Central Market site unlikely to go to developers
The Central Market site, estimated to be worth HK$6.7 billion, is expected to be taken off the land application list, for conservation, when Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announces his policy address on Wednesday.
An official said removing the historic site from the land sale programme would help ease the 'wall effect' in Central and ease congestion in the district.
There were already too many skyscrapers in Central and sparing the site from commercial development would help with ventilation in the district, the official said.
The site of the Bauhaus-style building is subject to possible development of a 160-metre tall commercial tower with a gross floor area of 670,543 sq ft and a public open space of 16,000 sq ft. Surveyors have calculated that the site is worth HK$6.7 billion.
The Institute of Architects carried out a study in 2005 that found the four-storey structure would be the last piece of 1930s Bauhaus architecture in the city following the partial demolition of Wan Chai Market for a high-rise.
In July, a developer tried but failed to trigger an auction of the site, in Des Voeux Road, Central.
Heritage activists are trying to save the Central Market from commercial redevelopment by asking town planners to change its designated land use so the building can house public arts facilities.
Tsang announced in last year's policy address a decision to remove the historic Central School site in Hollywood Road from the land application list to allow it to house creative industries.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of environmental group Green Sense, said it would be good for the government to heed the calls to preserve the Central Market and reduce development densities in Central.
'One of the last ventilation channels in Central will be blocked if the site is used for commercial development,' Tam, whose group has been pushing for lower building densities, said.
Meanwhile, in the policy address Tsang is expected to increase the rate of tax deduction for private companies' spending on research and development in an attempt to spur development of innovation and technology.
The industry is one of the six new economic 'pillars' identified by the government-appointed Task Force on Economic Challenges, which could diversify the city's economy.
Currently, a 100 per cent deduction for research and development spending is allowed for payments to approved research institutes and payments for scientific research related to the trade.
Another official said increasing the tax deduction for research and development would be better than offering direct subsidies for such projects.
In 1998, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa announced the establishment of a HK$5 billion Innovation and Technology Fund to support research and development projects by the private sector.
The government is considering ways to prevent abuse of tax deduction for research and development.
Chinese Manufacturers' Association president Paul Yin Tek-shing said tax deduction for research and development spending was a common practice in other countries to encourage relevant spending by the private sector.