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Conservation

As wrecking ball looms, activists launch last-ditch bid to rescue ‘landmark’ 42-year-old Hongkong Post headquarters

Demolition plan is part of HK$12 billion blueprint for eight key sites on the Central harbourfront in the heart of Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 7:42pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 10:32pm

Hong Kong activists are making a last-ditch attempt to persuade the government to spare the General Post Office building from the wrecking ball, arguing demolition would erase an iconic landmark from the Central harbourfront.

The 42-year-old structure, which houses the headquarters of Hongkong Post, is set to be bulldozed to make way for new office buildings and a mall as part of a transformation of the city’s prime waterfront space.

Most of its contents will be relocated to a new eight-storey tower in Kowloon Bay, across Victoria Harbour, which will cost taxpayers HK$1.6 billion (US$204 million).

But proponents of conservation believe the move would lay to waste a perfectly functional and intact piece of heritage.

“Demolishing it is not necessary,” said Roy Tam Hoi-pong of the activist group Green Sense.

“Not only would doing so be unreasonable, it would also produce a large amount of construction waste.”

The five-storey building was erected in 1976 to replace Hongkong Post’s previous Edwardian-era headquarters at the junction of Des Voeux Road Central and Pedder Street.

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According to rough estimates from Green Sense based on the building dimensions, its number of supporting columns, concrete slabs and foundations, tearing the post office down would produce more than 12,000 cubic metres of waste – enough to fill five standard-size swimming pools.

The redevelopment of the lot – known as Site 3 – is part of a HK$12 billion plan for eight key sites on the Central harbourfront, in the heart of Hong Kong. Upmarket office space, a large pedestrian deck and a mix of hotels and shops are slated. Town planners approved the outline for the site in September 2016.

However, Katty Law Ngar-ning, co-convenor of the Central and Western Concern Group, is unconvinced by the grand plan.

“There are more than enough malls in Central and Admiralty. But what we don’t have enough of are cultural landmarks,” she said.

Although the building is only about four decades old, Law argued age should not be the only determinant of heritage value.

Hong Kong post office HQ to be demolished to make way for offices in plan to transform Central harbourfront

“The General Post Office has served Hongkongers for more than 40 years and ... its symbolism is embodied by all the commerce, trade, cultural and societal exchanges that took place there,” she said. “It is an important piece of architecture in our collective memory.”

Law suggested the building be preserved in situ amid the harbourfront redevelopment, and used as a cultural exhibition space or postal-themed museum to complement plans for expansion of nearby City Hall.

A public works subcommittee in Hong Kong’s legislature will continue discussing the headquarters move at a meeting on Wednesday.

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“Legislators must speak out and oppose this demolition,” lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung said. “Some or even all of the postal operations [can be moved] to Kowloon Bay, but this is a historical landmark that must be preserved, and we will try to make this point more salient during deliberations at the Legislative Council.”

The government’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said the complex had to be moved to “optimise the development potential of Site 3” amid a shortage of grade A office space in the area.