The rise and fall of Tai Hang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


The hoardings have come down in Tai Hang to reveal the latest example of the cruelty of the city's planners and developers.

Soundwill's upmarket 37-storey Warren Woods looms over Tai Hang, one of Hong Kong Island's last low-rise villages. Tai Hang's grid of narrow streets is home to a community whose roots go back to the fishing village that sat on the bay before reclamation - and beyond. Its buildings all have commercial space at ground level, feeding the community's vibrant streets.

Sadly for some, gentrification is displacing the mechanics and panel beaters. Restaurants and boutiques are moving in, creating a hip new vibe and a renewal of the community.

But this neighbourhood has been spat upon. Removal of the hoardings revealed nothing but a long, concrete wall two storeys high at street level - another baleful podium, another barren stretch of footpath, another wall to absorb heat by day and radiate it by night.

What's wrong with our planners? Along with the developers, they display contempt for the communities they invade. Aided by the petty bureaucrats of hawker and hygiene control, they are relentlessly stamping out every bit of street life, leaving concrete wastelands for pedestrians to rush through.

Two buildings have been razed beside Warren Woods, so an entire street of blank concrete is coming. On the other side of Tai Hang, two buildings are going up. In a decade, Tai Hang's heritage will have been obliterated by podiums, the desolate streets in between choked by cars heading to their parking spaces. A vibrant community and fascinating district will have been sacrificed to the lives of oblivious blow-ins living hermetically in high-rise boxes.

Developers are continuing to buy up the low-rises, but there hasn't been a word of protest. Where are the heritage and community activists when you need them the most?