Urban planning

Massive redevelopment project in Hong Kong a step closer as authority agrees HK$100 million pay-off with town’s illegal store holders

Urban Renewal Authority had given business operators occupying land in Kwun Tong illegally until this week to accept special compensation deal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 10:52pm

A long-awaited redevelopment project in Hong Kong’s most densely populated district saw signs of progress on Tuesday, after shopkeepers illegally operating stalls in the area accepted a special compensation offer to move out.

Of the 106 affected business owners operating 74 unauthorised stalls in Kwun Tong, 91 have taken the one-off payment from the Urban Renewal Authority to leave their premises by the end of February to make way for the final phase of the Kwun Tong town centre redevelopment project.

The authority had given owners or tenants until Monday to either accept or reject a compensation offer, which could cost the authority HK$100 million (US$12.8 million).

The authority will ask the secretary for development “to initiate land resumption procedures in the middle of next year”, the URA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Some 110 shopkeepers, tenants and residents illegally occupied either government or private land in the 1960s and 1970s along a building strip near Yue Man Square and Kwun Tong Road.

Lax government enforcement, coupled with a lack of action from the owners of the land, has allowed the occupiers to stay for decades.

Because of the special circumstances, the authority has not been able to adopt the usual compensation policies in handling the situation.

The special deal only applied to 74 stalls that have illegally occupied private land. Those who have occupied public land, or have legal hawker licences, will be handled separately.

Hong Kong stall holders hit HK$100 million jackpot

Each shopkeeper would get a different amount based on location, stall size, occupancy tenure and whether they accept an offer to relocate to a rebuilt mall in the area in the future.

Mandy Wong, who owns a 27 sq ft stall selling socks in one of the alleyways, said she accepted the offer as it was a “reasonable amount”.

“I haven’t really thought about future plans, but I’m looking for other available stalls to rent in malls elsewhere, we’ll just have to see,” Wong said.

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Wong did not disclose the final offer she accepted, but according to earlier calculations is likely to receive about HK$770,000.

Kent Cheng, whose family owns and operated a fruit stall for more than 47 years, said they had not accepted a compensation offer of HK$1.2 million.

My father will just retire since he is old and not in good health
Kent Cheng, fruit stall operator

“It’s not because we’re not happy with the money offered, but we couldn’t come to an agreement on sharing the compensation with another business owner, who used to share our space,” Cheng said.

“We’d rather not get any money at all … my father will just retire since he is old and not in good health,” he said.

The remaining 15 owners or operators who did not accept the deal will not receive any other compensation offer, and will be evicted when the land is taken for redevelopment.

The Kwun Tong project is the largest one to be undertaken by the renewal authority, covering an area of more than 5.35 hectares.

Once redeveloped, the site will provide 1,700 flats, 357,580 sq ft of retail space, a two-level public transport interchange, a hawker bazaar, and a refuse collecting point.

The final phase of the project is slated for completion in 2026, two years late.