LCQ10: Conservation plan of former St. Joseph's Home for the Aged

Following is a question by the Hon Chan Yuen-han and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 11):


The former St. Joseph's Home for the Aged (SJHA), situated at No. 35 Clear Water Bay Road, is nearly a century old. Its Villa, Gate House and Dormitory A were classified as Grade 2 historic buildings by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2010.  It has been reported that the owner of SJHA has planned to build residential buildings and commercial facilities adjacent to these historic buildings, and the building plans concerned have already been approved by the authorities.  However, the land lot concerned and the historic buildings thereon have all along been lying idle because the issue of land premium is not yet settled.  Some residents have relayed to me that SJHA is a rare cluster of historic buildings in Kowloon East which, if revitalised into a local historical and cultural tourist attraction, will give a boost to the re-planning of the nearby land lots and bring about significant benefits for the development of the district.  Besides, they are also worried that the residential buildings and commercial facilities proposed to be built will aggravate the traffic congestion problem in the district.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has assessed the preservation value, architectural interest and current conservation status of the Gate House and Dormitory A of SJHA (the two historic buildings); if it has assessed, of the outcome; of the number of inspections of these buildings conducted, and the outcome of the assessments on their conditions made by the Commissioner for Heritage’s Office and the government departments concerned in the past three years;

(2) whether it knows if the owner of SJHA carried out maintenance works on the two historic buildings and applied for assistance under the Financial Assistance for Maintenance Scheme for historic buildings in the past three years;

(3) of the details of the land premium negotiation between the authorities and the owner of SJHA; and the details of the buildings proposed to be built;

(4) whether it has discussed with the owner of SJHA the conservation and revitalisation of the two historic buildings; if it has, of the details of the options concerned; if not, whether it has any plan to discuss with the owner about the relevant issues, including preservation of these historic buildings in-situ and their adaptive re-use by means of land exchange or increase in gross floor area, etc.; if it has such plans, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) as some residents in the district have pointed out that the section of New Clear Water Bay Road near SJHA is often congested, whether the authorities have assessed the future extra traffic flow which will be brought about by the buildings proposed to be built; if they have, of the relevant figures and the current traffic data of the road section concerned?



My reply to the various parts of the Hon Chan Yuen-han's question is as follows:

(1) to (4) There are three privately-owned historic buildings, all accorded a Grade 2 status, at No. 35 Clear Water Bay Road, Ngau Chi Wan, Kowloon, namely the Villa, the Gate House and the Dormitory A of the former St. Joseph's Home for the Aged.  Planning permission for a comprehensive commercial/residential development at the above site was granted by the Town Planning Board (TPB) in 2003. One of the conditions of the planning permission requires the owner to submit and implement a conservation plan for preservation of the three historic buildings.  Under the latest amended development plan, in addition to the in-situ preservation and adaptive re-use of the three historic buildings, the site will provide, amongst other things, a new housing development, a shopping centre, a residential home for the elderly, a kindergarten and a public space with a minimum area of 2 200 square metres.  The redevelopment proposal requires lease modification and premium, and the owner is discussing these issues with the Lands Department.

The Buildings Department (BD) approved the foundation plans for the site in 2004 and granted consent in 2005 for commencement of the foundation works which were generally completed in 2006.  The BD approved the general building plans submitted by the owner for this preservation-cum-development project in 2011.  The three historic buildings to be preserved have been integrated into the approved design. In 2012, amendment plans for the foundation works to tally with the latest building design were approved and consent for the corresponding works was granted.  All the foundation works were completed in 2013.  In 2014, consent for commencement of superstructure works was granted and the owner also submitted a notification for commencement of such works.

St. Joseph's Home for the Aged, established by the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1926, is the first premises dedicated to take care of the elderly in Hong Kong.  During the 1930s, it served as a refuge for refugees fleeing to Hong Kong from the wars.  One of the three historic buildings, the Villa, is a single storey bungalow of symmetrical design built in 1919.  It features a colonnaded verandah and a raised arched semi-basement for ventilation.  The Villa was originally owned by Mr Chan Keng-yu, who was a compradore of Douglas Laprik and Co. and one of the Founding Directors of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.  The Villa was already in place when the premises were sold to the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Another historic building, the Gate House which is at the entrance of the site, was built in mid-1930s.  Its front and rear façades feature wide arches with moulded architraves and keystones.  The archways are flanked on either side by coupled pilasters of the Doric Order.  A tablet placed at the centre of the front façade is inscribed with the letters "JMJ", which stand for "Jesus, Mary and Joseph".  Both the Villa and the Gate House are built in neo-classical colonial style while the Dormitory A, the third historic building, is built in modernist style.  Built around 1932-1933, the Dormitory A is a two-storey building and features a linear plan, horizontal banding, rounded corners, a Chinese tiled pitched roof, plain round columns and streamlined balconies.

As these three privately-owned historic buildings will be preserved in-situ for adaptive re-use, the Commissioner for Heritage's Office (CHO) and the Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) have not explored other revitalisation alternatives with the owner.  Record on the maintenance works for these three historic buildings is not available, as neither the CHO nor the AMO has received any application from the owner for such works under the Privately-Owned Graded Historic Buildings Financial Assistance for Maintenance Scheme.

The AMO found that these three historic buildings were in good condition during a site inspection in July 2013. Though the AMO could not gain further entry to the works area for inspection since the works of the private development project commenced, it has continued to closely monitor the condition of these three historic buildings.

(5) The owner carried out a Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) for the proposed development project when applying for planning permission from the TPB.  According to the assessment at the time, the traffic flow along Clear Water Bay Road eastbound during the morning peak hours would increase by about 400 vehicles per hour after the completion of the project.  In granting planning permission for the project, the TPB imposed conditions to require the owner to implement the traffic improvement measures proposed in the TIA.  They include provision of the section of Ping Ting Road from Fung Shing Street to the proposed development; improvement works to the existing service lane at Ngau Chi Wan Market and to the access road from Clear Water Bay Road to the proposed development; improvement works to the road junctions at Clear Water Bay Road/Lung Cheung Road, Clear Water Bay Road/New Clear Water Bay Road, Fung Shing Street/Ping Ting Road, and Jat's Incline/Clear Water Bay Road; provision of lay-bys along Clear Water Bay Road to the south of the proposed development and in front of the existing public mini-bus terminus; and provision of an elevated walkway to Choi Wan Estate and a pedestrian connection to Choi Hung MTR Station.

As regards the current road conditions, the latest figures from the Transport Department showed that the traffic flow along Clear Water Bay Road eastbound during the morning peak hours of a weekday in 2014 was about 2 500 vehicles per hour.

Ends/Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:32