One of Hong Kong’s last unrevitalized areas will become denser and pedestrian-friendly

On June 22, 2018, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) of Hong Kong, China, announced the beginning of a revitalization initiative for one of the few districts in Kowloon that hasn’t yet been rejuvenated: To Kwa Wan.

The URA is launching six projects to make the neighborhood both more pedestrian-friendly and more densely populated. The projects will create approximately 3000 new apartments in the neighborhood, which is just east of the now-closed Kai Tak Airport.

Most of the buildings involved are over 50 years old and eight stories high with no elevators. They are—for the most part—poorly maintained, and unauthorized rooftop structures are found on some buildings. The low-rise character of To Kwa Wan is a vestige of its development when the old airport was still in operation: no tall buildings were allowe, so as not to endanger arriving and departing aircraft. Now, the residential density the area needs in order to revitalize is possible.

The URA has now commenced statutory planning procedures of the Wing Kwong Street/Sung On Street Development Project (KC-014) in Kowloon City to carry through the holistic and district-based approach which the Authority has adopted in rejuvenating the district. A “planning-led” approach will be adopted to further enhance the road network and pedestrian environment, with an aim to maximise the planning and community benefits for the district.

The KC-014 Project is located in the vicinity of five URA’s redevelopment projects, which were commenced under the district-based approach for Kowloon City since 2016. The KC-014 Project covers Nos. 44 – 54A Ngan Hon Street (even numbers) and Nos. 72 – 118 Wing Kwong Street (even numbers) and has a total area of about 3,020 square metres. The buildings were constructed between 1958 and 1961 and are eight storeys high with no lifts. The buildings generally lack proper maintenance and repair. Unauthorised building structures are found on the roofs of some buildings.

At a media briefing to outline KC-014 Project and the district-based planning approach for the area, Director (Planning and Design) of URA, Mr. Wilfred Au, said the KC-014 Project would create synergy with the five URA projects commenced earlier in the vicinity to allow comprehensive restructuring and replanning of the area and maximising community benefits.

Since 2016, the URA has implemented a holistic planning strategy through a district-based approach to undertake urban renewal for the area, which included the suggestion of a new connection between Wan On Street and Ngan Hon Street, passing through the URA projects. This forms a new traffic network which enhances the north-south connection in the district. Another proposal is an underground communal carpark at the Hung Fook Street/Ngan Hon Street Development Project (KC-010) to serve nearby developments including KC-014 Project. This will help reduce the need for individual car park entrances at each project, improving pedestrian safety and maximising street frontages for ground level shops to strengthen the vibrancy of the streets.

The inclusion of KC-014 Project into the ‘district-based’ planning framework allows the individual URA projects to form a cluster to enable a more integrated and co-ordinated design for the area. Whilst the local streets are not included within the project area, this ‘district-based’ approach allows URA to incorporate elements of the ‘Revitalisation’ strategy to enhance connectivity and pedestrian environment. This can be achieved through expansion of pedestrian footpaths. The URA also proposes to construct an underground public car park within the Bailey Street/Wing Kwong Street Project (KC-009) to reduce the demand for roadside parking, hence releasing spaces for the pedestrians and for provision of greening and beautification works. The URA will continue to explore the options with the relevant Government departments,” said Mr. Au. He added that through the “district-based” approach and an integrated urban renewal strategy, the URA hopes to replan the district into a vibrant and safe pedestrian-friendly area.

The URA has commenced five projects in Kowloon City since 2016, which include Bailey Street/Wing Kwong Street (KC-009), Hung Fook Street/Ngan Hon Street (KC-010), Hung Fook Street/Kai Ming Street (KC-011), Wing Kwong Street (KC-012) and Kai Ming Street/Wing Kwong Street (KC-013). Together with Kai Ming Street Demand-Led Redevelopment Project (DL-8) commenced in December 2013 and KC-014 Project commenced today, these seven projects will form a small district with a site area of about 22,200 square metres.

KC-014 Project is commenced by way of a development project under section 26 of the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance (URAO). The URA’s preliminary proposal is to provide about 21,430 square metres of residential floor area for about 560 residential units and some 4,280 square metres of commercial/retail floor area.

Also speaking at the media briefing, General Manager (Acquisition & Clearance) of URA, Mr. Tam Kin-keung, said the URA would proceed with acquisition of the properties and compensation/rehousing for eligible tenants in accordance with the prevailing policy after obtaining approval from the Secretary for Development.

The project affects a total of 307 property interests. It is estimated that there are about 500 households and about 50 ground floor shops. About 170 URA staff members have been deployed today to conduct a freezing survey to ascertain the actual number of households and the occupancy status of the project.

The URA will arrange a series of briefing sessions to explain the planning procedures and the acquisition and compensation arrangements to the affected owners and tenants. An urban renewal social service team staffed by professional social workers of The Salvation Army has been appointed by Urban Renewal Fund to provide assistance to the owners and residents in need.

Photo of Hong Kong (including Kowloon) via Adobe Stock.

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