The Anglican Church is planning a facelift of its headquarters in Central under which four historic buildings will be converted into a museum and gallery, opening up the solemn and long-enclosed site to the public.
The HK$800 million redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui is being studied by the Development Opportunity Office, set up this year to co-ordinate various departments in projects of public interest.
'The new design will completely change the church's style, with a green piazza and a community centre reaching out to the public,' the project's leading architect, Phillip Liao Yi-kang, said.
The compound - which has stood on a hill shared with Government House since 1848 - is enclosed by a fence and wall. It began with the Bishop's House, but other facilities such as a hospital and kindergarten were built later as demand for education and medical services grew.
Other buildings in the compound include St Paul's Church, housing for the clergy, a welfare council and a theological college.
Under the plan, the grade-one Bishop's House and three other proposed historic buildings - St Paul's Church, the guest house and the Kong Kit Building - will be preserved. The Bishop's House will become a museum displaying the church's history and artefacts. The compound's centre will feature a green piazza with a canopy extending to Lower Albert Road. The wall surrounding the headquarters will be demolished.
'This will be a place where the public can enjoy a cup of coffee, and Christmas carols in the festive seasons,' Liao said, adding that existing trees would be preserved.
The hospital and some residential blocks will be redeveloped into a health care centre and quarters for clergy of 11 to 14 storeys. The theological college and kindergarten will be moved to a site owned by the church at Mount Butler.
'The transfer is to keep the development density behind Government House at a low level,' Bishop's House redevelopment committee chairman Moses Cheng Mo-chi said. 'The church has been forced to rent premises nearby to continue its operation due to the lack of space.'
Cheng said the church was also considering opening St Paul's Church more frequently so people in the bustling district would have a space for self-reflection.
The redevelopment cost will be shouldered solely by the church through fund-raising activities, Cheng said. He hoped the project could start next year and be finished in three to five years.
Institute of Planners vice-president Chan Kim-on said the museum and gallery could increase congestion, and urged the government to assess the transport implications.