Firms in Mong Kok's historic shophouses may be allowed to stay after renovations

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2009, 12:00am

Stores that sell building supplies may be able to return to their historic Mong Kok shophouses after preservation work has been completed, the Urban Renewal Authority says.

In September the URA proposed that the buildings in Shanghai Street - recognised as Grade I historic buildings by the Antiquities and Monuments Office - could be converted into cheap restaurants and tea houses.

But critics said this would destroy the character of the street.

The 10 shophouses, built in the 1920s and 1930s, are typical of an old commercial street. There are shops on the ground floor and first floor, while residents live above.

In a preliminary development plan recently submitted to the Town Planning Board, the authority said the future zoning of that part of the street - allowing restaurants, shops and cultural places - 'will not prohibit' the 13 retailers of building and decorating materials from returning to their business if they are compatible with the 'daily necessities' theme.

The URA plan said that although most businesses at the site were building suppliers, they accounted for only 2.4 per cent of the total number of shops along neighbouring Canton Road, Portland Street, Lai Chi Kok Road and Waterloo Road.

Ten out of 22 businessmen interviewed said they would move to adjacent areas to continue their business, an authority survey found, while the same proportion said they had not decided what to do after moving out.

The URA plan did not determine the use of the buildings.

During the consultation, concern groups suggested various uses including study rooms, restaurants and galleries.

A URA spokesman said yesterday: 'The restaurant theme was only a tentative suggestion. We are still open to all options.'

No consensus had been reached on the use of the buildings, he said, and such decisions would be made at a later stage.

Concerns arising from recent public consultation sessions were mostly about compensation and land resumption, he said.

Also included in the plan was a social impact assessment, which found that 63 per cent of 54 interviewed families said the project would not affect their social network, while 31.5 per cent said it would.

The assessment also found that half of the families, who earn less than HK$10,000 a month, would prefer to move to public housing.

The authority will set up social service teams to address their needs. The authority is expected to buy, renovate and revitalise 20 shophouses in Shanghai Street and Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok - which, observers say, forms an important part of the city's history - with a restoration cost of HK$1.3 billion.