Budding players to get cheap space at SoHo site

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 March, 2010, 12:00am

Cheap rental space will be reserved in the former married police quarters on Hollywood Road to help budding players in creative industries, the government said yesterday.

The government is inviting non-profit organisations to submit proposals to convert the site into a landmark for creative industries.

The future operator of the site will take a 10-year lease and pay a nominal rent to the government.

'The project is aimed at extending the art and design area of SoHo. Some space will be rented to new organisations at concessionary rates,' Alan Siu Yu-bun, deputy secretary for commerce and economic development, said.

But he did not say how much space would be reserved for budding players or give an indication of what the rent would be.

Applicants for the project would be able to propose the type of industries - such as fashion design, movies, advertising, publishing and architecture - for the site.

Facilities including studios for artists and designers, showrooms to exhibit and sell products, and six hostel rooms, would have to be provided. Some space will be used for shops and cafes.

Half of the profits will go to the government.

The Hollywood Road site comprises two blocks with a gross floor area of 15,000 square metres. The site is of historic interest as it contains the foundations of the Central School. The school, set up in 1889, was the first in the city to offer a Western-style education.

The prime site was put on the land application list and was only withdrawn from sale last year after public pressure for conservation.

So far, the Design Centre, boutique developer KF Development, and the Creative Professionals Association, a group of mid-career designers, have expressed interest in the project.

Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei, deputy secretary for development, said the government would shoulder and finance the initial work to upgrade the 59-year-old blocks to modern building standards, preserve the school relics, and build a glass canopy and a footbridge between the two blocks. 'The canopy is necessary as it would provide an atrium so that activities can be held regardless of the weather,' Ting said.

Ting said the government would closely monitor the project, responding to concerns that it would face a similar fate as a creative centre in Shek Kip Mei which has few visitors and where most studios are used as offices.

The operator would be required to submit a five-year business plan in addition to an annual one and a budget, she said, and any loss would not be covered by the government.

An existing committee, formed to vet proposals under a scheme to revitalise government-owned heritage sites, will vet applications together with specialists from creative industries. It will consider the applications' benefits to creative industries, heritage conservation, financial viability and applicants' management capability. Selection will be completed by September and the project is expected to be in operation by early 2014.