The 60-year-old Seaview Building in Repulse Bay could be saved from demolition and revitalised for new uses after the government stopped pushing ahead with a hotel plan amid strong public opposition.
'We will not insist on replacing the building with a hotel development. The plan was meant to address the demand from the district council. Now its views have changed,' a government source said.
The building, which the last tenant left in 2005, is proposed to be rezoned as a comprehensive development area comprising a hotel, barbecue spots and restaurants.
The adjacent car park, now zoned as open space, would be combined with the building site for hotel development if the government's rezoning request is approved by the Town Planning Board.
However, more than 900 objections to the plan were received by the Town Planning Board during the public consultation period.
A hearing discussing the objections will be conducted by the board this month.
'We keep an open mind on the revitalisation ideas proposed by the public,' said a spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which intended to surrender the site to the lands department to save maintenance costs.
The LCSD has now hinted that the building could be reused.
'If the Town Planning Board decides to reinstate the existing zoning of the site, the department will take the views of the district council and the general public into consideration when we plan for the reuse of the premises,' the spokeswoman said.
Southern District Council member Ronald Chan Ngok-pang said he was recently approached by government representatives who said the government would not pursue the hotel plan.
'At least three companies expressed an interest in running the building,' he said.
'They are willing to pay for the maintenance cost if the government offers a tenancy of a longer period.' Mr Chan said one of the companies has overseas experience in running beach clubs and dining facilities on beaches.
'We [the district council] supported the rezoning proposal last year because we don't want to see the building left empty and wanted to give flexibility to future development,' he said. 'But this does not mean we support building a hotel.'
The council passed a motion rejecting the hotel plan in January after Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan told lawmakers that the site would be developed into a hotel in the long run.
Council member Au Lap-sing, who supported the motion, said: 'The beach was a free and natural asset for public enjoyment. Only the privileged class will be able to enjoy the benefits if it is turned into a hotel.'
The combined site, comprising the building and the car park, would stretch a third of the beach's length if the rezoning proposal is approved by the board.
In a counter-proposal submitted to the board from Designing Hong Kong, architect Vincent Ng Wing-shun proposed revitalising the building into a vibrant place for alfresco dining, with a beach club and small shops serving beach-goers. The renovation would cost HK$10 million to HK$20 million under the plan.