The government has withdrawn a HK$45 million sweetener aimed at attracting businesses to find a commercial use for the historic Haw Par Mansion.
It has done so ahead of a public tender for revitalising the grade-one mansion in Tai Hang after deciding the economic climate had improved over the past year and the private sector would be interested, an official said.
Capital investment for the heritage project, once the centrepiece of the Tiger Balm Garden, is estimated to be HK$70 million. Last year the Development Bureau said it would be willing to contribute HK$45 million to renovate the complex before renting it out for longer than seven years. The official said the length of the lease had yet to be decided. 'But the lease can't be too short as now the operator has to shoulder all the costs,' he said.
The government has suggested several uses for the site, including a wine centre, a restaurant and a venue for wedding banquets. The mansion was built in 1935 in the Chinese Renaissance style as a residence for Aw Boon Haw, founder of the Tiger Balm medicine business. It was sold by Aw's daughter Sally Aw Sian, while the rest of the garden was demolished to make way for a luxury property development, The Legend.
Meanwhile, the government is in the middle of a process to consolidate the gradings of 1,444 historic sites in the city.
The revised gradings were the outcome of a heritage review that lasted for more than 10 years.
A monitoring system linking several government departments, set up last year to watch for any demolition or alteration of privately owned heritage blocks, has so far received 30 alerts. But the official declined to give details about which sites were under threat.
To further promote heritage sites, a heritage tourism expo and a symposium will be held this year.