Anger over plan for historic mansion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 October, 2010, 12:00am

A decision to rezone the historic Haw Par Mansion in Causeway Bay for commercial use has angered a district councillor and local residents.

The Town Planning Board last week partially approved an application to rezone the site in Tai Hang Road, originally a residence, under a category that covers an 'eating place, hotel, private club, shops and services, training centre, place of entertainment and place of recreation, sports or culture.'

'It has always been open to the public, including tourists, for free. It has memories for people,' said Wan Chai district councillor David Lai Tai-wai. 'We want it to remain that way.'

The mansion survived when Tiger Balm Garden was demolished to make way for a luxury property development almost 10 years ago.

The government plans to invite commercial tenders for the revitalisation of the mansion.

Lai said his fellow district councillors and many residents had not been consulted as to how the building should be used. However, a spokesman for the Development Bureau said a public consultation on the rezoning had taken place.

Lai said his office had contacted about 80 residents in the area and found that the majority said they would like to see the mansion turned into a museum of Asian heritage. 'Residents, and I believe many Hongkongers, hope to be able to continue visiting the place. I really hope the government will listen to what they have to say,' he said.

More than 40 residents have formed a concern group against the decision to commercialise the site. One of them, Kenneth Chan Lap-tak, said: 'The place has long been a cultural and historical delight for many. I hope residents are going to be consulted about the usage.'

The government has suggested several uses for the site, including a wine centre, a restaurant and a venue for wedding banquets.

The mansion was built in 1935 in Chinese Renaissance style for Aw Boon Haw, founder of the Tiger Balm medicine business. It was sold by Aw's daughter, Sally Aw Sian. A luxury development, The Legend, was built on the site of the garden.