LCQ11: Central Oasis

Following is a question by the Hon Tony Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (May 22):


The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) is rolling out a project themed "Central Oasis" to revitalise the former Central Market. URA had already awarded the comprehensive design consultancy contract for the project, but the project was subsequently frozen due to a judicial review case involving the Draft Central District Outline Zoning Plan (draft OZP). Upon conclusion of the case early this year, the Chief Executive in Council approved the draft OZP on April 9 and the project can thus be resumed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(a) the latest implementation timetable of the project and the time delayed when compared with the original timetable;

(b) whether URA has assessed the impacts of the delay mentioned in (a) on the project (including its cost-effectiveness); if it has, of the assessment results; if not, the reasons for that, and whether it will conduct such an assessment;

(c) the counter-measures put in place by URA with regard to the various impacts mentioned in (b), the specific contents of the various measures and the costs involved respectively; and

(d) whether URA has any plans to make good use of the former Central Market before the revitalisation works commence; if it has, of the details and the expected benefits; if not, the reasons for that?



In October 2009, the Government proposed to hand over the Central Market to the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) for conservation and revitalisation. This will improve the air quality in the district and provide a precious leisure place in this busy city area. The revitalised Central Market will become an "urban oasis" for workers in the daytime and a new hang-out spot for locals and tourists in the evenings and on weekends.

In December 2009, URA set up the Central Oasis Community Advisory Committee (COCAC), with members drawn from the Central and Western District Council and the professional and business sectors who had proven knowledge in the relevant fields to advise on the implementation of the revitalisation scheme.  COCAC subsequently decided to initiate an extensive public engagement exercise to draw up proposals on the use and design of the revitalised Central Market building.

As the 80-year old Central Market is a Grade 3 historical building which ceased operation in 2003, there is a need for URA to conduct preparatory work including a structural survey on the market building as well as a study on its character-defining elements. The relevant work is now complete.

My reply to the four-part question is as follows:

(a) URA plans to carry out the revitalisation works in two phases in order to meet the requirement that the second floor passageway of the market building, which links the mid-levels escalator with the harbourfront in Central, must remain open round the clock. According to the original plan, URA would, upon completion of the public engagement exercise in mid-2011, submit a planning application to the Town Planning Board (TPB) in mid-2012 on the major additions and alterations proposed to the Central Market building. The plan at the time was to complete the Phase I works in 2015-16 with the whole project to be completed by 2017-18.

The rezoning of the Central Market from "Other Specified Uses" ("OU") annotated "Bus Terminus, Open Space and Commercial Development" to "OU" annotated "Building with Historical and Architectural Interests Preserved for Commercial, Cultural and/or Community Uses" was incorporated in the draft Central District Outline Zoning Plan (OZP) gazetted on July 16, 2010. As the approval of the subject OZP was delayed due to the judicial review and appeal proceedings since 2011, URA could not submit its planning application to TPB in 2012 as scheduled.

When the subject legal action ended in early 2013, the Chief Executive in Council approved the draft OZP in April 2013. URA promptly finalised the planning application for the former Central Market building for submission to TPB by mid-2013.

Subject to the approval of TPB, the first phase of the proposed works is expected to be completed by 2017-18, while the whole project will be completed by 2019-20, that is, two years later than the original plan. Apart from being affected by the legal action relating to the draft OZP, the original work schedule has also been slightly put back as there are complicated issues to be resolved in getting the novel design of the revitalised building comply with the existing building and other safety regulations.

(b) In 2009, URA estimated that it would invest $500 million for the revitalisation project. This cost estimate is expected to increase due to the delay. URA will only be able to work out a more accurate estimate of the increase when the subject planning application is considered and approved by TPB and the subsequent works plan approved. The delay of the revitalisation of the former Central Market building has impacted on the project cost and the project completion date, thereby affecting the public at large.

(c) As URA will pay in full the expenses of the Central Market revitalisation project, there is no need to set aside government provision for the project delay. Upon TPB's approval of URA's planning application, the departments concerned will make every effort to facilitate early implementation of the project.

(d) The Central Market building is a government property currently managed by the Lands Department (Lands D). From 2010 onwards, URA has been renting part of the area along the second floor passageway of the building by way of short term tenancy to carry out beautification works and to make available a temporary activity area known as the "Oasis Gallery". Over the past three years, URA held some 80 exhibitions and activities at the "Oasis Gallery" in collaboration with local institutions, non-governmental organisations and arts groups. URA has also collaborated with local artists to mount a huge curtain at the building with comics featuring life in Central to bring vibrancy to the building. URA has pledged to continue organising similar activities before the commencement of revitalisation works.

As regards the remaining parts of the area along the second floor passageway, Lands D has leased it out to eight commercial tenants for temporary operation on a monthly basis. Before the official handover of the market building to URA, Lands D will give timely notifications to the tenants to move out in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreements.

Ends/Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:00