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URA spurs sports activity zone in Mong Kok

Mong Kok will see the birth of a Sports Activity Zone through urban regeneration with the Urban Renewal Authority's commencement of a $3.14 billion Sports Retail City project spearheading the regenerating process.

The Sports Retail City is designed to enhance the unique local character of the sports retail trade in Fa Yuen Street, Nelson Street and Shantung Street, which is dubbed Trainers Street due to its concentration of trainers shops. All sports retailers affected will be able to choose to move back to continue their business when the project is completed.

The URA today (Friday) unveils an innovative design for the Sports Retail City by a team of architecture consultants led by Professor Bernard Lim. On the one hand, the design breaks up the building mass skillfully into a juxta-positioned jigsaw of shop units with plenty of "breathing space" in order to blend in with the local small shops environment. On the other hand, streetscape of a sports theme links up the retail city with the nearby Macpherson Playground and the proposed Macpherson Indoor Stadium to form a Sports Activity Zone.

A Sport Hall of Fame, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, will also be set up inside the Sports Retail City.

Also known as the Sai Yee Street redevelopment project, this is the last of the 25 uncompleted projects announced by the then Land Development Corporation in early 1998. Government and Members of the Legislative Council have tasked the URA to give priority to implement the projects while the Sai Yee Street residents, with strong backing by the Yau Tsim Mong District Council, have been anxiously urging for early redevelopment.

The project covers a site area of about 26,500 square feet bounded by parts of Sai Yee Street, Nelson Street and Fa Yuen Street. It presently accommodates a total of 14 buildings of 40 to 55 years old with an estimated 220 households comprising about 500 residents. There are also about 38 shops of which 19 are sports retailers accounting for about 25% of all sports goods shops in the area. The remaining three quarters will not be affected by the project.

Unveiling the design today, the URA at the same time carried out an occupancy survey at the project site to ascertain the status of the occupants for property acquisition, compensation and rehousing.

Speaking at a press briefing, URA District Development Director, Mr Stephen Lam, conceded that this was one of the most difficult projects URA has handled so far.

"The residents have waited in blighting conditions for ten years after the former Land Development Corporation announced the project in January 1998 and thus hoped that URA would make good the promise of redevelopment. Some shop owners and tenants, however, are opposed to redevelopment for fear of losing their businesses and investment opportunities. Other interest groups, including some Legislative Council members, have asked URA to see how the local character of sports retail trade would not be affected," Mr Lam said.

"We know it is impossible to fully satisfy everybody but we have tried exceedingly hard to come up with a balanced package to cope with the demands of all stakeholders as best as we can.

"We would continue to maintain a close dialogue with all stakeholders, in particular the shop owners and operators, to alleviate their concerns," he said.

In explaining acquisition policies for the project, Mr Joseph Lee, District Development Director of the URA, said that URA's existing compensation policy is based on Government compensation policy approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council.  It consists the following in gist:

  • live-in residential owners will be compensated as in other projects under the "7-year rule" (cash value of a notional 7-year-old flat in the same locality);
  • residential tenants will still receive ex-gratia payment under the "7,5,3,1 rule", plus an additional incentive where applicable, despite the fact that the rule originally contained in the Landlord and Tenants (Consolidated) Ordinance has been repealed; tenants who are qualified for public housing may opt for a public housing unit instead;
  • shop owners who occupy the premises will receive, in addition to market value of the premises concerned, 35% more or 4 times the rateable value (roughly equivalent to 48 months' rent) as ex-gratia payments, whichever is higher; and
  • shops tenants will receive three times the rateable value as ex-gratia payment.

In addition to the above, the URA has decided to implement three new measures for the project, namely:

  • live-in residential owners will be eligible to participate in an "Expression of Interest in Purchasing Arrangement" whereby they can register with the URA to express an interest in getting priority to purchase a new flat in the new development at the market price when the new development is completed; this is designed for  those who will have a need to move back to the same location for personal reasons such as to maintain their social networks;
  • shop owners who occupy the shops and shop tenants will enjoy an additional Ex-gratia Business Allowance up to three times rateable value (roughly equivalent to 36 months' rent) payable at the rate of 0.1 time rateable value for each year of continuous occupation of the premises up to a maximum of 30 years, subject to a minimum amount of $70,000 and a maximum of $500,000; this is intended for alleviating the possible business loss due to redevelopment; and
  • for the 19 operators of sports retail business, whether they are tenants or owners, if they choose not to receive the Ex-gratia Business Allowance, they can take part in a Local Sports Shops Arrangement whereby they will be given priority to lease a unit in the Sports Retail City at market rent for an initial term of three years. This arrangement has taken into account views and suggestions by members of the Legislative Council and the shop operators aiming at helping preserve the unique local character of sports retail trade.

Mr Stephen Lam said the sports activity theme for this area of Mong Kok was arrived at after extensive public consultation in the past two years.

He said: "We agree with community views that it is important to preserve the unique business character of Trainers Street. On further investigation, we concluded that the construction of a Sports Retail City would not only achieve the purpose of preserving local character but also producing a synergistic effect with the nearby Macpherson Playground and the planned Macpherson Indoor Stadium to form a Sports Activity Zone horizontally."

"In practice, this is the point-line-surface approach of design for urban regeneration. All we need to do in extra is to redesign the streetscape linking up the retail city with the other two locations."

The Sports Retail City will provide about 88,800 square feet of floor area for retail, recreation, sports and cultural uses and 150,000 square feet for residential uses after its expected completion in 2013. 

Professor Bernard Lim said he has avoided the conventional approach of large shopping mall design because that would create a huge, unsightly building mass. Instead, he adopts a "free form" approach with a cluster of small shop units that would blend in well with the small shops in the neighbourhood.

The retail city will cater for a wide range of sports retail goods as well as all kinds of sports-related services for leisure, fitness training, interactive simulated sport for family and fun, health foods, etc.

"Inter-connecting open spaces, view corridors, spacious landscaping terraces and transparent glass façades will give the visitor a dynamic and upbeat feeling," Professor Lim said.

A special feature of the City is the setting up of Hong Kong's first Sports Hall of Fame inside the building. The hall will display exhibits, historic objects and souvenirs commemorating the achievements and history of all top-notch athletes of Hong Kong.

"More and more Hong Kong athletes have achieved outstanding results on the international arena. A Hall of Fame is a fitting recognition and tribute to them and those to follow. It can also serve as an encouragement to the younger generation of sports lovers," the professor said.

Construction of the Sports Retail City is expected to be completed by 2013. It is estimated to cost about $1.14 billion to build whereas another $2 billion is estimated for property acquisition from existing owners and compensation or rehousing for tenants.

Approximately within the next three months, the URA will issue purchase offers to the owners for acquiring the 175 affected property interests. Upon completion of the property acquisition exercise, the URA will make compensation or rehousing arrangements for the tenants.

The URA will organise a series of briefings for the affected owners, residents and shop operators to explain to them the acquisition and compensation and rehousing arrangements.  It has also appointed an urban renewal social service team of The Salvation Army to provide professional and practical services alongside URA frontline staff for the affected residents, in particular the elderly, physically handicapped, new arrivals and single-parent families. The telephone number of the social service team is 2391 3483.

Residents and owners who want to make enquiries may also call the URA hotline 2588 2333.