A HK$11.6 billion redevelopment of Kowloon City will mark a break from the Urban Renewal Authority’s tradition of putting up single “pencil” buildings and malls, as the body pledged to preserve

small streets in the plan.

The authority said it would focus on redeveloping small neighbourhoods instead of single buildings from now on, with the project announced on Friday being the beginning of a “new mindset”.

“We want to do something more than a developer, something that can benefit the community,” said chairman Victor So Hing-woh of the authority’s determination to preserve streets and local shops.

So had been criticised for acting too much like a developer and treating the authority as a for-profit business.

But managing director Daniel Lam Chun expects the project will see losses of HK$1.7 billion due to high acquisition costs. If the four private streets within the proposed area cannot be counted as part of the plot, losses may increase to HK$2.7 billion, he said.

The proposed plot spans 8,000 square metresof six to nine-storey blocks nestled between Wing Kwong Street and Bailey Street. It is identified as a “priority area” in the community-based Kowloon City District Urban Renewal Forum’s plan in 2014.

There are 880 individual ownership titles, with the number of living units estimated to be around 2,000 because of a large number of subdivided flats, said Michael Ma Chiu-tsee, director of planning and design. This could pose a challenge in negotiating a buy-up deal, he said.

There will be 1,150 residential flats after completion of the redevelopment in 2025 to 2026.

The four streets sandwiched within – Wan Tat, Wan Fat, Wan Hing and Wan Lok – are private streets lined with garages, semi-production shops selling machinery parts and a handful of restaurants, totalling some 110 store fronts.

Ma said the plan is to only build one car park entrance, leaving ground-space for shop fronts. Initial plans aim to keep three of the four small streets – including the one leading into the car park.

“We want to make the development more human-friendly,” said Ma.

Most owner-residents interviewed by the Post said they were ready for redevelopment, citing a lack of lifts, water leaks and general disrepair of buildings constructed between 1957 and 1961.

But some shop owners worried about not being able to find another shop front to continue their businesses.

For 89-year-old shop owner Yip Lei-hung, giving up his snacks and liquor shop of 60 years will be a sad affair.

Yip, who lives in the back-loft of the shop with his son, remembered the days where the harbour was right at his doorstep and there was fresh produce sold next door.

He said: “It’s a sad day for old things – it’s the end of ATV and it’s the end for our old neighbourhood.”

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