No urgent need to redevelop Tsim Sha Tsui's Star Ferry bus terminus
Hong Kong's awakening to the need for heritage conservation means redevelopment projects are facing growing resistance. The proposal to turn an old bus terminal into a modern piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui is a case in point. After eight years of struggle, the government has finally given up the project, citing technical problems and public opposition. Given the deep sense of nostalgia people attached to the site, the decision is sensible.
Packaged as a key tourism initiative, the proposed facelift, which would have replaced the busy Star Ferry bus terminal with a multi-storey piazza, invited more criticism than support from the outset. Officials last year bowed to pressure and offered to scale it down while preserving the existing 15 bus routes in a public transport interchange. But that did not appease opponents, who feared it would destroy the character of the area and cause inconvenience to passengers.
There are good reasons why activists gathered to fight. The waterfront site is as much a key public transport hub as a favourite meeting place for locals for almost a century. Although the terminal may look dilapidated or even third-world to some eyes, it is undoubtedly part of the city's collective memory.
There are no qualms about giving yet another boost to the city's thriving tourism industry. But for commuters who stream through the area every day, Tsim Sha Tsui appears to be an increasingly alienated part of the city, one that is overloaded with tourists. Any attempt to rejuvenate the area in the name of tourism may, therefore, be misinterpreted as sacrificing the interests of locals.
Tourism requires good infrastructure and human resources to flourish. Building more attractions is only one of the many ways to draw visitors. Even without a piazza, the existing waterfront ambience is captivating. There is no urgent need to redevelop a place that is already well enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.