Entering 2022, I wish you all good health and every success in the new year. Earlier on, I attended the Urban Renewal Fund (URF) 10th Anniversary Conference. As one of the major highlights of the Urban Renewal Strategy promulgated in 2011, the URF was founded to render assistance to the residents affected by redevelopment projects and to promote heritage preservation and district revitalisation by adopting a “people first, district-based, public participatory” approach to urban renewal. This time, I have invited the Chairman of the Board of the URF, Professor NGAI Sek-yum, Steven, to introduce the work of the URF so as to give us an insight into how connecting, inheriting, co-creating and integrating can be accomplished in residential communities.
Social Service Teams rendering assistance to affected residents in redevelopment projects
The URF has all along been playing a vital role in urban renewal work. One of its major tasks is, through engaging Social Service Teams (SSTs) consisting of professional social workers, to provide support for owners and tenants affected by the redevelopment projects implemented by the Urban Renewal Authority, and assist the residents in riding out the redevelopment process, overcoming the changes and problems in their lives brought about by the redevelopment projects and adapting to new living environment. Professor NGAI says that the SSTs have offered assistance to more than 50 000 affected residents in 40 odd redevelopment projects over the past ten years. Whether it be actual issues arising from the procedural arrangements, or emotional distress, the SSTs are dedicated to providing appropriate support for the affected residents so as to alleviate their pressure.
Fostering heritage preservation and district revitalisation
Separately, urban renewal has as much to do with demolition of dilapidated buildings for redevelopment as revitalisation of old urban districts with new impetus injected. Over the past decade, Professor NGAI says, the URF has funded a number of community-based co-creation projects to encourage local engagement in fostering heritage preservation and district revitalisation in the overall context of urban renewal, which include, among others, programmes pertaining to the promotion of community interaction and connection with locals (or kaifong) and neighbourhoods by means of various artistic mediums or activities; deep exploration of heartwarming stories in old neighbourhoods for passing on collective memories to the next generation; learning of local traditional arts and crafts; and facilitation of diversified cultural exchange for the purposes of building an inclusive society.
Projects with more than 700 000 participants in total
Professor NGAI says, so far, the URF has launched five rounds of funding scheme and approved a total of 19 preservation and revitalisation projects with funding of over $110 million. The operating institutions of these 19 projects, covering more than ten old urban districts (including Sai Ying Pun, Kowloon City, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong and North Point), come from various sectors (such as non-government organisations, community groups, art and cultural institutions and schools). Up to the present, 16 projects have been completed with a total of more than 700 000 participants. Earlier on, I attended the opening ceremony of the “Via North Point” Festival, one of the funded projects organised by the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
“Via North Point” adding vitality to an old urban district
North Point, Professor NGAI says, is a characteristic district with numerous time-honoured shops and a rich history. The “Via North Point” project envisions blending the old with the new. To achieve this, volunteers collect plenty of stories and reminiscences about North Point for local residents to get better acquainted with their home district. Meanwhile, artists present the stories in various art forms by designing artwork installations with district characteristics with a view to rejuvenating public spaces and showcasing the unique glamour of North Point. On the day of the opening ceremony, Professor NGAI and I visited among others “Sugar Factory”, a street workout facility placed at the North Point harbourfront which reflects the history of Tong Shui Road in North Point; “Symphony of North Point”, an installation for people to rest and interact with each other; and the distinguishing pillars inside the North Point Ferry Pier which depict the distinctive scenery of the community.
“Our Community of Love & Mutuality” in Kwai Chung promoting cultural exchange
Professor NGAI also shares with us another two funded projects aimed at promoting district characteristics and fostering place attachment through revamping old urban districts in a bid to nurture a sense of belonging in the community. The first one is “Our Community of Love & Mutuality – Nurturing Cultural Diversity & Community Legacy in Kwai Chung”, which has been implemented in a small Pakistani community in the district. Over the past eight years, the project has strived to revitalise the community, beautify open spaces and improve interactive areas for residents. As the key element of the project, Kung Yung Koon - The Dost was set up to hold activities such as exhibitions, guided tours and workshops on a regular basis, which have not only enriched community lives, but also facilitated cultural exchange between the local Chinese and South Asians, thereby promoting cultural diversity and inclusion in the community.
The Kowloon City Themed Walking Trail
The second project is the development of the Kowloon City Themed Walking Trail. With diverse histories and heritage, Kowloon City is a diverse community brimmed with attractions and specialty shops. With a total length of about 6.5 km, the walking trail under the project is the longest walking trail to date in Hong Kong. It is divided into five routes with different characteristics, linking up the major landmarks in Kowloon City, To Kwa Wan and Hung Hom. In addition to cultural activities, an information centre has also been set up under the project to foster heritage conservation and promote arts and culture in the district. The whole project commenced in 2018 and all routes of the walking trail are scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2022.
The urban landscape of a city cannot be enhanced without collective wisdom and collaborative support from various sectors of society. Through this post, I would like to extend my gratitude to the URF and various professional institutions and organisations for their continuous efforts. I hope the URF will continue to support the Government’s approach to realising the sustainable development of urban renewal, advancing quality urban living for residents and enhancing the vibrancy of the local community.
2 January, 2022Back