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URA to support arts and cultural activities in old urban areas

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) announced today (Monday) a pilot scheme in support of arts and cultural activities in old urban areas.

Speaking at a media gathering, URA Chairman Mr Barry Cheung said: "Improving the quality of life of residents in dilapidated urban areas remains our primary goal, and incorporating arts and cultural elements into our projects helps underscore this objective.

"We will, for example, further welcome the use of our facilities on a rent-free basis, by cultural and arts organisations. Over the past year, 27 exhibitions have been staged at the Oasis Gallery of the Central Market, with partnering organisations such as The Hong Kong Society of Illustrators, the Central and Western District Council, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Public response to the exhibitions and activities has been very encouraging," said Mr Cheung.

Mr Cheung outlined the pilot action plan, which comprises five initiatives:

1. Dedicated fund for arts and cultural programmes

A dedicated budget of $25 million has been set aside for 2011/12 to allow for an increase in arts and cultural activities in old urban areas.

2. Partnership approach

The URA plans to work with local groups in organising arts and cultural programmes that are related to urban renewal. A partnership approach would create efficiency as well.

"Past successes have generated enthusiasm among all parties, and we are now working on a more formalised and strategic implementation framework for this partnering approach," said Mr Cheung.

The URA's new strategy will not duplicate the efforts of government departments and organisations in this area.
3. Full utilisation of URA-acquired properties

The URA intends to fully utilise its venues and facilities, including the Oasis Gallery, its acquired and yet-to-be demolished premises.

Mr Cheung said: "We will turn some acquired shops at our Prince Edward Road West project into a dedicated venue for arts and cultural activities.  The prime location is a big plus as well."

4. Better use of venues in redevelopment projects

The URA will also encourage its joint venture partners to fully utilise public open spaces and malls for staging arts and cultural activities. For example, the Authority¡¦s joint venture partner for Citywalk has set up a special team to organise such activities at that venue.

Mr Cheung said: "We have identified public open spaces that are suitable for arts and cultural activities at a number of completed URA projects.  The potential and opportunities are fairly exciting."

In addition, the URA has plans to make available occasionally the multi-purpose hall at the Urban Renewal Resources Centre at Tai Kok Tsui for similar purposes. The centre is expected to be ready by the end of this year or early next year.

5. Injecting cultural elements into urban renewal projects

Several URA projects have already seen the incorporation of arts and cultural elements, especially those relating to the projects¡¦ features and characteristics.  The Pak Tsz Lane revitalisation project highlights the historical and cultural significance of the 1911 revolution while the public area of the Lai Chi Kok Road project will underline the contribution of the New Asia College.  And Central Oasis has already been slated to include arts elements.

Mr Cheung added: "As another demonstration of our firm support, we will encourage the joint venture partners of our future projects to appoint art and design experts when it comes to designing open spaces.  We are keen to ensure that extensive public engagement initiatives will lead to the incorporation of local cultural elements and features. Two URA redevelopment projects that were launched earlier this year have been earmarked accordingly."

He said: "We hope the community will support and participate in these efforts. Together, we can make our arts-related initiatives relevant and meaningful."