Call for fine-tuning of project

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2008, 12:00am

The Kwun Tong renewal project needs fine-tuning to become a sustainable development, an expert says, and should avoid privatised open space and the building of upmarket shopping malls that do not cater to the needs of low-income or elderly residents.

Existing developments surrounding the site, notably the five Millennium City commercial towers, had not taken account of the community's needs, said Thomas Chan Man-hung, head of the China Business Centre at Polytechnic University.

Dr Chan, who has conducted research on urban planning on the mainland, completed a government-funded study on sustainable development models covering Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin in October.

'These office towers and the big shopping mall are built for people living outside the area and young, middle-income residents. The old and the poor are excluded,' he said.

His research found that about 32 per cent of the households in Kwun Tong earn less than HK$10,000 a month, and a quarter of residents are older than 55.

The Urban Renewal Authority project must not repeat the mistake and make Yue Man Square, the core renewal site, too 'gentrified' for the community, he said.

Small shops, instead of another mall, should remain at street level to provide an affordable, diverse range of goods, he suggested, and a pedestrian zone should be created so that people had easy access to the shops.

On the 280-metre office tower planned by the authority, Dr Chan said the builder should avoid using too many glass walls, which were not energy efficient and were already banned in some parts of the mainland.

Vertical greening would help to save energy.

Beyond the redevelopment site, the industrial area in the south should be revitalised to diversify the district economy, he said. Some of the industrial flats have in recent years been converted into art galleries and studios, such as Osage Gallery.

The Urban Renewal Authority has received Town Planning Board approval for its development plan, but it has yet to supply more detail.