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URA makes good progress in Wan Chai project

The Urban Renewal Authority today (Wednesday) reports that it has acquired over 74 percent of all property interests at the Lee Tung Street project which is the largest of its redevelopment projects so far.

This percentage has been achieved in a nine-month period since acquisition offers were made in January this year and the success rate is similar to other large projects launched by the Authority in the past two and a half years.

The Authority normally sets a 24-month time-frame to complete the land assembly process.

A URA spokesman said: "We are gratified by the understanding and co-operation of the property owners and if this continues, we certainly hope to be able to meet the 24-month target."

Based on the valuation of a notional seven-year-old replacement flat, the Authority has offered $4,079 per square feet of saleable area for owner-occupied domestic flats, roughly equivalent to about 2.9 times the open market value of the flats which are mostly built in the 1950's and 1960's.

The Lee Tung Street project in Wan Chai is expected to cost $3.57 billion. About half of the expenditure will be spent on compensation to owners of 647 property interests as well as compensation or rehousing for domestic tenants, and the other half on development.

The project is the latest of 17 redevelopment projects commenced by the Authority since March 2002. All belong to a group of 25 projects which were announced but not commenced by the Authority's predecessor, the Land Development Corporation in 1998.

"We are giving a high priority to these 25 projects and we have been trying very hard to move as quickly as we could, in spite of our limited resources," the spokesman said.

Besides being the largest in size with a site area of 95,000 square feet, the Lee Tung Street project also sets a record in communication with and social service for the owners and tenants. During the past nine months, the Authority's frontline staff held a total of 50 briefings for the residents and handled over 2,800 enquiries. A social service team commissioned by the Authority offered counseling and assistance in 300 cases.

The spokesman stressed that the Authority attached great importance to communication with the affected owners and tenants because money alone could not solve all their problems.

"Whenever possible, we would try to go out of the way to help solve their personal problems such as home hunting, home purchase deposit, bridging loan and even the many chores of house moving," the spokesman said.

"The URA is a relatively young organisation and we know our policies and systems are not perfect. We are keeping our policies under constant review and would therefore welcome views and suggestions from the local community including members of the District Council," he said.