Developer gets go-ahead to demolish historic Maryknoll House in Stanley after town planners give proposal the nod
- Three-storey building was formerly home for Catholic missionaries, but will become luxury flats
- Site has grade one listed status, but only buildings classified as monuments are protected
A proposal to turn a historic Hong Kong block for Catholic missionaries into luxury flats by its private owner was given the go-ahead by planning authorities on Friday.
The Town Planning Board backed the proposal to rezone the use of the 83-year-old Maryknoll House in Stanley from “government, institution or community”, to “residential development with historic building preserved”.
Under the plan, the historic house will be partially altered, or demolished, and replaced by a low-rise residential complex, although a large portion of the facade, as well as some important historic features, will be preserved.
The three-storey building at 44 Stanley Village Road has the highest listed status at grade one, which means “every effort should be made to preserve it if possible”.
However, listed status does not prevent a building from being demolished or changed, as legal protection is only afforded to sites that are classified as monuments.
“If the owners are not allowed to do anything with the site, they may consider it too inconvenient to keep it vacant and may choose to tear the whole building down for total redevelopment,” a source familiar with the meeting said.
The source said the amended zoning details of the site would still need to be screened by the board again before gazetting, which would provide another two months for the public to comment on the plan.
In a paper for the board’s consideration, the Planning Department, Commissioner for Heritage’s Office, Antiquities and Monuments Office and other relevant government departments all said they had no objection to the proposal to rezone the use of the site from “government, institution or community” to “residential development with historic building preserved”.
“The government recognises the need for economic incentives in order to encourage … private owners to preserve historic buildings,” the commissioner for heritage and the executive secretary for antiquities and monuments jointly said in the paper.
“As an incentive, it is considered justifiable to support the proposed development in exchange for the preservation of Maryknoll House in situ.”
The house was previously the headquarters of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, before CSI Properties bought it in 2016 for HK$780 million.
The proposal was submitted by New Season Global Limited, which is registered overseas, with some of its directors serving as CSI’s executive directors.
Under the proposal, the historic house will be developed into five flats ranging from 2,700 sq ft to 5,900 sq ft, as well as a single three-storey mansion of 19,500 sq ft.
Two new houses will be built at a lower platform so they will not block the heritage site when viewed from afar.
The planning application received 220 objecting views from the public, with some suggesting the site should be retained for religious use, or turned into a place for the homeless, a school or a market. Others argued the proposal had failed to preserve the building’s authenticity.
There were 16 supportive comments, which mostly said the plan could bring new life to the old building and further enhance local property prices.
Heritage officials said the “structural and architectural integrity” of the building would remain intact under the proposal.
They noted that part of the house’s first two floors would be removed to make way for a new glass entrance with barrier-free access, but said the house’s distinctive green glazed tiled roof would remain intact, and the new entrance could balance the modern and the historic elements of the building.
Officials added that the building’s most significant architectural features, including two grand staircases and a chapel wing, would be preserved.
The owner has also promised to provide guided tours “acceptable to the future residents” every six months, allowing pre-registered guests to visit the site, which has been inaccessible to the public since it was built in 1935.
But the Planning Department’s chief town planner pointed out that the applicant might have exaggerated in claiming that the proposal would open up views of the heritage building for public appreciation, because the layout indicated that the house would largely be blocked by the two new houses when viewed from a lower level.