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Aerial view of Yu Lok Lane/Centre Street Project

URA starts $357m redevelopment project in Sai Ying Pun

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) will submit an application to the Town Planning Board (TPB) shortly for the implementation of a $357 million development scheme at Yu Lok Lane/Centre Street, Sai Ying Pun to turn a seriously dilapidated area into a historic theme garden and a residential development.

The scheme will also help improve the living conditions of about 80 households, many of whom have long urged the URA to redevelop the area.

In accordance with section 23 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance, a URA notice announcing the commencement of planning for the project is published in the Gazette today. Under section 25 of the same ordinance, the URA will submit a development scheme to the TPB for consideration within a few days.

Mr. Joseph Lee, URA's District Development Director of the URA, told a press conference today (Friday) that in accordance with statutory procedure, the URA would seek the consent of the TPB and approval of the Chief Executive-in-Council before it began acquisition of the 47 property interests and also provide compensation or rehousing to the tenants. He estimated that there were about 80 households comprising some 180 residents but the actual number would be ascertained in a freezing survey conducted by a team of about 30 URA staff today.

"We will begin consultation with the affected residents and the Central and Western District Council on how to proceed with the scheme very shortly. Our initial plan is to devote most of the street-level open space for building a specially design landscaped garden for public use. We hope the special design will feature some of the local heritage and nostalgic features of Sai Ying Pun in past generations," Mr. Lee said.

"Whether this idea is welcome by the residents and the District Council, we have to work with them to see if they like it and, if so, on the way forward. We may also need the help of historians and architectural design experts," he added.

The scheme also proposes to construct a residential block of some 220 units with a small commercial floor space of about 1,350 square feet at the site. However, the block will be elevated 20 feet above the ground level so that almost the entire site at ground level could be used for the garden.

Subject to detailed survey, two existing trees at the site will be considered for preservation in addition to new trees and greenery to be put in place for the garden.

Within the next two months, a plan delineating the boundary of the project plus a general description will be put on display for public inspection at the URA headquarters (10/F, Low Block, Grand Millennium Plaza, no. 181 Queen's Road Central, Sheung Wan) and the Public Enquiry Service Centre of the Central & Western District Office (Unit 5, The Center, 99 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong).

If approval is eventually granted by the Chief Executive-in-Council, the URA will proceed with acquisition of the properties and compensation or re-housing for the tenants, which are estimated to cost about $119 million at current prices. Adding construction and interest to the budget, the total development cost is estimated at $357 million.

The site area measures about 19,600 square feet and is presently occupied by 21 buildings mostly two to three storeys tall and built in the 1940s to 1950s.  They are mostly in a very poor condition and deemed to be beyond economic repair. Some of them do not have toilet or basic sewage facility.

The URA will hold briefing and consultation sessions to explain to the owners and tenants the planning approval procedure and, if approved, the acquisition and compensation arrangements next week.

An urban renewal social service team commissioned by the URA and staffed by professional social workers of the St James' Settlement will provide counselling and practical assistance that the residents may need.  The URA's telephone hotline at 2588 2333 will also handle any enquiries that the residents or the public may have.

This new project brings to 23 the number of redevelopment projects that the URA has commenced since the beginning of its redevelopment programme in March 2002. These include seven undertaken in association with the Hong Kong Housing Society. The total development cost of all these projects is estimated at about $18 billion.