URA plans work in phases to stop market from dying

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2008, 12:00am

Redevelopment surrounding the 150-year-old Graham Street market will be undertaken in phases and more incentives will be offered to encourage hawkers to stay on during the reconstruction, the Urban Renewal Authority said yesterday.

The moves - aimed at addressing the public's desire for the historic open market to be preserved - would lengthen the redevelopment period and increase the cost, it said.

A study due to be completed in July will give details.

The authority's director of planning and design, Michael Ma Chiu-tsee, said the measures would ensure the market would not die.

Activists welcomed the changes but doubted they went far enough, while a district councillor said a revision of the government's policy on hawker licences was crucial to help preserve the market.

Apart from redeveloping the three sites in phases, two three-storey blocks at the junction of Gage Street and Graham Street will be made available for affected shops in the wet market, including stores that sell flowers, vegetables and poultry.

The two buildings, providing more than 10,000 sq ft for wet stores, differ from the usual design of public markets by providing shops at street level. Storage areas are available for hawkers to rent. The two buildings will also act as temporary business sites for shops during the redevelopment. Under the arrangement, shops from a demolished site will be allowed to move into the two buildings or other site areas.

Mr Ma said tenants would be given discounted rents for shops within the site areas to continue their business. The authority also promised to continue existing contracts with shop tenants even though the stores had been acquired by the authority.

'The market will not die under the new arrangement,' he said. 'Eighty per cent of the acquired shops are still running their businesses.'

All 50 affected hawkers would be able to stay if they did not surrender their licences to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. 'We will continue to provide the water and electricity supply to hawkers,' Mr Ma said, adding the authority would meet the department on the possibility of renewing the licences.

Responding to a counter-proposal submitted to the Town Planning Board last month by the concern group World City Committee, the authority said that proposal provided smaller areas of public open space and for a community hall.

The concern group proposed leaving the old market undisturbed while allowing the tenement buildings along the market to be retained or redeveloped individually. The group also proposed a lower density for the three redevelopment sites. The Town Planning Board will discuss the proposal next month.

'We welcome the amendment made to the initial plan,' said the joint director of the concern group, Amil Khan. But he insisted the old market would inevitably disappear during the redevelopment.