Major facelift planned for old Hong Kong urban area as renewal authority combines two lots

Urban Renewal Authority plans two residential buildings, open space and a new road in drive to upgrade ageing district in To Kwa Wan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 March, 2017, 10:47pm

An old urban neighbourhood in Kowloon is set to get a major facelift as dilapidated buildings will make way for public open space and a new road, in a rare move by the Urban Renewal Authority to combine two redevelopment sites.

The authority plans to buy one site along Kai Ming Street and Wing Kwong Street in To Kwa Wan and combine it with an adjacent plot of land it is already redeveloping.

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By combining the two sites for redevelopment, the authority plans to build two new residential buildings that will provide 410 flats, a 3,000 sq ft open space and a new road to improve vehicle access when the project is completed by 2027.

“This plot of land, albeit small, is very crucial for our overall redevelopment plans as it will improve transport and enhance the community as a whole,” authority executive director Michael Ma Chiu-tsee said.

The authority has four other ongoing redevelopment projects in the district that is predominantly an old residential and commercial area.

If we waited until the ceiling really came crashing down, I wouldn’t be here talking to you
Owner Chow Wai-pui

The plan to combine the two sites for a more district-based redevelopment approach is a rare move for the authority. The public has long criticised the URA for its piecemeal approach in building single blocks on each redevelopment site without considering community-based needs.

The site includes a number of mid-rise, old tenement houses built since 1958 and a cluster of ground-level shops that include car repair businesses and traditional Chinese restaurants.

The project, estimated to cost more than HK$2 billion, will displace around 180 residents and 30 shop tenants.

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One of the affected residents, Chow Wai-pui, said he welcomed the redevelopment plan even though he has lived in the area for more than two decades.

“We’ve had to fix things in the flat ourselves every few years ... If we waited until the ceiling really came crashing down, I wouldn’t be here talking to you,” Chow said, referring to parts of the flat’s ceiling where chunks of concrete had fallen off.

Chow said their only concern was that the compensation would only allow them to buy a home half the size of the 700 sq ft flat they were currently living in.

Affected landlords who reside in their own flats have an option of a flat-for-flat swap in neighbouring URA redevelopment projects or taking cash compensation equivalent to the flat’s market value.

Cheung Chun-fong, who runs a barber shop in the area, said she feared the redevelopment plan would force her into early retirement.

“Where are we going to move to? We’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and we’d like to continue for several more,” Cheung said.

Cheung and her husband, who are both in their sixties, moved into their 200 sq ft shop two years ago after they were forced out by rising rents in a nearby location.

“Most of our customers are regulars. If we move somewhere else, we might have to retire altogether,” she said.