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Members of the Special Committee inspecting a typical unit of the Mallory Street shop-houses that will be preserved and refurbished for creative and cultural business operations. From left to right : Mr Billy Lam, Mr Andrew Lam, Miss Maria Tam, Ms Tang King-yung
From left to rigth : Mr Mak Chi-cheung, Mrs Fanny Lai, Mr Andrew Lam and Ms Ada Wong
An artist's impression of the exterior design of the Mallory Street revitalisation project

Community starts work on URA revitalisation project

A newly formed committee between the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and the Wan Chai local community starts work today (Monday) on planning a $100 million revitalisation project in fostering Hong Kong's creative and cultural industries.

Subject to the Town Planning Board's approval, the URA intends to preserve a row of six pre-war "shop-houses" in Mallory Street, Wan Chai and refurbish them as a haven for various operators in creative and cultural industries.

"This is such a new and unprecedented attempt that we think it very important to widely consult the local community as well as the prospective operators before we decide on the mix of industries, architecture design and mode of self-supporting operational management," said Ms Maria Tam, URA Board member and Chairperson of the URA's Wan Chai District Advisory Committee (DAC).

The DAC has therefore set up a special committee for the project and invited the Wan Chai District Council and District Office to join in. Chaired by Ms Tam, the committee comprises DAC members Mr Mak Chi-cheung and Mrs Fanny Lai; Wan Chai District Council's Chairperson Ms Ada Wong and members Mr Steve Chan, Ms King Pui-wai and Ms Tang King-yung; Wan Chai District Officer Ms Pauline Wong and URA officials.

In deliberating the way forward for the project, an important part of the committee's task is to collect and collate views and suggestions from other segments of the community, particularly operators in creative and cultural industries.

The project is inspired by the Government's 2005 Policy Address that highlights "the importance of rejuvenating old districts in cities to create a cultural atmosphere, thereby attracting talents, fostering cultural and creative industries and developing local community economy." The Policy Address says that creative industries in Hong Kong encompass 11 categories: design, architecture, performing arts, publishing, music, film, computer software, digital entertainment, performing arts, broadcasting, and antiques and art dealing.

"Mallory Street is a trial project that will provide about 20 units of space totaling about 18,300 square feet. Obviously, there is a limit to the number of operators it can accommodate and hence the importance of a judicious selection of future users," Ms Tam said.

The committee members carried out an on-site inspection of the pre-war architecture before holding its first meeting today.

During the meeting, the committee endorsed the terms of reference which included making recommendations on the direction, strategy and specific objectives for implementing the project, the measures to be taken by the URA in consulting the stakeholders, the layout and physical design as well as the detailed business plan for achieving financial self-sufficiency in day-to-day operation. The committee also agreed that wide public consultation was essential and the first stage should begin with inviting ideas and proposals from the 11 categories of cultural and creative industries.

Occupying a ground area of about 8,400 square feet, the project site currently has 10 four-storey "shop-houses" believed to be built in the 1920's. Some are in a very dilapidated condition without even basic sanitary facilities. The URA's initial plan is to retain and refurbish six of them, which are in a relatively better condition, to provide 20 or more partitioned units with a total floor area of 18,300 square feet. The remaining four buildings will be demolished to make way for a 3,000-square foot landscaped open space for public enjoyment. But if structure engineering permits, the façade of the four to-be-demolished buildings will also be preserved.

Commenting on the site, Ms Tam said it provided a rare opportunity for attracting creative talents to operate in an architectural setting with distinctive character and also the benefit of a convenient location.

She said the project was part and parcel of the URA's 4R approach - Redevelopment, Rehabilitation, Revitalisation and pReservation - for integrated, long-term urban renewal in the Wan Chai district.

Of the $100 million development cost, about $62 million is estimated for acquisition and rehousing. It is targeted that the project will be self-supporting in day-to-day operation. If everything goes well, the URA hopes to complete the project by 2007.