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LCQ4: Conservation and revitalisation of the Central Market Building

Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (May 31):
 
Question:
 
In March this year, the Government announced that the Chief Executive in Council had approved in principle that the site of the former Central Market be granted to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) by a private treaty for a term of 21 years at a nominal land premium, to enable URA to conserve and revitalise the Central Market Building (CMB).  On the other hand, when commencing the Lee Tung Street redevelopment project in Wan Chai in 2007, URA stated that it would feature in the redevelopment project a "Wedding City" with a wedding-themed design so as to preserve the original characteristics of Lee Tung Street where there used to be a large number of printing shops for wedding cards.  The project was completed at the end of the year before last, but the "Wedding City" was missing.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) as URA has made an undertaking to the Government that it will ensure that the tenants of the revitalised CMB will aim at providing affordable goods and services, of the measures put in place by the Government to ensure that URA will honour that undertaking and will not repeat its failure in the Lee Tung Street redevelopment project; whether such measures will include specifying in the land grant agreement that URA is required to lease the shops in the revitalised CMB to small operators at low rents;
 
(2) whether it knows if URA will conduct a public engagement exercise to consult the public on the modus operandi of the revitalised CMB and on the affordable cultural and retail facilities that should be provided there; how the authorities will rehouse the shop operators that are still running business in CMB at present; and
 
(3) as some members of the public have suggested that URA should make reference to the Lau Pa Sat Market in the central business district of Singapore, and position the revitalised CMB as a food court offering inexpensive food of good quality and with local flavours, whether the Government will request URA to study that suggestion; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:
 
President,
 
The preservation and revitalisation of the Central Market Building is one of the measures under "Conserving Central".  In view of the statutory mission of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) in preserving buildings, sites and structures of historical, cultural or architectural interest, the Government entrusted URA in 2009 with the preservation and revitalisation of the Central Market Building.
 
To take forward the Central Market Revitalisation Project, the Community Advisory Committee established by URA conducted an extensive public engagement exercise between 2009 and 2011 to tap public views on the preferred uses, facilities and operation approaches of the revitalised Central Market Building.  There was public consensus that the operation model should have due regard to heritage conservation and public enjoyment, and should avoid profit-maximisation.  The revitalised Central Market Building will provide a diversified and non-uniform leisure space for public enjoyment and will adopt an operation model aiming at providing affordable goods and services with greenery and public space provided.
 
Subsequently, URA announced in September 2015 that it would adopt a simplified design in preserving and revitalising the Central Market Building.  The Town Planning Board approved the relevant planning approval conditions for the revised design of the revitalisation project in September 2016 and the Buildings Department approved the revised building plan in November 2016.  To support URA in preserving and revitalising the Central Market Building in accordance with public consensus, the Government announced in March 2017 that the Chief Executive in Council had approved in principle that the site of the former Central Market be granted to URA by private treaty at a nominal land premium for a term of 21 years.  URA is implementing the Central Market Revitalisation Project in accordance with the conditions of the planning approval and the public consensus achieved from the above-mentioned extensive public engagement exercise.  URA expects to commence the alteration and construction works in the second half of this year as soon as the various approvals are obtained, and will endeavour to complete the revitalisation project before the end of 2021 for early enjoyment by the public.
 
Having consulted URA, my reply to the three-part question is as follows:
 
(1) URA made a public pledge that the Central Market Revitalisation Project will be implemented on the basis of the above-mentioned public consensus achieved from the extensive public engagement exercise.  In addition, consideration may be given to opening certain areas in the Central Market Building around the clock.  The Government and URA are negotiating the detailed terms of the land grant and the relevant agreement.  To ensure that URA can operate the revitalised Central Market Building in accordance with public consensus, the above operating principles will be reflected in the detailed terms of the land grant and the relevant agreement.
 
(2) and (3) As mentioned above, URA conducted an extensive public engagement exercise between 2009 and 2011, including territory-wide opinion polls, consultation workshops for professional bodies, workshops for public engagement and roving exhibition on the design concept, etc., during which public consensus regarding the operation model for the revitalised Central Market Building was reached.

To implement the above-mentioned operation model, URA set up an Ad Hoc Committee on the Central Market Revitalisation Project in January 2016, and commenced a consultancy study based on the comments collected and consensus achieved in the public engagement exercise conducted between 2009 and 2011 to work out the details of the operation arrangements.  URA pledges to ensure that the operator of the revitalised Central Market Building will aim at providing affordable goods and services, exercise control over the uses and tenant mix of the Central Market Building to encourage a diversified array of affordable goods and services, and will not introduce expensive branded stores.  URA will report regularly to the Central and Western District Council and URA Central and Western District Advisory Committee on the progress of the relevant study and the revitalisation project.

Currently, eight short-term tenancy agreements have been granted by the Lands Department (LandsD) for retail uses on the second floor of the Central Market Building.  LandsD issued notices of termination in mid-April 2017 to request the eight tenants concerned on the second floor of the Central Market Building to vacate the premises before end July 2017.  If these tenants meet the requirements of the operation model of the revitalised Central Market Building, they may consider applying to the operator appointed by URA for tenancy.

Ends/Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:50

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