The wine trade and creative industries will be offered the chance to revitalise two historic sites - the Haw Par Mansion in Tai Hang and the former police quarters in Central where remains of one of the city's first schools have been discovered.
The mansion, retained when the Tiger Balm Garden - one of Hong Kong's first theme parks - was demolished for the Cheung Kong (Holdings) luxury property development, The Legend, could be adapted for uses associated with the wine trade, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in his policy address.
He said the trade had been looking for a location for wine shops and wholesalers, storage, a museum, bars and restaurants and somewhere to stage auctions and wine appreciation classes and run a wine school.
While so far only non-profit organisations had been invited to revitalise historic buildings, some heritage sites were suitable for commercial use, he said. To test market and community reaction, the government planned to designate the mansion for commercial use.
The mansion, built in 1935 in the Chinese Renaissance style as a residence for Aw Boon Haw, founder of the Tiger Balm medicine business, is a grade II historic building. A government source said wine trading was just one of the potential uses for the mansion. Meanwhile, the former police quarters in Aberdeen Street where parts of the foundations of Central School have been unearthed, will be permanently withdrawn from sale for redevelopment and designated for educational and creative industry use. A government source said it had not been decided whether the quarters would be demolished.
As well as proposing the site be used by the creative industries, Mr Tsang announced the setting up of a creative industry office to co-ordinate the work of departments to develop relevant skills.
The office would 'consider providing more effective support for our creative industries through integration of resources'. It is expected to open next spring.
Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong's architectural conservation programme, worried that the Haw Par Mansion would become an exclusive place for wine-lovers. He said whichever company took it over should be asked to open it to the public at least once a week.
Dr Lee said turning the Central School site into a base for creative industries would protect it from dense development. But he urged the government not to demolish the quarters, built in the Bauhaus style.
Meanwhile, the government will help fund the private Hong Kong Maritime Museum's relocation to Pier 8 in Central, where a bigger display could be housed.
The museum's lease at Murray House in Stanley runs out in 2010.