Developer wants to turn grade one listed Hong Kong building into luxury flats

CSI Properties submits planning application for residential development of Maryknoll House

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 July, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 July, 2018, 9:29am

A historic building in Hong Kong could be turned into luxury flats if its new owners get their way.

CSI Properties paid HK$780 million for Maryknoll House, a grade one listed building in Stanley, in 2016 and has applied to turn it into a low-rise luxury residential development.

The 83-year-old building at 44 Stanley Village Road was previously the headquarters of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, and has the highest listed status which means “every effort should be made to preserve them if possible”.

However, listed status does not prevent a building being demolished or changed, as protected status is only afforded to sites that are classified as monuments.

In an application submitted on behalf of the owners to the Town Planning Board by New Season Global Limited, the proposal suggests turning the 82,000 sq ft site into a low-rise residential complex, where part of the building’s historic facade would be preserved.

Under the application, the owners plan to build a new addition to the western side of the house, and turn the addition, together with the eastern part of the building, into five flats ranging from 2,700 sq ft to 5,900 sq ft.

The western part of the house would be modified into a single three-storey mansion of 19,500 sq ft.

The mansion and the five flats will be separated by a new, three-storey-high glass entrance, which the owner says will allow natural light to pass through the house and will “significantly enhance the heritage appearance of the existing facade by creating a striking contrast of old and new architecture”.

Hong Kong antiquities board declares three historic buildings worthy of permanent protection

CSI Properties also wants to build two new houses at a lower platform so they will not block the heritage site when viewed from afar.

The construction of the glass entrance will see the removal of parts of the historic building’s original facade, according to the proposal, but the removed materials will be used “as far as practicable” in the construction of the new houses.

“The house … should be preserved if possible,” the application reads. “However there is no statutory requirement for it to be preserved. The current owner could demolish the building, but [we] have looked at finding a practical and economic way to retain it.”

The owner also promises to provide guided tours “acceptable to the future residents” every six months, allowing pre-registered guests to visit the site, which is inaccessible to the public at the moment.

From Spain to the Great Wall of China, six botched restorations of artworks and historic buildings

Andrew Lam, chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board, which advises the government on heritage matters, admitted authorities had no “absolute power” to tell private owners how to conserve their properties. It could also not prevent them from demolishing their properties because of a lack of legal protection for graded historic buildings.

However, he said heritage authorities could express their views on related proposals to the Town Planning Board when consulted.

Hong Kong has the resources – but apparently not the expertise – to preserve historic buildings

Lee Ho-yin, head of architectural conservation programmes at the University of Hong Kong, said the proposal looked “unexpectedly good”, showing “sympathy to the heritage building by retaining and reusing the old building while keeping the new buildings compatible in design”.

“This seems to be potentially a good example of private development in keeping with conservation and following international best practice,” Lee said.

The public can comment on the proposal to the Town Planning Board before August 10.