old names that are familiar to Hong Kong people," authority managing director Billy Lam Chung-lun said.
The Peel Street and Graham Street project is bounded by Gage, Cochrane and Wellington streets and Kin Sau Lane.
The 57,000-square-foot site will be turned into two residential buildings, a hotel and an office tower, all of which will be between 26 and 33 stories.
The project will affect 37 blocks, 360 vendors and shops, and 1,120 residents.
Four of the buildings were built before World War II while most of the others were built between the mid 50s and the late 60s.
Lam said the aim was to bring back the old charm and streetscapes.
He said three prewar shop houses will be preserved and put to adaptive re-use while the facade of Wing Woo Grocery will be conserved, subject to a structural engineering feasibility study.
The plan also incorporates a variety of hawking activities in Graham Street, Peel Street and Gage Street.
It is expected that about HK$1.8 billion to HK$2 billion of the HK$3.8 billion cost will be used to relocate and reclaim land from property owners and residents. However, the authority did not reveal how much it was offering per square foot.
According to the authority's standard policy, compensation would be aligned to other properties in the same area with a background of at least seven years, which would put compensation between HK$6,000 and HK$7,000 per square foot.
A store owner said she would not settle for anything less than HK$7,000 as rent levels in the area have always been high and relocation costs are steep.
Others said they were not too keen to move away because of either emotional attachment or the possible loss of old customers.
The project was one of 25 announced but not started by the former Land Development Corporation in 1998. The authority said it would maintain talks with residents and the district council on the plan.
Peel Street/Graham Street project was one of the 25 projects announced but not commenced by the former Land Development Corporation in 1998. The area comprises three sites bounded by Gage Street, Cochrane Street, Wellington Street and Kin Sau Lane in Sheung Wan.
Total site area : about 5,320 m2 (57, 240 sq ft)
No of buildings : 37 blocks (four pre-war and most are built in mid 50s and late 60s)
Property interests : 360
Affected households : about 470 (some 1,120 people)
Because of the dilapidated conditions of most of buildings and the poor living environment within the redevelopment site, the affected residents, Central & Western District Council, political groups and the community at large have voiced support for redevelopment and called on the URA to implement the project as soon as possible.
After two years of public consultation and community engagement exercises, the URA has drafted a Master Layout Plan for the project and submitted it to the Town Planning Board in late January this year for consideration.
2. Consultation process in project planning
The URA attaches much importance to the project which is sited at a busy location and full of interesting historical features.
Over the past two years, a bottom-up approach has been adopted to solicit community views on the way forward for the project. These included:
- commissioning a survey team of the HKU in 2005 to survey public views and aspirations on the project;
- briefing the Central & Western District Council on the initial design concept of the project in early 2006;
- Holding an exhibition survey in June 2006;
- Holding a community workshop together with the Central & Western District Council on 24 June 2006;
- commissioning a survey team of the HKU in June and July of 2006 to solicit public views at the exhibition and the workshop; and
- consulting the Central & Western DC on the layout plan in October 2006 which passed a resolution asking the URA to submit the MLP to TPB for consideration.
3. A design responsive to the community needs
Response to the above mentioned consultation exercises is encouraging. The essential sentiments of the community expressed to URA during the various consultation exercises have been reflected in the Master Layout Plan. These include:
(a) As a key feature of the design concept, three prewar shop houses at 26A-26C Graham Street will be preserved and put to adaptive re-use. Also, in view of its unique architectural design, the façade of Wing Woo Grocery will also be conserved subject to structural engineering feasibility study, as this building is structurally unsafe.
(b) preserving the local physical street character and its atmosphere at Graham Street
(c) preserving a variety of hawking activities at Graham Street, Peel Street and Gage Street
(d) creating an Old Shop Street;
(e) improving pedestrian flow and facilities;
(f) providing an east/west pedestrian linkage walkway;
(g) providing community facilities, public open space and greening facilities;
(h) provision of transport facilities and parking spaces and
(i) the proposed redevelopment will blend in well with the existing environment and will not give rise to unacceptable visual impact.
4. Theme of project design
Because of urbanization, old shops are being pushed away from the area during the years. Our design concept aims to redevelop the area in a holistic and coherent manner, so that the existing traditional streetscape and local cultural character may be preserved, the old area revitalized with synergy and vibrancy and the old shops are given an opportunity to come back.
Our theme is Nostalgia in Vibrancy: Bringing back Old Charms and Streetscape
One of the unique design elements is to create Graham Street as Hong Kong¡¦s first Old Shop Street where Hong Kong¡¦s renowned old specialty shops would be attracted to do businesses there.
The open market at Graham Street and Peel Street, being one of the local features, would be retained.
5. Design Features
Recreate the architectural style and streetscape
- Preserving the three building blocks at nos. 26A ¡VC, Graham Street;
- Other new buildings along Graham Street would be constructed after the architectural style of the existing low-rise buildings;
- Other new buildings in the site would be set back to improve air ventilation and more open space for street shopping.
Provision of an "Old Shop Street"
- The low-rise along Graham Street would be dedicated for famous old shops and trade. This would be the first "old shop street" in Hong Kong.
Public open space and green walking corridor
- A brand-new public open space would be provided linking up the three development sites of the project.
- An additional green walking corridor will pass through Cochrane Street, the three development sites, Graham Street, Peel street, Stavele Street, Gage Street and then extend to the "Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail"
- Hawkers' stalls can be set up in the public open space.
Careful transport planning
- Adequate loading/unloading areas would be provided to the future residents and avoid the creation of additional demand on the parking space in the nearby areas.
- The loading/unloading areas would be located in the L/G of the new buildings.
6. Development Impact Assessment
Various kinds of assessment have been conducted by professional consultants appointed by the URA with satisfactory results:
- Visual impact assessment
- Traffic impact assessment
- Construction impact assessment
- Environmental assessment
- Air ventilation assessment
7. Continuous public consultation
Formation of a conservation panel under the URA Central & Western District Advisory Committee to study and recommend measures to promote heritage conservation of the project.
Continuous dialogues with the local residents and district council.
The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) today (Thursday) announced the commencement of the Peel Street/Graham Street redevelopment project, estimated at a total development cost of $3.8 billion, by conducting an occupancy survey.
Measuring a total site area of about 57,240 square feet, the project is bounded by Peel Street, Graham Street, Gage Street, Wellington Street, Cochrane Street, Gutzlaff Street, Staveley Street and Kin Sau Lane in the Central and Western district. Some 360 property interests in 37 old buildings are expected to be affected. Four of the blocks were built pre-war, while the remainder were built mostly in the mid-50¡¦s and early 60's.
Speaking at today's media briefing to announce details of the occupancy survey, District Development Director of the URA, Mr Joseph Lee, said: "It is estimated that some 470 households involving approximately 1,120 people are residing within the site area. We are deploying some 90 staff members to ascertain the exact number of those affected and the occupancy status of the properties involved, aiming to complete the survey within three days."
Depending on the work progress, the URA intends to issue purchase offers to the owners for acquiring the 360 affected property interests in about three months. Upon completion of the property acquisition exercise, the URA will make compensation or rehousing arrangements for the tenants concerned. The estimated cost of cash compensation and rehousing is about $1.8 billion.
The Peel Street/Graham Street project is one of the projects announced but not yet commenced by the former Land Development Corporation in 1998. Over the past years, the affected residents have repeatedly petitioned the Legislative Council, the Government, Central & Western District Council and the URA urging for early implementation of the project to improve their living environment.
Also speaking at the briefing, Mr Michael Ma, Director, Planning & Design said: "In moving this project forward, the URA will not only bring tangible benefits to those directly affected, but will also provide a multi-purpose community hall with a floor space of 13,500 square feet and some 17,000 square feet of quality open space for the enjoyment of the community."
Central & Western District is a place full of interesting historical and cultural elements. Over the past two years, the URA has spared no efforts in engaging the community in a bottom-up approach on the design and other aspects of the project. The URA, after giving due consideration to all views expressed, has incorporated a lot of the suggestions in the final plan and design which has recently been approved by the Town Planning Board.
Mr Ma said: "One of the unique design elements is to create Graham Street as Hong Kong¡¦s first 'Old Shop Street' where Hong Kong's renowned old specialty shops would be attracted to do businesses there. The entrance of the 'Old Shop Street' will be located at the present Wing Woo Grocery whose façade will be preserved, subject to structural feasibility study. At the other end are the three prewar shop houses at 26A-26C Graham Street which likewise will be preserved and put to adaptive re-use. The rest are three-storey structures to be built for the specialty old shops; the design of these structures will be based on that of traditional shop houses in Hong Kong."
"The URA is keenly aware that we will be faced with a daunting task. Hence, a heritage advisory panel under the Central and Western District Advisory Committee, comprising district council members, local community figures, conservation experts, as well as hawker and resident representatives, has been set up to advise on our various conservation proposals. The panel and experts have started work and have initially obtained a very positive response from operators or descendents of the once vibrant specialty old shops."
"The project is also unique in that it is one of the earliest open markets in Hong Kong. Hawkers still operate in the area. Although strictly speaking they fall outside the project boundaries, we fully encourage these hawkers to continue with their activities upon completion of the project. Indeed we have been in close touch for months with government departments concerned and hawker representatives; we hope to put in place the best possible mutually-acceptable arrangements, be they interim or permanent," Mr Ma added.
He said: "We will take into consideration the views and needs of hawkers in our design for the future stalls so as to give added emphasis to the original district feature."
Mr Joseph Lee added: "Upon completion of the survey, we will arrange a series of briefings for the affected residents and shop operators to explain to them the acquisition and compensation and rehousing arrangements. Meanwhile, we have appointed the urban renewal social service team of the St James' Settlement to provide professional and practical services alongside our frontline staff for the affected residents, in particular the elderly, physically handicapped, new arrivals and single-parent families. The telephone number of the social service team is 2857 1606.
The URA will also set up a district office at 27A Gage Street to address public enquiries on the project. Members of the public are also welcomed to call the URA hotline at 2588 2333 for general enquiries about the project.
URA begins resuming Central plots
Authority moves on redevelopment despite opposition of residents, heritage groups
20 July 2007
South China Morning Post
The Urban Renewal Authority pushed ahead yesterday with its plan to knock down the city's oldest wet market despite strong opposition from heritage and residents' concern groups.
The authority took the first step in the resumption process for a half-hectare site in Central - which includes the 140-year-old market - by launching a population survey of about 1,120 residents in the area.
It did so in the face of continued opposition by critics who said the development would wipe out a rich and dynamic part of the district's history and that residents and traders did not want to move out.
In the HK$3.8 billion plan for the area bounded by Cochrane, Gage and Wellington streets, two residential blocks of 30 and 32 storeys over a four-storey podium are planned, as well as a 33-storey office tower and a 26-storey hotel on top of two more four-storey podiums.
Central and Western Concern Group spokeswoman Katty Law Ngar-ning said the development would destroy the market, which runs through Peel, Graham and Gage streets, and bring its rich and dynamic history to an end.
"The market is a vibrant place. It attracts a lot of tourists and is a favourite shopping place for the neighbourhood," said Ms Law, whose group conducted its own survey of people in the area.
"When we did the survey and chatted with the vendors and shop owners, many of them said they did not want to go.
"We have to express our view of preserving the market or keeping the effect on it to the minimum when the area is redeveloped."
The group will hold a signature campaign tomorrow and a website will be launched soon to give information about the project.
District development director Joseph Lee King-chi said the authority hoped to complete acquisition of affected properties within two years, with a budget of about HK$1.9 billion, which he said catered for possible fluctuations of the property market.
"But honestly, we can't predict what the market will be like during the period," he said. The compensation rate would be close to the prices of nearby private buildings, he said.
The authority's director of planning and design, Michael Ma Chiu-chi, said the project would preserve the external walls of the nearly 100-year-old Wing Woo Ho grocery store and three pre-war buildings in Graham Street.
A heritage advisory panel would work out ways to run a row of old-style shops the authority plans to build in Graham Street and the planned open market, he said.
The old-shop street would house century-old brand names and shops selling traditional products and handicrafts, he said, but he gave no details of what brand names would be invited or when the finalised plans would be submitted.
Ms Law complained that the heritage panel lacked transparency and excluded the public from its meetings.
"The panel comprises district councillors, historians as well as representatives of the affected vendors and residents.
"But they turned down our request to sit in on the meeting, saying that we have to express our opinion through the members instead," she said.
Roger Ho Yiu-sang, a heritage writer who recently wrote a book on the wet markets of Hong Kong, said the Central project focused more on making profits from the high-rise buildings rather than preserving the wet market tradition and heritage.
"The wet market in Central has a rich sense of interpersonal connections and community feeling," he said.
"Once it is knocked down and with its operation moved into commercial buildings, the whole feeling will be gone."
Coalition to fight `old-style shops' plan
23 July 2007
Hong Kong Standard
Graham Street in the central Mid- Levels does not need artificial ``old- style shops'' that would take years of construction work as there is already a 140-year-old open market, which is to be redeveloped under a HK$3.8 billion facelift, according to a concern group.
The Central and Western Concern Group _ a coalition of more than 10 community organizations _ said yesterday it will launch a signature campaign as part of efforts to prevent the government from turning a vibrant market into a ``decorated stage'' that would take at least five years to build.
Under the massive facelift announced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, a 57,240-square-foot area in the district housing Hong Kong's oldest wet market will make way for an avenue of shophouses, multistory residential blocks, a hotel and an office complex.
The area, bounded by Peel Street, Graham Street, Gage Street, Gutzlaff Street and Staveley Street, now has 37 old buildings with about 470 households and almost 80 shops.
The coalition said it has carried out a survey in the district and found there has not been adequate consultation with the residents and shopowners on the redevelopment plan. It said only half of the shop operators said the URA had sought their views.
Sixty-four percent of the operators said they believed the market should be preserved, while more than one-third said the district's historical values should be left intact and that they have developed a close relationship with the neighborhood.
Nineteen percent of the respondents vowed not to leave, and 17 percent said they will stay until the last moment.
John Batten, a coalition co-convener who lives in the area, said the campaign is meant to be political to some extent.
``We'll send questionnaires to all the nominees or candidates in the forthcoming district council elections to get their views on the heritage issue. We'll then publicize the results to let the voters decide at the ballot box,'' he said.
Katty Law Ngar-ning, another convener of the group, said more than half of the shop operators are against the renewal plan. ``Although the Town Planning Board has approved the URA plan, it's still not too late to opt for a better one and have a re-plan,'' she said.
The group urged the government to have review its policy on open markets.
Tanya Chan Shuk-chong of the Civic Party said: ``We don't need an artificial old-shop street. Tourists can't be bothered visiting it in Central if we already have something like the Ngong Ping 360 market. I hope the government will understand what's real and what's not.''
Yau Luk Chiu-wing, a fruit store owner who has been doing business in the open market for 35 years, said she was worried about the uncertainty.
``The URA has explained the renewal project to me briefly. Yet, no one has told me where my new shop will be,'' Yau said.
Wet market strikes back with fest
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Graham Street Market in Central - Hong Kong's oldest wet market - is turning the heat up at a community festival as part of its battle with the government.
The market's cultural treasures and unique features will be showcased to the public during a three-week community festival to be launched on Saturday.
People will get a chance to cook with TVB celebrity chef Chow Chung after shopping for ingredients in the market.
Chow has thrown his support behind efforts to save the market from development, in which seven streets would be affected and 37 buildings demolished. "This market is a symbol for Hong Kong," Chow said.
"It represents the essence of Hong Kong. People have been buying from this market for a long time and they have become attached to it. There's a strong sentiment and relationship unlike a supermarket which is very weak."
The festival is expected to attract thousands of visitors from November 3 to 24, and will feature a fashion show, cultural talks, craft shows and art exhibitions. Poets, academics, writers, artists and conservationists will steer the individual events.
"We want to celebrate our street market and raise public awareness about the cultural significance of this market so the government may be able to rethink its town planning policy," said one of the organizers, Katty Law of the Central and Western Concern Group.
Sentiment in the community has been stirred up since the government's redevelopment announcement.
Lau Chun, a chef at Yellow Door Kitchen - a restaurant near the market - whose kitchen will be used for the cooking sessions, is determined to save the market.
"Before we had fancy supermarkets in the IFC, and the Hang Seng Index, this market was already here. Our ancestors used to buy their food here. This is the real Central so how can we forget this?" Lau asked.
He said the market depicted a very traditional Chinese way of life.
"These people have nowhere to go to. This is their world - this is all they have."
Lau said he could buy ingredients like certain Chinese herbs, basil and fresh lotus picked from Lamma Island, which are difficult to find elsewhere.
The organizers of the event include SEE Network and the Conservancy Association.
70pc of households accept compensation
29 December 2007
South China Morning Post
More than half of the shops and households affected by the Graham Street and Peel Street redevelopments had accepted the compensation option offered by the Urban Renewal Authority, its managing director, Billy Lam Chung-lun, said yesterday.
Mr Lam, who steps down as URA chief on Monday, said he had never felt disappointed or unhappy about the public protests staged against the authority's redevelopment projects.
"While preserving our history, we have to protect the interest of the silent majority," he said. Efforts had been made to retain characteristics of redeveloped districts, he said, adding preserving the old market along Graham Street was an example.
According to the authority's latest figures, 33 per cent of the 78 shops and 70 per cent of 470 households affected by the Graham and Peel street projects had already accepted compensation.
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