Stallholders have mixed feelings on market move

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am

Tenants of the Graham Street wet market moved to make way for redevelopment have mixed feelings about the project, which will conserve the city's oldest market.

Some say their businesses are struggling at the temporary site, while others say they are happy and looking forward to moving into a new market when the project is complete.

All 14 stalls and shops selling vegetables and meat in the wet market in Graham Street began moving last month to Gage Street, a few minutes' walk away.

Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said all affected shopkeepers and stallholders were happy with the arrangement and willing to return to the new two-storey structure to be built on the site of the century-old market.

'The Graham Street market is the city's oldest market, which is something we tremendously treasure,' he said.

But May Chan Fung-siu, who has run a vegetable shop in Graham Street for more than 10 years and was moved last month, said her business had dropped by more than half at the new location because some of her customers had not yet found her shop. 'The new shop is at the end of the street, which is not an eye-catching prime site and is not easily found,' Chan said.

She was also struggling to pay the rent, which had more than doubled from the HK$9,000 charged by her former landlord to HK$20,000.

Chan said whether she moved into the new market, to be completed by about 2014, would depend on how much the authority charged in rent.

Chan Cheuk-chiu, who runs a fresh goods stall, and Wong Tai-Tse, who sells traditional snacks and rice dumplings, painted a different picture. Chan, who had been at the Graham Street market for more than 30 years, said the authority was charging him only half his previous rent. 'I am very happy with the arrangement and will surely move to the new market,' he said.

Wong, who has run her stall since the 1960s, also liked the new site, which she said had a greater traffic flow. 'My stall used to be at a quiet corner on Graham Street and has now moved to the junction of Graham and Gage Streets, which is a better location to attract business.'

To attract customers to the temporary market, the authority launched a lucky draw on December 11, with prizes including cash coupons for shoppers buying groceries from the shops and stalls in the area.

The draw, which the authority said had attracted more than 10,000 people in the past nine days, will continue until the end of next month.

Meanwhile, Cheung said it would be important to carry out the Sheung Wan redevelopment in phases to minimise the interruption to businesses there.

Therefore, it was worth delaying the redevelopment for 18 to 24 months, which would cost the authority an extra HK$200 million in interest. But he said he did not believe inflation would pose too serious a threat to the project, which covers 5,320 square metres in Graham Street and Peel Street.

The authority said it had not yet been able to work out a total cost for the project, as land acquisition had not been completed.

The authority announced yesterday that it would issue offer letters to owners of 159 properties in its Kowloon redevelopment project on Mau Tau Wai Road and Chun Tin Street.