Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Put Dome’s fate in residents’ hands

By Arthur Yo 游藝

Following the Dec. 11 meeting between Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), focus has again shifted to the unfinished Taipei Dome project.

Ko’s attempts to fix the problems faced by the contractor, Farglory Group, with regard to traffic access and disaster-prevention measures, have brought him into direct conflict with the Ministry of Culture. Ko has called on the central government to approve digging in parkland behind Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, as well as building an access road for construction vehicles on the grounds of the former Taipei Railway Workshop, which is a nationally designated monument.

Disregarding Farglory’s breaches of its contract and the law, Ko seems determined to carry on with the construction instead of taking steps to cancel the contract for the build-operate-transfer project, which would surely be the right thing to do.

Construction of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was finished in 1972. Aside from being an important commemorative building, it has also become an essential space for people who live and work in eastern downtown Taipei.

However, in 2014, then-Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) planned to remove dozens of old trees to make way for work on a tunnel connecting the hall with the Taipei Dome site. Tree conservationists, including myself, argued that the hall was a cultural landscape and memorial in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法), but our proposal was voted down by Hau’s government and the ministry. Not until this year, after much lobbying by public figures, was the site provisionally classified as an interim monument.

The Taipei Railway Workshop, which was completed in 1935, was the heart of the West Coast Railway Line. It was also an important landmark in Taiwan’s transformation from an agricultural economy to an industrial one.

At one time the workshop site was threatened by large-scale commercial development promoted by Hau and the Taiwan Railways Administration, but thanks to the efforts of Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) and then-councilor Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏), along with railway enthusiasts, cultural heritage experts and people from various social circles, the ministry in March 2015 designated it as a national monument and in the following July the Executive Yuan said a national railway museum was to be built on the site.

Since 2012, when the dome’s foundations were dug, the Songshan Tobacco Factory — a precious monument — has faced creeping damage due to subsidence. Not only do surface cracks keep appearing in its floors and walls, but structural cracks have formed in the walls of its office and dormitory buildings. The boiler room chimney — an important landmark — has leaned to such an extent that the smokestack has become separated from the flue. This damage is probably permanent.

The Ko administration sought compensation from Farglory and sued it for damaging a monument, but the court only ordered Farglory to pay NT$758,417 (US$24,678) in compensation and did not charge the company for damage to a monument. This was a major defeat for his administration’s legal department.

Having failed to gain legal redress for the damage, does the Ko administration really want to put two other important cultural heritage sites — the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the Taipei Railway Workshop — under the knife? Could Farglory’s profit over the next five decades really be more important to Ko than preserving our cultural heritage? Should top priority not be given to dealing with the numerous controversies that need to be solved in connection with the Taipei Dome?

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