Green light for historic factory building conversion

Projects, Slider 19 Aug 2013
Green light for historic factory building conversion

Town planners approve plan for public rental housing


The last remaining factory building of a bygone era of Hong Kong’s history is set to get a new lease of life as a residential project to meet urgent demand for housing.

The Metro Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board last Friday gave the green light for the Housing Authority’s plan to convert the Chai Wan Factory Estate building in Chai Wan, which dates from 1959, into public rental housing to house about 566 people.

“It is the last ‘H’ type factory building in Hong Kong,” Planning Department said in its consideration paper for members of the board.

The Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced the proposal in August last year as part of 10 measures to increase housing supply.

Under the HA proposal, the vacant six storey flatted factory, which has a gross floor area (GFA) of 13,400 square metres, will be converted to provide 187 residential units.

The size of the units would be 18-32 square metres (194–344 square feet).

Of the 187 units, 153 would be family size flats while the remaining 34 units would be small flats.

The GFA of the non-domestic area, which will be for eating places and shops, is 1,200 square metres.

The building was accorded Grade 2 historic status in February this year.

Crucially the Antiquities and Monuments Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department gave its blessing to the conversion plan.

Along with the main building, other items such as the balconies, two existing access ramps, four existing chimneys and selected painted signage would also be preserved.

However not all of the existing building can be saved from demolition.

“As the existing central toilet block is in very poor structural condition, it will be rebuilt for domestic units,” the HA said in its planning statement.

Piled foundations would be used for the rebuilt central block.

The project also has to deal with potential contamination as the estate was previously used for workshops for metal wares and plastic products.

A land contamination assessment study concluded the contamination would be limited in scale.

Remedial measures to deal with any contamination include removal of all contaminated soil up to the pile cap soffit, about 1.47 metres below ground level, and use of in-situ capping method to contain the remaining contaminated soil underneath.

Demolition work is set to start next month to allow piling for the central block to begin in May 2014 with completion of the conversion in December 2015.

Conversion of the former Chai Wan Factory Estate into public rental housing is scheduled for completion in December 2015  (Danny Chung)

Conversion of the former Chai Wan Factory Estate into public rental housing is scheduled for completion in December 2015 (Danny Chung)

The estate was built by the then Resettlement Department in 1959 to house factories cleared from squatter areas that sprang up in Hong Kong due to an influx of refugees after the Second World War.

A heritage impact assessment report said that the estate was “the only surviving example built in the first model of factory estate in Hong Kong, and is therefore a rare physical evidence for interpreting the industrialization of Chai Wan since the 1950s”.

Not everyone was happy with the conversion plan though.

The consideration paper noted there were 208 public comments received during the period of statutory public inspection of which 203 comments were opposing.

The objection comments varied from objections to using substantial public money for conversion use through to counter-proposals to use the building instead for creative industries, youth hostel, interim housing, exhibition centre, civic centre or elderly care services.

Regarding cost effectiveness concerns, the consideration paper noted a response from HA saying that the cost of conversion was similar to new construction.

The MTR Corporation (0066) also pitched in with a comment.

“Our view is that rail operation noise will be of concern to future occupants of the proposed development. The presence of railway operation should therefore be duly considered in the development during the early stage of building design such that no restraint on railway operations would be resulted,” the company said.

Danny Chung


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