Some 40 organisations have shown interest in running a creative industry business at the Hollywood Road police quarters site.
The response to the heritage site was keener than expected, chief assistant secretary for works Robin Lee Kui-biu said during a site visit, and the organisations would attend a workshop on Monday next week.
The site, which will be leased to a non-profit body to set up a creative cluster for at least 10 years, will first be revamped with HK$300 million in government funds, which will cover structural strengthening, basic building renovation, conservation of the Central School relics and construction of a canopy and a footbridge between the two blocks.
'When we consider the applications, it is the financial viability that counts. How much the organisation takes out from its pocket is irrelevant,' Lee said, adding that the creative industry's value and reflection of historical value were also among the assessment factors.
A number of groups, including the Ambassadors of Design, set up by second-generation tycoons, the Artist Commune, which is based in the Cattle Depot Artist Village in To Kwa Wan, and culture and heritage promotion group Hulu have previously held exhibitions in the area.
Lee declined to say whether any developer was interested in the project, but he said society should encourage developers to exercise corporate social responsibility and set up social enterprises.
Under the plan, the future operator must set up a special-purpose company to run the business and half of any profit will have to go to the government, with the rest to be ploughed back into the operation.
About 20 per cent of the 15,000 square metre gross floor area will be used for commercial purposes. The top floor of one of the blocks will be converted into a sky lounge. The government, which will charge a nominal rent, will require the operator to reserve some space for budding players at a cheap rent.
Applicants would propose the type of creative industry - such as fashion, film, advertising, publishing and architecture - for the site. Facilities that must be provided include studios for artists and designers and six hostel rooms. Foundations of the Central School, the first in the city to offer a Western-style education, in 1889, will have to be displayed.