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Dilapidated building conditions

URA starts $260m redevelopment project in Tai Kok Tsui

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) today (Friday) announced the implementation of a $260 million redevelopment project at Fuk Tsun Street / Pine Street, Tai Kok Tsui, which is expected to improve the living conditions of some 300 residents and develop the site into a small "oasis" with green architecture.

The old district of Tai Kok Tsui is home already to four URA redevelopment projects since early 2002 as well as 13 rehabilitation projects since late 2003. They will together bring general improvements to about 3,150 households.

URA's District Development Director, Mr. Joseph Lee, told a press conference today (Friday) that upon statutory approval for the project, the URA would make acquisition offers for a total of 80 property interests at the project site and also provide compensation or rehousing for the tenants.

"Owners who actually live there will receive a home purchase allowance according to the 'seven-year rule' which, put simply, is the value of a notional seven-year-old flat of average quality in Tai Kok Tsui. On top of that, an incidental cost allowance will be offered as an incentive," Mr. Lee said.

"Judging by experience in all other similar projects, this compensation policy would help owner-occupiers improve substantially their living standard by purchasing replacement flats in the same district or elsewhere as they would like," he explained.

Landlords of tenanted flats or owners of vacant flats who have apparently no immediate need for a replacement home will still receive a supplementary allowance equivalent to half of the home purchase allowance on top of the open market value of their properties. Residential tenants will be offered the options of either cash compensation based on rateable value or public housing if they qualify for the usual requirements of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and Hong Kong Housing Society.

Owners and tenants of commercial properties will also be offered terms as set out in the Government's policy approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in March 2001. Any affected owner or tenant who wish to know the details can call the URA's hotline 2588 2333 or visit the nearest URA Neighbourhood Centre at 68 Bedford Road, Tai Kok Tsui.

Mr. Lee estimated the total cost of acquisition and rehousing at about $150 million at current day prices. Adding construction, interest and marketing cost for the future development, the total expenditure is estimated at about $260 million.

The site is about 5,800 square feet in size and is presently occupied by three residential blocks built in the late 1950s and 1960s.  The general condition of the buildings is poor and unsatisfactory.

"Given the rather ordinary quality and methods of construction for these buildings half a century ago, they will become exceedingly difficult and uneconomical to repair and upkeep 10 to 20 years down the road," Mr. Lee commented. 

It is estimated that there are about 140 households comprising some 300 residents in these buildings but the actual number is being ascertained in a "freezing survey" conducted by a team of 40 URA staff starting today.

The URA's plan is to redevelop the site for a residential block of about 70 units with a small provision of about 8,650 square feet for street-level shops.

Although the relatively small site area would not permit the provision of community facilities or public open space, the URA in keeping with its aspirations for quality urban design, intends to incorporate a strong element of greening in architectural design, as illustrated by an artist impression for the project that features both street-level greening and "vertical" high-rise greening.

Greening will also be carried out all around the perimeter of the project and the pavement on all sides will be specially designed to match the greenery. Conceptually, the theme is to produce a small architectural "oasis" to help brighten up the surrounding area.

In accordance with section 23 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (URAO), a notice announcing the commencement of planning for the project is published in the Gazette today and continues for a period of two months. 

Within the next two months until 16 February 2006, a plan delineating the boundary of the project plus a general description will be put on display for public inspection at the URA headquarters at 10/F, Low Block, Grand Millennium Plaza, no. 181 Queen's Road Central, Sheung Wan; the public enquiry service centre of Yau Tsim Mong District Office at G/F, Mong Kok Government Offices, 30 Luen Wan Street, Mong Kok; and the URA's Tai Kok Tsui Neighbourhood Centre at G/F, Bedford Tower, 68 Bedford Road, Tai Kok Tsui.

All objections will be handled in accordance with statutory procedure set out in the URAO. The Government will determine whether to authorize, amend or decline to authorize the development project after considering objections to the project. 

The URA will consult the Yau Tsim Mong District Council shortly and hold briefing and consultation sessions for the owners and tenants concerning the planning approval procedures.

An urban renewal social service team commissioned by the URA and staffed by professional social workers of the Salvation Army (telephone no. 2391 6733) will provide counselling and practical assistance that the residents may need. 

This new project brings to 24 the number of redevelopment projects that the URA has commenced since the beginning of its redevelopment programme in March 2002. This includes seven undertaken in association with the Hong Kong Housing Society. The total development cost of all these projects is estimated at about $18.3 billion.

Tai Kok Tsui, one of the nine target areas of urban renewal, has already seen the commencement of four redevelopment projects. Together with the fifth announced today, they cover a total site area of over 116,000 square feet. About 1,400 households have benefited or will benefit from these projects.

"Tai Kok Tsui is a district where the owners and tenants have been very forthcoming in supporting the URA's initiatives in both redevelopment and rehabilitation. Working hand in hand with them, the URA hopes that the consistent and accumulated efforts to regenerate the old district will become gradually make Tai Kok Tsui a more pleasant and vibrant place to live in," Mr Lee said.