A dilapidated building that qualifies as ancient by Hong Kong standards could prove a daunting restoration job for whoever gets to take on the Old Dairy Farm Senior Staff Quarters as part of a project to revitalise historic buildings.
Several non-profit groups are jostling to be granted the right to take over the 126-year-old building, but government inspections of the grade-one historic building have found that 30 years of being left abandoned have inevitably taken their toll.
The broken windows, weed-strewn garden and overgrown trees are the least of the worries. Inside, there is a much bigger problem. And while its heritage status gives the staff quarters no actual protection, whoever takes over the building would be expected to preserve the original features.
The main concern is the wooden first-storey floor, which has been ruled unsafe. It will need to be strengthened with a series of steel beams placed underneath.
More than 100 planks will have to be removed for anti- termite and damp-proof treatment, and then reinstalled.
However, the technical adviser of the Commissioner for Heritage's Office, Terence Lo Chung-man, yesterday sounded an optimistic note.
"We believe it won't be a big problem since similar works have been done in the stone houses of Kowloon City in an earlier phase of the scheme," he insisted.
The staff quarters is one of four places named in the latest phase of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. The buildings were announced on Monday, with the government inviting tenders with ideas on how to give them a new lease of life.
Back in April, the Audit Commission noted that the Old Dairy's staff quarters had not been maintained. While the building was deemed worthy of a grade-one status, the Antiquities Advisory Board have given the adjacent cowshed and offices grade-two heritage status.
The farm was built in 1886 by the Dairy Farm Company, founded by a Scottish surgeon, Sir Patrick Manson, who wanted to establish a hygienic supply of milk. A herd of 80 cows was imported from Britain to the 120- hectare site, once the largest dairy farm in the city.
The abandoned farm sits in Pok Fu Lam village, which dates back to the 17th century and has been put on a watch list of architectural and cultural heritage sites by the New York-based World Monuments Fund.
Tenders are also being invited for the Lady Ho Tung Welfare Centre in Kwu Tung, and the former Hung Shing Yi Hok school at 12 School Street in Tai Hang.
King Yin Lei Mansion, which was built in 1937 and is a declared monument, was rolled out on the list again after the government vetting committee found neither of the two proposals suitable in the scheme's previous phase.