Treasure Hill, a historical community in Taipei, will undergo a two-year reconstruction facelift starting in December, the Taipei City government announced yesterday.
Treasure Hill is home to veterans of the Chinese Civil War who fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) around 60 years ago. The current preservation initiative dates back to 1999 when the city government promised to preserve the urban area as a "lively community."
The Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs cooperated with the private sector in 2003 on the "Treasure Hill Artivists Cooperative" project, and will launch a two-year renovation plan at the end of the year after the completion of the planning stage.
According to Lin Feng-cheng (林芳正) from the Organization of Urban Re's (OURs), of the 60 to 70 households in the community, about 30 will move to a transitional housing block nearby during construction, while the others chose to take a payout of NT$720,000 to move out of the community.
Local artists who gathered in the community will also be asked to move out during the construction, and can apply to return in two years time.
Addressing a press conference to announce Treasure Hill's overhaul, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the preservation project was the first government initiative to preserve an area full of illegal constructions for its historical significance.
"Some people would say that those unlicensed constructions are old and shabby, and why not just tear them down? But this community has important historical significance and we want to let the world know that there are more attractions in Taipei than just the Taipei 101 Mall," Ma said.
While the city government expected the new community to include original residents, artists and international youth hostels, some people remained wedded to the city government's original promise.
"We don't think the [Taipei] city government should continue the reconstruction if it really wants to preserve the place," said Yang Chi-chie (楊子傑), an activist from the Treasure Hill Commune, a civic organization dedicated to preserving the community.
"Moving the residents around and renovating [Treasure Hill] will destroy the uniqueness of this community," Yang said.