To-tally Kwa Wan-derful:  Urban Renewal in To Kwa Wan

One of the few districts in Kowloon yet to be rejuvenated, To Kwa Wan is soon to undergo changes as the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) launches six projects to create a pedestrian-friendly area providing around 3,000 flats. Located just east of the old Kai Tak airport, its time has come. (Photo credit to the URA)


Last week, the URA announced the statutory planning procedures of the Wing Kwong Street / Sung On Street Development Project had begun. The URA expects to see 560 small-and-medium-sized new flats built in this project, which will take eight to ten years to complete.

Most of the buildings involved are over 50 years old and eight storeys high with no lifts. They generally lack proper maintenance and repair. Unauthorised building structures are found on the roofs of some buildings. The low-rise character is a holdover from a time when buildings had to stay low to accommodate incoming airplanes landing at the airport.

Work in progress

The URA has commenced five projects in the area since 2016, which cover Bailey Street, Wing Kwong Street, Hung Fook Street, Ngan Hon Street and Kai Ming Street. Together with Kai Ming Street Demand-Led redevelopment project that started in December 2013, and the project began last week, these projects will form a small district with a site area of about 22,200 square metres.

The URA district-based approach theoretically allows the individual URA projects to form a cluster to enable a more integrated and co-ordinated design for the area. In this case, it means linking adjoining small sites on Kai Ming Street and Ngan Hon Street, and planning their uses based on this approach.

Just a nice place to live…

The district-based approach aims to enhance connectivity and the pedestrian environment through expanding pedestrian footpaths, providing open space and retaining street vibrancy with more frontage for street shops. To Kwa Wan is characterized by individual ground floor shops and family businesses.

For example, the URA plans to centralise parking spaces in one of the larger sites to avoid carpark entrances at individual developments that could degrade the streetscape. It proposes constructing an underground public car park within one of the projects to reduce the demand for roadside parking, releasing spaces for the pedestrians and for the provision of greening and beautification works.

“The projects are a new attempt to keep abreast of the times with a view to striking a balance between improving the residents’ living environment, recreating district characteristics, as well as enhancing the planning benefits and redevelopment efficiency,” said Paul Chan Mo-po, former Secretary for Development, regarding the renewal projects in To Kwa Wan.

“To preserve the original street-front ambience of these sub-areas, the URA plans to divide the site into a few plots for renewal rather than building a mega shopping mall. The alleys will be transformed into car-free zones for better pedestrian flow while conserving the characteristics of domestic shops on streets and enhancing vitality,” he said.

…that doesn’t kill anyone

The old buildings in To Kwa Wan have been posing safety risks to the residents.
In January 2010, a 50-year-old-plus tenement building collapsed in whole on Ma Tau Wai Road, causing four deaths and two injuries.

Following the incident, the URA commenced the Ma Tau Wai Road/ Chun Tin Street project in the following month, constructing two thirty-storeys high residential buildings that are expected to complete by 2019.

Affordable

As the project is solely developed and funded by the URA, it may determine the selling price of the flats, which it plans to set below the market price.

“The redevelopment in the old area of Kowloon City can help release more space for housing, and I hope the URA can set the price of its flats lower to help the grassroots buy homes,” says Starry Lee Wai-king, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

In addition, MTR is expected to commence service in To Kwa Wan next year as part of its Shatin-Central Link project. Residents will be able to go from Sung Wong Toi station to other parts in Hong Kong by the city’s subway.

Better accessibility means the homes nearby could be valued at higher rates.

“I hope the URA will buy our flats for more than $16,000 per square foot,” says Mrs Chan, chairlady of the Owners’ Corporation of one of the buildings.

She said the homeowners were offered some $9,000 and $15,550 by private developers in 2014 and 2017, respectively, but the offers were rejected.

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