Central Market will not be 'too commercialised'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 June, 2010, 12:00am

Central Market will never become another posh heritage mall like the former Marine Police Headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui, Urban Renewal Authority advisers have pledged.

'The public has sent us a clear message. The market will not become a shopping centre, and it will not be too commercialised,' Professor David Lung Ping-yee, who chairs the advisory community for the revitalisation project, said yesterday.

Lung was summarising findings of a questionnaire conducted by authority staff earlier this year. More than 6,000 people, including tourists, were interviewed, some in Central and some in other districts.

About 60 per cent of the interviewees said they wanted the historic market building in Des Voeux Road Central to be transformed into a leisure venue with a lot of greenery.

Half of the respondents also wanted the building to provide space for open-air performances, art exhibitions or art shops.

While dining was a less preferred option, with only 30 per cent saying they would like restaurants in the market, most respondents favoured shops selling food with a local flavour and at affordable prices.

Luxury brands were 'the last thing wanted', 240 people said, while a further 540 indicated they would not want a commercialised project.

'Committee members have agreed we will not do anything like 1881 Heritage,' Lung said, referring to the monument site in Tsim Sha Tsui handed over to a subsidiary of Cheung Kong, which converted it into a boutique hotel and mall.

The mix of uses would be determined at forthcoming meetings, Lung said.

The authority's managing director, Quinn Law Yee-kwan, agreed that the land uses were unlikely to generate much profit.

'But social benefits and the community's recognition of our work should also be taken into account when we talk about income,' he said.

The authority has undertaken a HK$500 million project to transform the 71-year-old building into an 'oasis', with open space and facilities for the community's enjoyment.

Built in 1939, the Central Market, a piece of Streamline Moderne architecture, was then the Canton Bazaar, and its design was based on the London County Council by-laws of 1915. It stopped operating in 2003.

Preliminary results of a structural survey found the existing concrete cover for the beams, slabs and columns of the structure would not satisfy today's building codes. Carbonation has also corroded the steel reinforcement in beams and slabs.

The biggest challenge of the project is to bring the building up to code. Additional work might be needed to prolong its life for another 30 years, Lung said. The whole project is expected to take about five years to complete.