Speech by SDEV at MIPIM Asia 2010 (English only) (with photos)

Following is the speech delivered by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, today (November 10) at the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2010:

Mr Zilk, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

Good morning. It is my great pleasure to greet you at the fifth MIPIM Asia held in Hong Kong. I wish to extend my warmest welcome to more than 1,900 participants from 42 countries, and my hearty thanks to Mr Zilk and MIPIM Asia for organising this wonderful event for the fifth consecutive year in Hong Kong.

To show our support for MIPIM Asia as a major event and to reciprocate the goodwill to its organiser in placing their trust in Hong Kong's strengths as a Centre for MICE, the Financial Secretary and I are taking turns to do this welcoming act: Mr John C Tsang did it in 2007 and 2009 opening while I am pleased to have officiated in 2008 and am joining you here today for MIPIM Asia 2010.

In 2008, I spoke here about my role as the Secretary for Development and our contribution to the healthy development of the property market in Hong Kong, and I also spoke about the 10 mega infrastructure projects that the Chief Executive had outlined in his 2007 Policy Address. 

Two years on, save for a short dip in late 2008 because of the financial tsunami, our property market has continued to boom. On the positive side, this has brought about creation of jobs and stimulated the local economy. On the negative side, we are facing a lot of pressure in making land available for housing and helping people aspiring to home ownership. Today, I will start by focusing on the related but equally important subject of urban renewal, which, in fact is our way to more efficiently put to optimum re-use our precious land resources in the centre of urban Hong Kong. I am sure property experts attending the forum know better than I do that in property transactions, the catch phrase is always "location, location, and location", which makes the release of brown field sites from the urban centre through urban renewal such an important agenda.

In Government, we take a more macro view. To us, the value of urban land is not just what we are after. It is the well-being of our citizens living in a dilapidated environment and the regeneration of our urban city centre. That is, the process of revitalising the decaying old districts which had once been flourishing places. Hong Kong's building stock in old urban districts is ageing rapidly. In 2001, under a dedicated piece of legislation - the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance - we established the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), which is an agency with statutory powers and duties, to rejuvenate old urban districts. We also prepared an Urban Renewal Strategy (URS) to guide the work of the URA. In taking forward urban renewal, the URA can rely on the Government to exercise a public power of land resumption, paying compensation to those affected. Between 2001 and 2009, the URA, partnering with private developers, redeveloped an average of about 65 old buildings a year, and through the redevelopment, provided about 12,000 new flats, over 328,000 square metres of commercial space, offices and hotel, about 53,000 square metres of Government, Institution or Community facilities, and on top of that, over 26,000 square metres of public open space. However, there are still about 4,000 buildings aged 50 years or over in Hong Kong. We are estimating that every year from now on, this stock of 4,000 buildings will increase by 500 each year. This is largely because many of our private buildings are concrete housing stock built in the 1950s and 1960s, and they will soon come to the end of their design life and hence need to be considered for redevelopment. 

With the change in community values and attitudes towards development over the past decade, more and more of the URA's redevelopment projects have met with local resistance. One of the main criticisms levelled at our urban renewal work was the top-down approach in identifying redevelopment projects with very little community input. 

To address that, after two years of extensive public engagement, including the use of an Idea Shop in Wan Chai and radio talk shows hosted by myself on every Saturday for a month to solicit public views, we have concluded a review of our Urban Renewal Strategy. In the process of review, we have also made extensive references to best practice in neighbouring Asian cities including Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei, Guangzhou and Shanghai through visits and discussions with key officials and stakeholders. We have also conducted a number of policy studies. In his Policy Address delivered less than a month ago, the Chief Executive announced a revised Urban Renewal Strategy embodying three core values: Public Participation, District Based and People Centred. 

The first and foremost recommendation is how we will carry out urban renewal in future, and in particular how the URA will do in order to give effect to a bottom-up, district-based and public participatory approach in urban renewal. Our answer lies in the setting up of an independent forum called the District Urban Renewal Forum or in short, DURF. DURF will comprise members from professionals, non-government organisations and local community groups. They will take an integrated and holistic approach and will advise the Government and URA about local aspirations on urban renewal at an early stage before URA prepares comprehensive redevelopment projects in the old urban areas with a range of residential, commercial, Government, institution or community developments to revitalise the areas. As you would see when you visit the panels about URA's work in the Development Bureau's booth which is the first time in MIPIM Asia's history, the Authority is committed to redevelopment projects that will yield planning gains such as public open space, community facilities and also the commitment to adopting environmentally sustainable features in its projects.

The other highlight of our new strategy is to offer to owner occupiers affected by redevelopment the option of "flat for flat" in lieu of cash compensation, both calculated on the basis of the value of a seven-year notional replacement flat in the same district. To facilitate an effective implementation of this initiative, and knowing that many of our urban redevelopment projects will take place in central Kowloon, the Government will make available residential sites in the Kai Tak Development to the URA to build modest, affordable and environmentally sustainable flats with an area ranging from about 40 to 60 square metres as these are the typical sizes of flats that we acquire for redevelopment in Hong Kong. Although the offer of flats in Kai Tak will be non-in-situ "flat for flat" because it does not come from the same old area, it is in fact the indispensable "first solution space" for this new option. This arrangement is unprecedented in Hong Kong but has been warmly welcomed by our politicians and the public at large.

Talking about Kai Tak Development, we certainly have more in store than the "flat-for-flat" option. This is a 320-hectare site which has been lying idle after relocation of the airport to Chek Lap Kok in 1998. Unlike a new town at the outskirts of the city, Kai Tak is at the core of the city. The community spent years debating how to best re-use the site -- whether we should have reclamation, what should be the development mix, what are the anchor facilities in Kai Tak, and what about sustainability, etc. At last, the final blueprint was set in late 2007 with the vision to develop Kai Tak into a distinguished, vibrant, attractive and people-oriented place by the harbour to showcase this harbourfront city.

About 10 kilometres of waterfront will be opened up for people to enjoy by the Kai Tak Development. With a world-class cruise terminal now under construction, the former airport site will be transformed from a "gateway to the sky" into a "gateway to the seas". A multi-purpose stadium complex will form a hub for sports facilities. Kai Tak will also accommodate new offices, hotels, medium to low density residential developments and other facilities. Ultimately, it will be a new development accommodating 86,000 people. The economic activities brought about by the cruise terminal, offices, hotels, etc. will give impetus to the surrounding areas and help their revitalisation.

Kai Tak will be a green city, with about 30% of its area dedicated to open space and landscaping. A green web of landscaped pedestrian corridors links up various destinations including to old districts. Individual development sites will also be subject to a greening ratio to provide a minimum amount of landscaping. 

The development plan is also laid out to promote natural ventilation using landscaped corridors and pedestrian streets to capture the prevailing wind. To further reduce energy consumption and heat island effect, Kai Tak will be served by a sea water district cooling system, which is the first of its kind in Hong Kong.

A new railway line, the Sha Tin-Central Link, will route through Kai Tak with two stations to provide sustainable transport. Trunk roads passing through this area will be either in tunnel form or hidden as far as possible.

Recently, to our pleasant surprise, while we were doing some site investigation works at Kai Tak, we uncovered the remains of a stone bridge called Lung Tsun Stone Bridge, which has a history dating back to the 1890s. We are working on preserving the remains of this stone bridge. Apart from this preservation effort, the "no-reclamation" development plan for Kai Tak keeps the airport runway intact, forming a kilometre-long straight boulevard and a Runway Park to celebrate this airport heritage.

The care for heritage stems from our passion for our culture and lifestyle. And to me, heritage conservation is as exciting, if not more exciting, as the major infrastructure I outlined to guests in 2008. To demonstrate our determination and commitment to heritage conservation in Hong Kong, we have since 2007 introduced a package of measures including the adaptive re-use of Hong Kong's historic buildings.

Under this scheme to revitalise government-owned historic buildings, we invited non-government organisations to submit proposals for adaptive re-use of these buildings. We hope that creative approaches in preserving our historic buildings and expanding their usage can be adopted to transform them into unique cultural landmarks.

I am pleased to say that our hard work is starting to pay off. Some of our projects are coming to fruition. A few weeks ago, the Chief Executive and I celebrated the opening of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hong Kong, at a former court building in North Kowloon which has been revitalised into SCAD's first Asian campus. It is the first project to complete under our scheme. Over 150 undergraduate students are now enjoying their studies in the historic building.

Apart from working with partners, we are also committed to district-based conservation. In the district of Sham Shui Po, where SCAD Hong Kong now sits, we are going to have other revitalisation projects including turning Hong Kong's first public housing block built in the 1950s into an international youth hostel, and also adapt an old cluster of low-rise hospital buildings into an academy in the promotion of Chinese culture.

The highlight of our heritage work is naturally "Conserving Central" announced by the Chief Executive in his last year's Policy Address. Consisting of eight projects, the initiative showcases some of the finest and grandest architecture in the heart of Hong Kong and our plans to sustain their vitality for the future generations. Examples are the Central Police Station Compound, the Central Market and also the Central Government Offices.

On privately-owned historic buildings, the Government provides economic incentives to owners in some instances, to ensure that these structures are properly maintained and protected. King Yin Lei, a private mansion built in 1930s on Stubbs Road, is a good example of this. The full story behind this magnificent family mansion which has been literally saved from demolition through a land swap can also be found in the Development Bureau's booth in Hall 5.

 MIPIM Asia is about "seizing the best real estate opportunities in Asia Pacific". We are providing some of those opportunities in each of the areas of work I have just outlined. For example, the vision of Kai Tak can only be achieved by private real estate projects through appropriate land sales and one of the "Conserving Central" projects -- the transformation of the Murray Building office building into a distinct hotel will be the subject of a public tender next year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have highlighted some interesting developments in Hong Kong that might stimulate your appetite for the coming talks and keynotes of the Conference, as well as your interest in further exploring the property investment environment in Hong Kong. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to visit our booth and see for yourself more details and models of URA's work, Kai Tak Development and Conserving Central, all aiming at making Hong Kong a quality city. 

I wish MIPIM Asia every success and I hope all of you have a pleasant stay in Hong Kong.

Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:06


The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the opening ceremony of MIPIM Asia 2010 with other guests today (November 10). Mrs Carrie Lam performs an eye-dotting ceremony for the lion dance. Mrs Carrie Lam is briefed on the Kai Tak Development while touring the Hong Kong Pavilion at MIPIM Asia 2010. The Hong Kong Pavilion features three main themes: Kai Tak Development, heritage conservation and urban renewal. Mrs Carrie Lam views a model of the Kwun Tong Town Centre redevelopment project while touring the Hong Kong Pavilion at MIPIM Asia 2010.