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Artist's impression : Prince Edward Road West/Yuen Ngai Street project
Artist's impression : Shanghai Street/Argyle Street project

URA commences two preservation cum revitalisation projects

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) today (Friday) announced the commencement of two preservation cum revitalisation projects involving 20 pre-war verandah-type shophouses of outstanding heritage value, the largest single conservation initiative ever undertaken in Hong Kong.  These two massive preservation cum revitalisation projects will cost the URA about $1.33 billion.

On the initiative of the URA to implement the projects at Prince Edward Road West and Shanghai Street in Kowloon, the Chairman of the URA, Mr Barry Cheung, said: "The conservation initiative is part of the expanded conservation strategy on 48 pre-war shophouses announced in March this year.  The URA would like to give priority to these two projects which comprise 20 shophouses which are considered to have outstanding heritage value."

"As these shophouses form an important part of Hong Kong's history, the URA has decided to preserve them by way of Development Scheme Plan (DSP) submissions under the URA Ordinance. This is an effective way to ensure these precious shophouses will not be demolished.  The statutory planning process that would follow the DSP submission would allow those affected, and the community at large, to express their views to the Town Planning Board (TPB)," he added.

The 10 shophouses at Prince Edward Road West are categorised as Level One-- outstanding heritage value in a consultancy study by the URA while the cluster of premises at Shanghai Street are classified as Grade One historical buildings by the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB).

Built in the 1930s, the 10 shophouses (Nos 190-204 & 210-212) at Prince Edward Road West are 4 storeys high covering a total site area of 1,440 square metres with 37 property interests.

Noting that the buildings to be preserved are located at a site which has a historical connection with the flower business and trade, Mr Cheung said: "The URA aims to enhance this local feature with the retention of as many of the compatible existing businesses on street level as possible."

"For the Shanghai Street project, besides the 10 pre-war shophouses built in 1920-26s, four 1960s buildings which dissect the shophouse cluster are also included.  Our initial thinking is to provide the necessary building services in terms of lifts, fire escape and disabled access for the shophouses by altering the 1960s buildings," Mr Cheung said.

It is estimated that there are some 73 households involving about 220 people residing in the 24 buildings within the two sites.   However, the actual number of households and the occupancy status are yet to be ascertained in the freezing survey conducted by some 70 staff members of the URA today. 

Upon completion of the survey, the URA will conduct a public engagement and consultation exercise to solicit public views on the appropriate adaptive re-uses for these buildings.  "We are open to any ideas as long as the suggestions are practical, sustainable and are able to enhance the local feature of the district where the buildings are located," Mr Cheung said.

The findings of the public engagement and consultation exercise will form basis for the preparation of the two DSPs, which will be submitted together with Social Impact Assessment Reports to Town Planning Board (TPB) for consideration under section 25 of the URAO in early 2009.  

In parallel, the URA will arrange briefing sessions to explain to the affected owners and tenants the planning approval procedure and, if approved, the acquisition and compensation arrangements.  The URA has to obtain the consent of the TPB and approval by the Chief Executive in Council for the DSPs before it can proceed with acquisition of the property interests involved as well as compensation or rehousing for the tenants.

In accordance with section 23 of the URA Ordinance, a URA notice announcing the commencement of planning for the projects is published in the Gazette today. Within the next two months, plans delineating the boundaries 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, 181 Queen's Road Central, Sheung Wan), URA Neighbourhood Centre in Mong Kok ( Shop A  G/F,  Lisa House, 12-14A Yim Po Fong Street, Mong Kok) and the Public Enquiry Service Centre of the Yau Tsim Mong District Office (G/F, Mong Kok Government Offices, 30 Luen Wan Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon).

If approval is eventually granted by the Chief Executive in Council, the URA would proceed with acquisition of the 73 property interests and re-housing for the tenants, which are estimated to cost about $1.23 billion at current prices. Adding preservation and construction costs to the budget, the total development cost of these two projects is estimated to reach $1.33 billion.

An urban renewal social service team commissioned by the URA and staffed by professional social workers of The Salvation Army will provide counselling and practical assistance that the residents may need.  For enquiries, residents can either visit the URA's Mong Kok Neighbourhood Centre (2117 8660) or call the URA's Hotline at 2588 2333.