Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday unveiled plans to give overdeveloped Central some much-needed breathing space - at a cost of more than HK$26 billion in potential land revenue. They include preserving part of the government's headquarters buildings and turning the Central Market into an 'urban oasis'. The chief executive, in a policy address he described as a 'back-to-basics' blueprint, also came up with measures to revitalise more than 1,000 old industrial buildings - one of several steps intended to help knowledge-based industries develop. Among eight projects to improve quality of life in Central, Tsang proposed to preserve Government Hill - the centre of administration since the earliest colonial times - by retaining the main and east wings of the Central Government Offices complex, built in the 1950s, while allowing commercial development of the less historic west wing. A public garden will be built on part of the west wing's site. The former Central Market will be withdrawn from the list of sites for sale to developers. 'The idea of conserving Central is premised on our respect for the history of the district,' Tsang said. 'We must create attractions in the district for public enjoyment.' The Department of Justice, whose staff are now dispersed in various offices, will move into the two headquarters buildings after completion of the new government headquarters on the waterfront at Tamar - making it a neighbour of the Court of Final Appeal, which will take over the present Legislative Council building. The 40-year-old Murray Building on Garden Road will be offered for conversion into a luxury hotel, which is expected to open in 2014. The successful bidder for the contract to operate the hotel will be required to keep the building's heat-deflecting window design and the ramp connecting it to Cotton Tree Drive. The Central Market's 1,000 square metre rooftop will be 'greened'. Possible uses for the building include restaurants, a bookshop, gymnasium and an atrium garden for arts-related activities. Tsang said it would become an 'urban oasis' for white-collar workers in the daytime and a new hang-out for locals and tourists in the evenings and at weekends. Surveyors said the preserved sites could have been sold for HK$12,000 to HK$14,000 per square foot for grade A office developments. Yu Kam-hung, managing director of surveying company CB Richard Ellis, estimated the loss of revenue at more than HK$26 billion. Town Planning Board member Dr Ng Cho-nam praised the wisdom of protecting the core Central areas against further traffic congestion and air pollution. But he said the district's streetscapes could be threatened by bulky private redevelopments unless planning controls were put in place quickly. Tsang, who pledged to 'get the job done' when he sought re-election two years ago, lamented that his final term had been 'born at the wrong time'. 'We have experienced the financial tsunami, followed by swine flu ... As a responsible government we have to resolve these problems,' he said. Most political parties decried what they saw as a dearth of measures in the policy address to help the poor and unemployed. (The government has given handouts worth HK$87.6 billion to households and businesses since February last year.) Democratic Party chief Albert Ho Chun-yan said: 'In the whole of the policy address, there is not a single mention of the word 'poverty'.' Tam Yiu-chung, head of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it lacked steps to relieve poverty, create jobs or tackle rising youth unemployment. But Tsang said at a news conference after his speech: 'The annual policy address is about policy direction, not an occasion for handouts.' Tsang devoted only two paragraphs to electoral reform. He said the government planned to launch a public consultation next month on changes for 2012. Pan-democrats want the government to go further and sketch a road map to electing the chief executive and legislature by universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020 respectively - the earliest dates Beijing will accept. But Tsang said getting the support of two-thirds of legislators for proposed changes in 2012 would be difficult enough. 'We would make the matter more complicated if we make the battle lines even longer,' he said. 'Do we want to risk a repeat of the marching on the spot that happened in 2005?' That year, pan-democrats blocked proposed changes for elections in 2007 and 2008 on the grounds they did not go far enough.