Tenement owners and tenants back street's redevelopment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2007, 12:00am

I refer to the letter by H. C. Bee ('Mix of old and new the perfect blend for Wedding Card Street', November 15), and wish to explain why such a mix does not in reality provide a good solution.

Your correspondent correctly pointed out that the tenement buildings in Lee Tung Street are unremarkable, being typical of flats in Wan Chai and elsewhere and have no significant architectural or heritage value. They do not meet current building standards and are in structurally very poor condition. Thorough visual inspections and 180 structural tests revealed severe corrosion of the steel reinforcements as well as concrete strengths up to 50 per cent below specified design strengths. Many of the balcony slabs, columns and beams have factors of safety so low they are unfit for use under prevailing design guidelines.

So it is not surprising that the May 2005 survey by Hong Kong University for Wan Chai District Council showed that over 70 per cent of affected domestic owners and tenants favoured redevelopment.

Less than 4 per cent of them and less than 10 per cent of shop owners and tenants favoured preservation. Before deciding the way forward, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) considered many factors and opinions gathered in an intensive community engagement programme conducted from 2003 to 2006. In November 2006, the district council backed the redevelopment proposal and called for its early implementation. The proposal was then approved by the Town Planning Board.

Under the URA's 'renewal' approach, we will replace the dilapidated tenement buildings, not with high-rise buildings, but with a row of low-rise buildings of similar built form and character to the existing buildings with small street shops along Lee Tung Street. High-rise buildings are planned only at the ends of the street. I hope these points help readers understand that, in such a case as Lee Tung Street, redevelopment in a well-planned way is the best way forward.

Also over 70 per cent of the 27 printing shops, which comprised only 20 per cent of the 130 shops within the project area, have re-established their businesses elsewhere in Wan Chai, some with the help of the URA.

Angela Tang, general manager, external relations, Urban Renewal Authority