New hope for historic buildings
The development minister is confident a plan can be devised to breathe new life into the historic Haw Par Villa despite two previous failed attempts.
The villa, once the centrepiece of the Tiger Balm Gardens, is now overshadowed by luxury high-rise flats.
The former home of the legendary Aw business family has been included with three other historic buildings in the latest phase of a government scheme launched yesterday to revitalise heritage sites in partnership with private companies.
Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said organisations would be interested in running businesses at the site as the government would support construction costs, including providing up to HK$100 million for restoration.
'We require bidders to ensure public access and enjoyment in the tender exercises, which can limit commercial viability,' she said. 'But with financial support from the government, there is more chance organisations will be interested,' she said. Possible uses listed for the ornate mansion include cultural facilities, an exhibition or convention hall or an educational institution.
Other buildings involved in the third phase of the bureau's Revitalising Historical Buildings through Partnership scheme are the King Yin Lei mansion in Stubbs Road, Bridges Street Market and the former Fanling Magistracy. Non-profit organisations can make proposals.
Haw Par Villa, a grade-one historic site in Tai Hang, was put forward for the scheme after two unsuccessful attempts to find a commercial operator to take it over.
For King Yin Lei, a declared monument rescued from possible demolition after a public outcry, the bureau will allow the successful applicant to add a new building on the site of a disused swimming pool as few alterations to the main building will be allowed, limiting usable floor space.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, housed at the former North Kowloon Magistracy under the scheme, has received an honourable mention in this year's Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards.
The number of visitors to King Yin Lei mansion over a series of 15 open days in April and May