An education in relative values
Should we build more schools or luxury flats? For the government, the question is usually a no-brainer. Take, for example, the former Lingnan College site in Stubbs Road.
Ever since the college, now a university, moved to Tuen Mun, the government-owned site has been left undeveloped, its decaying buildings lent on temporary leases to schools and community groups for the past decade, including an international school and a youth services centre called LEAP. Next to the old college site is a secondary school, as well as the Lingnan kindergarten and primary school whose sponsoring body owns the land.
The whole neighbourhood evolved into an education hub. But officials were determined not to let that happen; the government's site was too valuable!
The neighbourhood is back in the news because of a dispute between the Lingnan sponsoring body and parents over its plan to move the kindergarten and primary school, despite it being the landlord. If the plan goes ahead, it will be the last school to leave the area.
Officials made sure the education and community service bodies knew they could use the government site only temporarily, making it impossible for them to plan ahead, expand or develop. One after another, after years of being led by the nose, they have left.
Those officials must be high-fiving themselves. In May, the government sold the site to Sun Hung Kai Properties for HK$4.49 billion, or HK$24,829 per buildable square foot, making it the third most expensive residential site ever auctioned.
A job well done, but where have all the schools gone?