URA to rent space to arts groups

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am


The Urban Renewal Authority will reserve rental space in its projects for small arts groups to stage exhibitions and performances.

The idea is among new initiatives the authority announced yesterday that are intended to inject cultural life into old urban areas.

'Our goal is to improve the quality of life of people living in dilapidated areas by bringing them closer to the arts,' the authority's chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said.

'And from our communications with local artists, we know lack of cheap rental venues has always been their biggest problem.'

In the upcoming tender exercise for redevelopment projects in Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui, the authority will require its developer partners to reserve a certain amount of open space or areas in the mall for small arts groups to use during designated time slots and at a nominal rent.

'At best, the developer should have an arts planner,' Cheung said.

The authority has reserved HK$25 million for arts measures this financial year. Details will be announced next month.

Future redevelopment projects - including the Kwun Tong town centre, which will be completed in 2019 - will benefit.

The funding will also support a proposed bookstore-cafe in one of 10 historic tenements on Prince Edward Road West that the authority has planned to restore.

While the authority is still in the process of acquiring the ownership of other flats in the tenement row, it will first renovate a ground-floor shop it has already bought and lease it to a non-profit group - at a nominal rent - to run the bookstore-cafe for at least two years.

Cheung said the 900 sq ft shop should be a viable business, as it is located in a busy area in the middle of the flower market in Mong Kok. It could be a place for hosting cultural talks, he said.

The business could become permanent if it is later decided that the entire cluster of flats will accommodate arts and cultural uses, Cheung said.

In buildings already redeveloped by the authority, it will form partnerships with small arts groups to enable them to use open spaces and mall areas at a nominal rent.

A vetting committee will be set up to screen applications. Cheung said there will be no censorship.

Ada Wong Ying-kay, an urban renewal affairs critic, said the authority would have shown more commitment if it was able to provide a permanent place for small arts groups, such as by designating the Prince Edward Road West tenements as an all-arts venue.