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Langham Place kick-starts regeneration of Mongkok

The $11 billion urban renewal project Langham Place which is expected to kick-start a sustained regeneration process in Mongkok and become a model for future urban redevelopment projects was officially opened by the Chief Executive of HKSAR, Mr. Tung Chee-hwa, today (Tuesday).

Redeveloped from what was known as the Mongkok Six Streets, Langham Place stands as a flagship redevelopment project and a milestone in Hong Kong's history of urban renewal. It boosts 1.8 million square feet of floor area comprising an intelligent office tower, a 665-room five-star hotel and a 15-level shopping mall, all held together by a glass atrium with a "digital sky roof." The project is a joint venture between the Urban Renewal Authority and local developer Great Eagle Holdings Limited.

The flagship project signifies two fundamental forces of urban renewal. First is the improvement en masse of living condition of the under-privileged. Through this mega project, some 6,000 small flat owners and tenants living in very dilapidated buildings had received cash compensation to purchase new homes or rehousing to improve their living standard.

The second force is the kick-starting of a remarkable upgrading of economic activities in the neighbourhood. Since the soft opening of Langham Place two months ago, a vibrant groundswell of retail business upgrading and building rehabilitation has emerged in the neighbourhood and the process is only just beginning. Given time, it is expected that a new oasis and activity hub for Mongkok will take shape, offering abundant opportunities for business growth.

The Langham Place is a fitting example of what the Chief Executive said in his Policy Address two weeks ago about the opportunities of job creation and innovative industries offered by urban renewal. Among the over 300 shop operators at Langham Place, over 70 per cent are present in Mongkok for the first time and many of them are young people trying out their shops with innovative concepts.

Langham Place employs a staff of over 2,000 for management of its hotel, shopping mall and office tower. It is estimated that several more thousands jobs would be created by its cinema, hundreds of shops and a large number of firms moving into the office tower.

The Chairman of the URA, Mr. Edward Cheng, said the URA would use Langham Place as an anchor to expedite the regeneration of the rest of the old Mongkok area. "Over the next few years, we will push on with our '4R' strategy, i.e. redevelopment, rehabilitation, preservation and revitalization, in Mongkok. We will also closely monitor the social and economic regeneration of this area, including the living environment, land value, pedestrian flow, retail mix, traffic flow as well as voluntary rehabilitation of nearby buildings. This may render us valuable experience in how urban renewal can bring new life to a community," he said.

Mr. Cheng also said that whilst the Chief Executive has reiterated his strong support for urban renewal and the URA in his Policy Address, the URA would devote a larger amount of resources to increase the pace of urban renewal in the next five years. Furthermore, the URA would actively pursue new ideas in response to the Chief Executive's concept of fostering cultural and creative industries through urban renewal.

Dr K.S. Lo, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Great Eagle Holdings Limited, said that Langham Place currently attracted over 200,000 visitors each day. The star of attraction is the nine-storey-high glass atrium that he describes as "an oasis in the hustle and bustle of Mongkok." The atrium features Hong Kong's longest indoor escalators at 880 feet and an extravaganza of digitally animated fireworks display on the roof in the evening.

Langham Place started in February 1989 when the former Land Development Corporation (replaced by the URA in May 2001) signed an agreement with Great Eagle Holdings Limited to carry out the project which was known as Mongkok Six Streets. The LDC acquired 90 per cent of 538 property interests affected and the remaining interests were resumed by the Government. About 800 affected tenanted households were offered cash compensation or rehousing. The project took a total of 16 years to complete, including 11 years for town planning approval and site assembly and five years for construction.