Town planners and community leaders have warned that Wan Chai risks being turned into an 'air-conditioned glass box' resembling Admiralty within 20 years if the government continues to allow historic buildings to be knocked down in favour of skyscrapers. They are also frustrated that the government has not produced an overall blueprint for consultation. One of the chief concerns is that the character of Wan Chai - historically the district with the most diverse mix of social classes and businesses - will be lost in the push to redevelop the area between Johnston Road and Queens Road East. The massive construction work already taking place in Tai Yuen Street and McGregor Street will be followed by the bulldozing of Lee Tung Street in two years. The street is known as Wedding Card Street because of the dozens of such shops that sprang up in the 1970s. Chris Law, a veteran architect and convenor of the Urban Regeneration Taskforce, a non-government group dedicated to urban renewal, is concerned that the redevelopment projects will shatter the district's intricate business mix of design houses, architectural firms and printing workshops. 'With its proximity to the financial hub in Central, Wan Chai has a strategic role to play as it offers a convenient and inexpensive place to accommodate second-line businesses serving the needs of the big enterprises in Central,' he said. Many businesses and residents say the promised level of compensation from the Urban Renewal Authority will not allow them to stay in Wan Chai. 'If the bulldozing goes on, Wan Chai will either become an air-conditioned glass box or another Admiralty in 15 or 20 years. Who needs more shopping malls in Hong Kong?' Mr Law said. The architect also warned against ignoring the well-being of the underprivileged in the district. 'Many of the old residents who work as street cleaners and hawkers will be forced to live in the New Territories as they will not be able to afford living in the new housing in Wan Chai,' he said. Wong Wah-sang, an architect and chairman of Urban Watch, which has submitted several proposals for Wan Chai in recent years, said many historic buildings would be demolished or ruined in the redevelopment plans. An example is the Wan Chai Market, which Mr Wong said was one of the few remaining markets built in the 1930s in the modernist, or Bauhaus, style. But the Town Planning Board announced this month that the market will be replaced by a 46-storey residential building. Mr Wong also criticised the government for not putting in place a heritage policy that allowed for the preservation of a group of buildings or a whole street. 'The few blocks next to the Blue House, which has been singled out for preservation, should be renovated as many of them are traditional residential buildings with wooden ladders and antique-style balconies,' Mr Wong said. Mr Law and Mr Wong called for more community involvement. But the Urban Renewal Authority has said the development plan in Tai Yuen Street has gone through several rounds of public consultation and received approval from the government and the Wan Chai District Council in the mid-1990s. But council vice-chairman John Tse Wing-ling said his group had never been told about the overall planning for the old area in Wan Chai. 'Each time we were asked to comment on small-scale projects that cover only a few blocks or a small area,' he said.