Market tenants earn a reprieve
Long-time shop tenants in Central Market - facing eviction to make way for a revamp of the historic building - have received a reprieve until March and possibly longer.
The Urban Renewal Authority, which is in charge of revitalisation plans for the 72-year-old building along Jubilee Street, says it hopes to start work on March 31, when the small businesses will have to go.
The URA wants to convert the market from a building for community use to a protected historic building that provides open space for arts and culture.
But a court challenge to the entire zoning plan for Central, which includes the market, is to start in November and may delay the work if it is not resolved in time, district councillor Kam Nai-wai says.
In the meantime, the businesses are asking the government to find them similar space in the area when they finally do have to move.
Nine of the tenants in the market were told last month they would have to move out by yesterday to make way for repairs ahead of the revitalisation project. But eight of them have renewed their leases until March, meaning they can return when the repairs are completed in two weeks at a rent of HK$10,150 a month.
Kam said he hoped the Lands Department would allocate shop space of similar rent nearby to the tenants.
Bonny Yuen Pong-koon, 56, has been running a tailoring business for 17 years with his brother, making suits, tuxedos and Scottish outfits. He said Central was the place where his clients could reach him most conveniently. 'I don't know where else in Central we can afford the rent.' Uncertainty remains over the revitalisation plans until the legal challenge, brought by Cheung Kong (Holdings), is resolved. The company is suing the government for refusing to approve a change in land use for a car park, which is also part of the zoning plan, into a supermarket.
Kam said he predicted the case would not be over by March. 'The tenants may not have to move if the case is not over - which is most likely,' he said.
A URA spokesman said the first phase of revitalisation on the market building might take up to six years.
The new plans for Central Market call for artistic and cultural businesses. 'We want to see if our current arcade tenants can qualify to move into the new Central Market, but that is six years from now,' Kam said.
The URA has set 2016 as its goal for the new Central Market to be partially opened for public use. A spokesman said the goal could be achieved if work began by March next year.
Central Market, a grade-three historic site, was built in 1939. In response to public pressure, the government scrapped a plan in 2009 to demolish the building and sell the site; it appointed the URA instead to renovate it for public use.