Prime-site proposal to include library, gallery and landscaped area
By KERRY WONG
HONG KONG'S 56-year old Central Market could be turned into a multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational complex under new plans put forward by the Land Development Corporation.
The revamped $12 billion Central Market would feature a 70-storey office tower - just eight storeys fewer than Hong Kong's highest building, Central Plaza - a library, market and a landscaped open-air area.
The Urban Council would take 10 storeys with the rest for sale to fund the development project.
The 44,564-square-foot Central Market site, opposite the Hang Seng Bank building on Des Voeux Road, is one of the most desirable pieces of land on Hong Kong Island.
Based on the $10,000 per square foot price for A grade office space in Central, its value could be more than $12 billion on completion, say analysts.
According to the proposal, a new Central Library of 42,960 sq ft and a Gallery of about 36,674 sq ft would be built on top of a modern air-conditioned retail market with access from Des Voeux Road which could accommodate between 50 and 100 market stalls. The plans include an open recreation area of about 21,528 sq ft at podium level.
'We received the plan only several weeks ago and the study is at its preliminary stage and it will take some time to discuss it with various departments,' Canice Mak Chun-fong, Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands said.
The corporation plans to redevelop the site jointly with the Urban Council because, as well as a new market, the existing City Hall library may move to the new complex.
'We support the corporation's proposal in principle. The market is very old and we need a new one,' said Martin White, deputy director of Urban Services Department (Environmental Hygiene).
There are 300 stalls in Central Market, of which only 80 deal in retail trade; the rest are wholesalers.
The corporation suggests buying out most of the existing market stall operators.
Those who do not wish to give up their licences and prefer to move to the new development may be offered compensation for upheaval caused during the construction.
Meanwhile, the corporation's five-year-old Gage Street Development Scheme to relocate the Central Market traders is likely to be abandoned.
This follows the Town Planning Board's recent approval of a substantial Section 16 application at Kin Sau Lane - part of the Gage Street redevelopment zone - for commercial and residential use, according to Abraham Razack, chief executive of the corporation.
Section 16 of the Town Planning Ordinance allows any member of the public to apply for commercial and residential development on a site zoned for government or community use.
The approval indicates that some buildings on the Gage Street site will be redeveloped by private companies or individuals for commercial and residential use.
This could force the corporation to either give up the scheme or reduce the scale of the development.
It is understood the Government will not demolish Central Market until a new market is completed.
Therefore, the corporation has suggested to the Government to develop the market in conjunction with the Urban Council.
The corporation has spent more than $1 million on the Gage Street scheme to relocate the market stalls and at the same time to improve the environment in Central.