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URA Chairman Mr Edward Cheng (left) and Managing Director Mr Billy Lam (right) oberved an architecture undergraduate operating a 3-D urban design software.
Mr. Edward Cheng and Mr. Billy Lam listened to discussion in a small group while Mr Vincent Ng, Vice President of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, is speaking.
Dr Law Chi-kwong introduced to the meeting a development concept plan proposed by a small group with the aid of a 3-D image generated instantly by professional software.

Locals join planning and design of Kwun Tong Town Centre redevelopment

Over 100 participants from the Kwun Tong community and other sectors today (Saturday) articulated their aspirations and innovations in a workshop on the future design of the Kwun Tong Town Centre, the largest ever single redevelopment project undertaken by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA).

The participants' task was facilitated by the use of a 3-D urban design computer software which is the first time that such a professional software is used for a community workshop of its kind in Hong Kong. A team of architecture undergraduates was on hand to assist the participants in generating instantly various planning scenarios and layouts according to their views and suggestions. Results of the workshop will be given to three architecture consultant firms selected by the URA to produce comprehensive development concepts which will then be used for further consultation with the Kwun Tong community and other stakeholders.

 The workshop, organised by the Kwun Tong District Advisory Committee (DAC) set up by the URA last November, is held to involve local residents, civic leaders, businessmen, planners, architects and social workers, etc. in the early stage of planning and design for the 5.35-hectare town centre. The URA intends to submit a formal planning application for this multi-billion-dollar project to the Town Planning Board before the end of March 2007.

Mr. Edward Cheng, Chairman of the URA Board, described the design workshop as an effective approach in "bottom-up" project planning that enabled a wide segment of the local community to participate hands-on in shaping an important part of their future habitat in an innovative and yet realistic manner.

"Through this workshop, the URA will not only have a firm grasp of the vision and aspirations of the local community but also establish a much closer mutual understanding between all interested parties and the Authority on the constraints and opportunities of this mega project," Mr. Cheng said.

"This is not simply a URA project. In view of its scale and complexity involving over 1,600 property interests, some 4,000 residents and need to maintain an unbroken service of public facilities even during the redevelopment period, it is essential that a close partnership be forged between the Authority and the residents. We will try to come up with a development model to reflect the ideas collected and put them in a coherent, integrated and modern manner.

"We should not lose this good opportunity to come up with a 21st Century design of world-class standard that can, apart from creating a meeting hub, help to address environmental and transport issues in East Kowloon," he said.

He emphasized that success of the project would depend on four critical factors including public participation in the comprehensive preparatory work on strategic positioning of the site as a community hub of East Kowloon, planning and design compatibility with government policies, acceptability of property acquisition and rehousing arrangements, and phased implementation to minimize disruption to people's livelihood.

"Of course, financial feasibility is a fundamental factor that must not be overlooked if we want to make our dream a reality," he added.

Professor David Lung, Chairman of the DAC who is also the Chairman of the Planning, Development and Conservation Committee of the URA Board, said the workshop provided an early opportunity for participants to visualize various options of the initial development design concept plans for the project with the aid of professional 3-D computer software.

"With the aid of the 3-D graphic software, participants were able to gain an instant 'feel' of the various development mix and phasings they wanted to achieve.

"Furthermore, they were able to readily appreciate the practical problems inherent in the urban design process, such as the hard choice between building height, density and open space," he said.

During the workshop, the participants divided themselves into six work groups and each eventually came up with its own vision of the development mix and phasing of implementation. Three consultancy firms appointed for the initial design concept plans of the project were on hand to present the broad parameters of their design direction and listen to the views of the participants so that they could input the views wherever practicable into their future designs.

"We would consolidate views and suggestions from the workshop as well as those we have collected earlier in our community aspiration survey and produce three different detailed designs for further public consultation in the coming months," Professor Lung said.

The Kwun Tong Town Centre project is one of the 25 redevelopment projects announced but not yet commenced by the URA's predecessor, Land Development Corporation, in 1998.