Urban Renewal Authority


Urban Renewal Authority

The Urban Renewal Authority (Chinese: 市區重建局; URA) is a statutory body in Hong Kong responsible for accelerating redevelopment to provide a better living environment and neighbourhood. It was set up in 1999, replacing its predecessor Land Development Corporation (土地發展公司, or 土發 for short) which was set up in 1988. The Urban Renewal Authority was officially established on May 1, 2001.

Urban decay in Hong Kong

At present, there are about 9,300 private buildings in the metro area (Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Tsuen Wan District and Kwai Tsing District) defined by the Hong Kong Planning Department which are 30 years old and above. In ten years' time, the number of buildings over 30 years old will increase by 50%. The problem of aging buildings is more serious in older urban areas.

To address the problem of urban decay and improve the living conditions of residents in dilapidated areas, the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (Chapter 563) was enacted in July 2000. The Ordinance provides a new institutional framework for carrying out urban renewal.

The Urban Renewal Proposals

Introduction

The proposals started with a broad assessment of the magnitude of the urban renewal problem. Information on building age and conditions extracted from databases kept by the Planning, Buildings, Fire Services, and Home Affairs Departments, and the Land Development Corporation was utilised as the preliminary basis for assessing the need for urban renewal. The proposals gradually broadened to include district and planned development, transport, socio-demographic and environmental considerations in delineating urban renewal project areas. Many of the priority project areas are concerted in localised parts of the aged urban areas. The proposals took on a targeted area approach to urban renewal. Wan Chai is one of the nine targeted areas initially delineated to focus redevelopment and rehabilitation actions in a corresponding manner. The other areas are Ma Tau Kok, Tai Kok Tsui, Sham Shui Po, Yau Ma Tei, Yau Tong, Kwun Tong, Sai Ying Pun and Tsuen Wan.

Aims

Although urban renewal is difficult to define clearly, it normally involves relatively large-scale redevelopment of urban areas, rather than piecemeal rebuilding of individual buildings or the provision of specific facilities. Its objectives include:
* improvements to the urban environment and infrastructure by the provision of more open space, community and other facilities;
* enhancements to urban layouts, road networks and other infrastructure;
* the substitution or overhaul of archaic buildings;
* better exploitation of land;
* thinning out of development and population densities to reduce the strain on over-burdened transport and other infrastructure;
* making accessible land to meet various uses such as housing, and
* redeveloping a particular area in order to act as a catalyst for the redevelopment of neighbouring areas by private developers, as enhanced property values make this more viable.

Examples

Two pilot townscape enhancement schemes, namely Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai and the area around Lan Kwai Fong and adjoining the Central District Central-Mid-Levels escalator (the Soho area), are proposed to preserve their unique local character and to enhance their attractiveness to tourists. For the Stone Nullah Lane area, it is proposed to form part of an adjoining redevelopment priority project area. The redevelopment project will be carefully designed to integrate with the preservation of a group of the adjoining buildings of heritage value. It will be carried out by the Urban Renewal Proposals.

Criticism

Demolition of Lee Tung Street

Lee Tung Street, better known by its local nickname "Wedding Card Street", is famous for its printing shops that sell custom-made wedding cards, coloured flashy red for luck. Despite efforts by local residents and conservationists to save the street's character, old buildings along the street are scheduled for demolition. Many proprietors have shut down their shops and moved out. Today, most stores have signs that say "This is an Urban Renewal Authority Property" on their front gates. Campaigners who fought to keep the street's character concede that the buildings are in poor shape, but they are sad to see Hong Kong losing another piece of its cultural identity.

Renovation of Tai Yuen Street

Visitors may gain a distinctive experience of bustling local street-stall shopping in Tai Yuen Street. About 200 huckster stalls sell a wide variety of dried goods, garments and household products there. Fascinating goods are offered at bargain prices. Some of them, such as dumplings, Chinese herbal medicine and preserved food are predominantly tourist attractions to overseas travellers. This is a place where old houses and modern mansions mingle, creating an interesting disparity. Today, as Wan Chai becomes a business hub, the government is planning to have these stalls moved into a new indoor market building.

Relocation

Commercial tenants face similar problems as their domestic counterparts in that low-cost premises are getting hard to find in Wan Chai. Affordable commercial space is not always available in newly-developed commercial buildings. Even owner-operators of commercial premises are unable to relocate in the same district because the compensation they get from the Urban Renewal Authority do not always match the purchase price of similar-sized properties in the same district. It was proposed, therefore, that options should be made available to owners or tenants so that they can choose between physical relocation by developers, cash compensation to allow them buy or rent elsewhere, or wind up their businesses altogether.

Membership

At the end of April 2007, Alan Leong Kah-kit was dropped from the board of directors of the Authority, after two years of service. Leong said he was not angry or surprised. "The government expects those who are appointed to statutory bodies to shut up and not express any opposing view to the public," he said. "If I really want to work for the people, then there is no point in staying there." [ [http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=11&art_id=43494&sid=13404240&con_type=1&d_str=20070502&sear_year=2007 Last effort to keep pier close to its current site] , Michael Ng, The Standard, May 02, 2007]

List of Projects

Completed projects

(including previous projects by Land Development Corporation)

Redevelopment

* The Center in Central
* Grand Millennium Plaza and Cosco Tower in Sheung Wan
* Langham Place in Mong Kok
* Kennedy Town New Praya Project (The Merton)
* Waterloo Road/Yunnan Lane Project (8 Waterloo Road) in Yau Ma Tei

Revitalisation

* Sheung Wan Revitalisation Project: Sheung Wan Fong (the public square adjacent to Western Market)

Current projects

* Tsuen Wan Redevelopment Project (between Yeung Uk Road, Tai Ho Road, Sha Tsui Road and Wo Tik Street)
* The Merton (New Praya, Kennedy Town)

Planned projects

Proposed projects

Revitalisation

* Revitalization/Preservation Project of 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane, 2-8 Hing Wan Street and 8 King Sing Street.
* Mallory Street/Burrows Street Project

References

External links

* [http://www.ura.org.hk/ Official website of the URA]


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