Fears a community shopping arcade in Ap Lei Chau could become another high-end mall targeting mainland tourists prompted hundreds of angry residents to take to the streets yesterday in protest.
Residents of the South Horizons estate showed their support for several tenants of Marina Square's west wing, who have been given six months' notice by their landlord that their leases will not be renewed. Some of the shops have served the area for close to 20 years - and residents have linked the move to the fact that the MTR's South Horizons station will soon open nearby.
Attempts by the management to brush off rumours of a tourist-oriented mall failed to ease concerns, with several factory outlets having opened in the area in recent years, such as Prada's Space and others at Horizon Plaza.
"I don't want to take my two-year-old to the park with a gold shop next door and cigarette-smoking tourists standing around," South Horizons resident Virginia Wan said.
The middle-class estate and the shopping area are a lengthy bus ride from the city, but travel time from Admiralty will be cut to minutes when the 7km South Island Line opens next year.
The mall is managed by Savills and owned by the Estate Dragon Group, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Tenants received notices from Savills last month that their leases would not be renewed later this year.
"The landlord has never sent anyone to talk to us about this. We still have no idea who they are or what they want to do," the owner of a 17-year-old curtain store said. "We have no choice but to leave with our stock in our arms and tears in our eyes."
Residents have formed a group on Facebook to share updates on the situation.
Janet Walker, who has lived at the estate for a decade, said she was concerned about the fate of small businesses such as bakeries and laundries that served residents' needs.
"It is pure greed," she said. "Many have been catering to residents with loyalty since the beginning."
Last week, the estate's management office told district councillors that it planned to refurbish the shopping centre and introduce a new mix of tenants.
But the management said in a statement on Wednesday: "There are no plans [currently] to turn Marina Square (west) into an outlet mall."
Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok demanded that the management "promise" the area would not become an outlet mall. Any plans for the neighbourhood needed to put the interests of the local community first, he said.
Savills could not be reached for comment yesterday.