URA considers buying heritage buildings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2008, 12:00am

The Urban Renewal Authority is considering buying some pre-war buildings with Cantonese-style terraces in order to preserve them.

But other options, including providing incentives to the owners to properly maintain the buildings, would also be considered, the authority's chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said.

An action plan outlining how these pre-war buildings would be preserved is to be submitted to the URA's board for consideration later this month.

'These buildings represent part of Hong Kong history,' Mr Cheung said. 'Not many buildings with such architectural merits are left. The community will approve it as a way of preserving Hong Kong's history.'

Mr Cheung said buildings with Cantonese-style terraces were scattered around the city, including in Mong Kok, Prince Edward, Wan Chai and Sham Shiu Po. Most were in private hands, he said.

A classic example of such architecture is the Woo Cheong Pawn Shop in Johnston Road, Wan Chai. The four-storey building is preserved by the URA and will be converted into commercial use. A shophouse at 18 Ship Street, a grade two historical building in the same district, has been converted into a restaurant after refurbishment.

'We can't compel the owners to keep the buildings,' he said. 'I hope to work with them, providing them with incentives [to preserve the buildings].'

So far, the URA has preserved seven of the pre-war buildings.

His comments follow last week's budget in which Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah pledged that the URA would use part of a HK$10 billion injection to strengthen its work to revitalise old areas and preserve old buildings.

Mr Cheung pointed out that preservation work was costly and there were no financial returns. 'For redevelopment projects, our objective is to break even so that we can generate resources to compensate the residents,' he said. 'But for the preservation projects, we need resources that are separately allocated.'