2009-10 Policy Address by Chief Executive (8)

C. Quality Life

Progressive Development

51. The concept of "Progressive Development" is part of my election platform. In the current era, economic development goes hand-in-hand with cultural and environmental conservation.  To support a knowledge-based economy, we must have a rich pool of talent.  Only by providing a diverse and dynamic cultural life and a quality living environment can we attract talent from around the world to build a career in Hong Kong.

Beautifying the Harbourfront

52. Hong Kong's image as a vibrant and colourful city owes much to Victoria Harbour.  In last year's Policy Address, I highlighted the need to beautify the harbourfront.  The Development Bureau (DEVB) has since set up a Harbour Unit to co-ordinate and plan harbourfront enhancement initiatives.   The unit also works with the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee to forge a consensus within the community on the future of the harbourfront.  The committee submitted a detailed proposal in August this year, setting out beautification options for 22 action areas on both sides of the harbour.  These options have incorporated the views of local residents and are consistent with what the Harbour Business Forum advocates.  On the basis of the proposal, the DEVB will co-ordinate the efforts of concerned bureaux and departments to gradually take forward the harbourfront beautification measures.

Conserving Central

53. In the face of global competition, many governments are keen on developing new financial districts, building skyscrapers and creating business centres. While enhancing the hardware, we should not forget the software.  Central is a distinctive business district endowed with rich cultural and historical heritage, which we will do our best to preserve.

54. The mention of Central used to invoke in our minds an image of a commercial centre with skyscrapers.  Later, restaurants began to spring up and the place took on a new identity.  The concept of "Progressive Development" that I advocate emphasises the need to strike a balance between economic development and cultural conservation.  The community has responded positively to our conservation measures.  This reaffirms my belief that Central has unique historical and cultural features suited to sustainable development that have yet to be realised.

55. The new harbourfront in Central and the historic buildings in the district provide valuable opportunities for conserving Central.  We will map out a comprehensive strategy for Central's future development from a new perspective.  We now put forward a series of revitalisation projects that will add a new dimension to Central:

(1) The Central Ferry Piers sites -- We will substantially reduce the development density and open up public space along the waterfront for leisure, recreational and cultural uses;

(2) The Central Market -- We will remove the Central Market from the Application List and hand it over to the Urban Renewal Authority for conservation and revitalisation.   This will improve the air quality in the district and provide an additional leisure place rarely found in this busy area.  The revitalised Central Market will become an "urban oasis" for white collar workers in the daytime and a new hang-out area for locals and tourists in the evenings and on the weekends;

(3) The original site of the Central School -- In view of the encouraging response to the revitalisation of the original site of the Central School as a creative and cultural landmark, the Government has drawn up a plan for the renovation of the two former police quarters blocks, and will in the next few months invite interested organisations and enterprises to submit proposals for operating creative industries;

(4) Central Police Station Compound -- Giving due consideration to public views, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is about to complete an improved design of the revitalisation project.  The Government in conjunction with the Club will announce and implement the revised proposal shortly;

(5) Central Government Offices -- We recommend that the Main and East Wings, which are of historical and architectural value, be preserved for use by the Department of Justice after the relocation of the existing bureaux to the new Central Government Complex at Tamar.  As for the West Wing, which has little heritage value, we recommend that it should be demolished and redeveloped for commercial use.  In detailed planning, we will ensure that the public will have access to this low density site stretching from Lower Albert Road to the business area via Battery Path;

(6) Murray Building -- Taking into account the special style of this building and its premium location, we recommend converting it into a hotel through open tender; and

(7) Court of Final Appeal -- I have announced earlier that after the relocation of the Legislative Council to the new office site at Tamar, the Court of Final Appeal will move to the existing Legislative Council Building.  The Government is open to suggestions on the future use of the French Mission Building, a declared monument where the Court of Final Appeal is now housed.

56. The idea of conserving Central is premised on our respect for the history of the district.  We endeavour to strike a balance between protecting the environment and providing quality space, which is a growing public concern, and relieving the shortage of office space in the city centre.  To make the best use of the precious assets of Central, we must create attractions in the district for public enjoyment.  Therefore, while conserving Central, we should enhance visitor flow and generate new commercial vibrancy.  This is in line with the concept of "Progressive Development".

57. To conserve Central more effectively, we need the support of the owners of other properties in the district.  I am pleased to know that the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui is actively pursuing the idea of revitalising its building cluster at Lower Albert Road with a view to balancing conservation and development.  The Government will exchange views with the parties concerned in an open and mutually respectful manner.  We will ensure that the diversity of Central will be preserved, and its magnificent and modern cityscape fully displayed.

Improving Pedestrian Environment

58. To improve the pedestrian environment in business, shopping and leisure areas with heavy pedestrian flow, the Transport Department (TD) commissioned last March a consultancy study on improvement projects for Causeway Bay and Mong Kok which has resulted in some preliminary conceptual plans. In the plan for Causeway Bay, there will be a pedestrian subway system of about one kilometre running from Victoria Park to the vicinity of Happy Valley.  In Mong Kok, the existing footbridge system will be extended to join the two MTR stations in the area and the vicinity of Tai Kok Tsui. It will have a combined length of about 700 metres.  The TD is now gauging the views of the local community on these preliminary plans.  After considering various aspects of technical feasibility, the TD will put forward specific proposals by the end of this year for consultation with the District Councils and the public.

59. In order to enhance the utilisation of pedestrian subways and boost commercial vibrancy, we will make provision at suitable locations to connect the pedestrian subway system in Causeway Bay with the concourse of the MTR station and large shopping malls.  This will facilitate the integration of the subway system with the Causeway Bay shopping area in terms of facilities, pedestrian flow and management.

Tree Management

60. Last June, the Task Force led by the Chief Secretary for Administration put forward a number of recommendations on greening and tree management.  The DEVB will set up two new offices, namely, the Greening and Landscape Office and the Tree Management Office, to co-ordinate our efforts in this area. Departments concerned will improve tree risk assessment arrangements, step up training, and promote community involvement and public education.  This integrated approach can help us build a green living environment for Hong Kong people, and ensure their safety.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 11:57