Demolition work begins on historic Hong Kong pawn shop slated to become commercial tower

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2015, 7:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2015, 12:41pm

An iconic, 80-year-old pawn shop building in Wan Chai appears to be nearing its end, as work begins on a plan to tear it down and build a new commercial tower in its place.

Located on the corner of Hennessy Road and Marsh Road in Wan Chai, the building in which Tung Tak Pawn Shop operates was rated a Grade III historic building by the government in 2010. The building is known for its representative verandah and neon signs written from right to left.

But in 2013 the Buildings Department approved the landlord’s plan to tear down the building and erect a 23-storey commercial tower on the site. Now, demolition work has begun.

The Antiquities and Monuments Office said the landlord had wanted to demolish the building since 2008. There had been three negotiations to discuss preservation plans. In the end, the landlord insisted on demolishing the building, agreeing to provide photos and architectural records of the building for the office for its archives.

Neither building landlord Tak Shing Investment nor the Tung Tak Pawn Shop, which has moved next door, would comment on the situation. 

When asked why the building could not be saved like the Woo Cheong Pawn Shop on Johnston Road in Wan Chai, now the site of The Pawn restaurant, a spokesperson for the monuments office said the situations were different.

“The case of Woo Cheong Pawn Shop involved many parties such as the Urban Renewal Authority. The Tung Tak Pawn Shop building is privately owned.”

The office classifies historic buildings in Hong Kong into three grades. Grade III means a building is of some merit and preservation in some form would be desirable.

The Wan Chai District Council said in a report five years ago that the Tung Tak Pawn Shop was special, and should be preserved.

According to surveyor Charles Chan Chiu-kwok of Savills Valuation and Professional Services, the price of offices in Wan Chai has been “steadily increasing over the last 10 years because of shortage of offices in Hong Kong Island”.

An office with harbour view in Wan Chai can now fetch up to HK$25,000 per sq ft, Chan said.

While passers-by appeared to take little notice of the building as construction workers began to board it up, people on the internet were more vocal. A spokesperson for the Facebook group Old Hong Kong Lovers, which has 77,000 likes, said: “I think the demolition of Tung Tak Pawn Shop is a bad case, just as the Boathouse case in Stanley. It is because the property owners only consider the land value, but not the historical value of this specific building which is rare in Hong Kong.”