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Phased development and one-off acquisition for Kwun Tong Town Centre project

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has decided today (Monday) to implement the Kwun Tong Town Centre project in phases and acquire all property interests in one go.  The URA targets to issue acquisition offers to owners of all affected 1,653 property interests in December this year.

Earlier, the Town Planning Board (TPB) considered all public representations made to the Development Scheme Plans (DSPs), and has recently decided to submit the plans to the Chief Executive in Council for approval.

One-off acquisition

Speaking to the media after today's URA Board meeting, the Chairman of the URA, Mr Barry Cheung said, "Careful deliberations have been given to the pros and cons of different options for the implementation approach of this massive project.  Based on the preamble to meet the aspirations of the affected residents and the local community, we have come to the view that the arrangements of acquisition in one go and phased development are in the best interest of all parties concerned. This has also taken into account the financial implications of the project for the URA."

Over the years, the URA has been in close dialogue with the local community and has been listening to the views of all stakeholders, in particular those residents who have longed to move out of their dilapidated homes since the project was first announced.

"We have heeded their views and decided to acquire the affected property interests one-off, even though the move increases the financial risk for the Authority when the project takes over 12 years to complete.

Mr Cheung described the acquisition task alone as the largest ever undertaken by the Authority which involved some 1,653 property interests.  "This is an exceedingly demanding task as the surveying firms commissioned must be able to mobilise the necessary manpower and resources to complete the valuation exercises within a specified time period so as to reflect as accurately as possible the market prices," he said.

"We do understand the anxieties of the affected owners for early acquisition, but we cannot underestimate the huge amount of work and the complexity involved.   We have been working vigorously with one mind to expedite our work as swiftly as possible," Mr Cheung stressed.

The URA will take a preparation period till November 2008, during which qualified firms of professional surveyors are invited and commissioned to perform assessment of a notional 7-year-old flat value and market value for each and every of the 1,653 property interests.  At the same time, solicitor firms will be appointed to verify the legal status and to prepare conveyancing documents of properties to be acquired.  Property consultants will be engaged to conduct a market study of supply of flats and shops in Kwun Tong, and the nearby districts

To cope with the increasing workload, the URA has expanded its Kwun Tong Office with a larger accommodation at Millennium City and strengthen the special acquisition team to look after this meticulous exercise.  The existing Hip Wo Street office will be upgraded as a Customer Service Centre to serve the affected residents.

Two enhanced measures

Apart from cash compensation, two enhanced measures recently introduced by the URA, namely: Expression of Interest in Purchasing Arrangement (EIPA) and Ex-gratia Business Allowance (EGBA), will be extended to this project.

Under EIPA, owner-occupiers of domestic properties can express to the URA their interest in getting an opportunity to purchase a new flat within the redevelopment at market price.

For eligible shop owners and tenants who have commenced occupation of the premises for business before the date of the freezing survey of the project, i.e. 30 March 2007, they are entitled to an additional payment (EGBA).  This allowance is intended for alleviating their possible business losses due to redevelopment.

Phased development

With a total site area of 5.35 hectares, it is estimated that the development, costing $30-plus billion, will take over 12 years to complete.  The Authority therefore considers that it makes good sense to implement the project in phases so as to sustain the vibrancy and vitality of the town centre throughout the entire redevelopment period.

"We have yet to decide on the actual phasing which will be detailed in the Master Layout Plan of the project to be submitted to the TPB for consideration.  Our priority objective is to make sure that the project is on the right track and proceed in an orderly manner with disruption of people's livelihood kept to the minimum.

"Obviously, phase one will see the relocation of the Yuet Wah Street bus terminus as the site does not involve any private property interests or residents." Mr Cheung added.

The Kwun Tong Town Centre project is targetted to complete by 2021, with the provision of 209,640 square metres for commercial use, 159,610 squares metres for residential areas and 16,300 square metres for Government/Institution/ Community purposes. Besides, there will be no less than 8,700 square metres of landscaped open space for the enjoyment of the public and 15,700 square metres of public transport interchange.

"It is the most challenging project ever undertaken by the URA in terms of complexity, scale and huge costs involved.  However, with determination and understanding of all stakeholders, we shall be able to overcome the hurdles ahead and make it a success for the Hong Kong community," Mr Cheung said.