The Urban Renewal Authority will cut back dramatically on the Central Market revitalization project to slash the cost by nearly two thirds from an estimated HK$1.5 billion to HK$600 million.
The “urban floating oasis” in the original plan is to be cut, however, that will still leave 1,000 square meters reserved for public space, including what is needed for two entrances on Queen’s Road Central, while 10,000 sq m goes for commercial and other uses.
Authority managing director Daniel Lam Chun said the main reason for scaling down the project was the sharp rise of construction costs since the initial plan was presented in 2013. That had reached HK$1.5 billion against an original estimate of HK$500 million. He attributed that to increases in costs while judicial reviews were sought and held, delaying any work.
But the original plan, he added, was not feasible in any event as more investigations had found the building – over 80 year old – more unstable than first thought. Putting that right would have raised repair costs considerably.
“It turned out that the existing rooftop cannot be used for other purposes,” Lam explained. “It will not be accessible to the public. The public space will now be concentrated on the ground-floor atrium of the market.”
The chairman of the URA, Victor So Hing-woh, said it was sensible to trim the costs. And he insisted “the scaled-down version is still a good version.”
The Central Market will not be developed into a massive mall, he noted, and the chief purpose remains an opening of the facility to the people at large. The original plan was shaped after an extensive public consultation in 2013, but the revised version will go directly to the Town Planning Board. That should see the project completed in 2020 or 2021.
In another side of its business, the URA announced it will be offering an agent service to assist owners of buildings under the Civil Servants’ Co- operative Building Societies Scheme making collective sales.
To qualify for the service being launched in the first quarter of next year a site needs to have a 50-percent indivisible ownership, and at least 50 percent of buildings should be graded as partly dilapidated or “poor.” The authority will charge a 2 percent service fee upon successful sales