Four historic buildings set for new lease on life

Development Bureau calls for tenders from non-profit groups to revitalise important buildings and put them to good public use

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 4:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 4:46am

A rescued historic mansion is back out for tender and a group that lost out last time is still keen to take over the residence.

This time the Lifestyle Group has plans to turn King Yin Lei Mansion, on Stubbs Road, into a family camp. The house, built in 1937, is a rare surviving example of the Chinese Renaissance style.

The news came as the Development Bureau announced yesterday the fourth batch of historic buildings available for revitalisation by non-profit making organisations since 2008.

Three other buildings are on the list: a former free school in Tai Hang, the Old Dairy Farm Senior Staff Quarters in Pok Fu Lam, and Lady Ho Tung Welfare Centre in Sheung Shui, the city's first rural clinic.

"Our new proposal will be more meaningful and more effective in controlling traffic flow," said Lifestyle Group managing director George Wong Fuk-wah.

Wong said a small, 1930s-style chapel could be rented by couples to hold wedding ceremonies, and 10 rooms in the mansion would be available for visiting families - instead of for holding exhibitions on wedding culture, as in his last proposal.

In the new preliminary plan, which he said aimed to foster family values in society, activities including professional counselling would be organised to share knowledge in improving family relationships.

As the project would be financed by the wedding business, families visiting the mansion would be asked to suggest a price according to their income level, those living on government subsidies could stay for free.

Wong hoped the new proposal had a bigger chance of winning as the "family camp" would bring fewer visitors than holding exhibitions.

Another former applicant The Ink Society, a group of ink art enthusiasts led by Alice King Tung Chee-ping, sister of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, said it would probably give up its bid to win rights to use the house.

"Our proposal is already an optimal one. We were disappointed that no clear message was given by the government as to how the proposal could be improved.

"It would be meaningless for us to re-enter the competition if the threshold remains the same," the society's former project director Eddie Lui Fung-ngar said.

The society had assembled a collection of 5,500 pieces of Chinese ink art from across the centuries for display, and visitors would have been encouraged to meet ink art masters.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said a panel comprising local and mainland experts would be set up to examine proposals submitted for the mansion due to its more stringent technical requirements.

Tai Hang fire dragon dance commander-in-chief Chan Tak-fai said the Tai Hang Residents' Welfare Association hoped to convert the former free school at No.12 School Street - where he studied in the 1950s - into a museum dedicated to the fire dragon dance, which was included in the national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2011.

The school was founded by local inhabitants in the late Qing dynasty and was rebuilt in 1949.