Conserving built heritage in Hong Kong is easier said than done, as shown in the challenges in revitalising listed buildings and monuments. Awareness and resources have been on the rise in recent years, but the trial-and-error approach means setbacks are also inevitable. Even when individual projects have sound ideas, there is no guarantee for sustainable operation. A case in point is the historic mansion King Yin Lei. The privately owned 85-year-old complex, a rare surviving example of Chinese Renaissance-style architecture that blends Eastern and Western design, was literally saved from the wrecking ball in 2007 after demolition works fuelled a public outcry and prompted the government to step in. Although it was acquired and turned into a declared monument with taxpayer money, it has twice failed to attract suitable operators to give it a new life. And even when it finally made it into the latest batch of revitalisation projects approved by the government, scepticism abounds. The involvement of a pro-Beijing think tank and government subsidies might have coloured perceptions. But the plan to turn the mansion into a healthy living centre, officials say, is the best among the 18 proposals received. It will take another five years for the Mid-Levels complex to transform into one promoting tea culture, herbal medicine and sustainable health. As taxpayers are to foot an upfront capital cost of HK$188.3 million (US$24 million) and an operation subsidy of HK$5 million, transparency and accountability are essential. Pro-Beijing think tank to turn historic Hong Kong mansion into health centre Also to be revitalised is Tai Tam Tuk Raw Water Pumping Station Staff Quarters Compound, which will turn into a school for nature-based early childhood education. Homi Villa, built in the 1930s by Indian merchant Jehangir Hormusjee Ruttonjee, is to become a learning centre for Chinese culture and environmental studies. Fong Yuen Study Hall will continue its mission in Ma Wan as a learning centre with cultural and ecological activities. At stake is not just a staggering HK$600 million bill for renovation and operation subsidies, but also the future of the city’s invaluable heritage. It is to be hoped that the buildings have found the right operators to give them a sustainable new life.