Owner asks what to do with historic shophouse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 October, 2010, 12:00am

The owner of a 79-year-old shophouse in Happy Valley, one of the earliest buildings in the area and once part of a cluster of European-style structures, is asking the public to help decide what to do with it.

A planning consultant and a research group have been commissioned to mount an exhibition on the ground floor and collect views on how the low-rise building should be reused or redeveloped.

The building, 11 Yuk Sau Street, has a grade three historical rating, meaning it could be redeveloped - and the residential zoning would allow more than 20 floors.

'We should value this opportunity, as the owner is open to all possible options,' planning consultant Kenneth To Lap-kee said.

'There could be commercial elements in its future uses. After all, the building has economic value.'

The three-storey building was originally a residence, but has been rented out for commercial uses including a restaurant known for shark fin since it was acquired in 2004 by the family of low-profile-entrepreneur C.C. Wu, who founded the C.C. Wu Building in Wan Chai.

The architecture is heavily influenced by the trend of the early 1930s, and the building is said to resonate with four other historic residences nearby. The Antiquities and Monuments Office says it is a rare example of art deco architecture, with considerable built-heritage value.

The facade of the house is richly decorated with geometric and stylised forms 'eclectically combined to create a unique appearance', it says, adding that the wall finish is Shanghai plaster grooved to imitate stonework, with cantilevered balconies on the first two floors.

The house was given its grade three historic status by the Antiquities Advisory Board in May. Since then, the owner has rented the upper floors to a Russian art gallery and school, and the restaurant on the ground floor has moved out.

The ground floor has previously been used as a garage, a rice shop and a noodle shop.

To said the owner, who holds the building through a company named Grade Development, had yet to rule out redevelopment of the site, which measures more than 1,800 sq ft.

Patsy Cheng Man-wah, director of the exhibition organiser, SEE Network, said public views collected over the past few days had suggested that the building should be revitalised with uses that would benefit the community. 'They dislike museums or high-end businesses that require huge expense,' Cheng said.

'An interior designer even vowed to offer a free proposal on turning it into an art-related gathering place for the public.'