Taipei City urban planning officials got a first-hand look at Hong Kong’s “central oasis” redevelopment project at the old Central Market during their two-day visit to the territory.
Michael Ma (馬昭智), director of the Hong Kong Urban Renewal Authority (URA) and head of the HK$10 billion (US$1.2 billion) redevelopment project, said the plan will rejuvenate the old market as a “central oasis” that would distinguish itself from other Central District malls by not focusing on top brands, but on cultural and leisure-oriented stores instead.
“A lot of companies have expressed an interest in being part of the ‘central oasis’ and we will make sure the place meets public expectations as a leisure and green area, instead of becoming just another mall,” he told Taipei officials during their inspection tour.
Although the URA is emphasizing the cultural and recreational purposes of the project, it is expected to create substantial business opportunities.
Eslite Group bookstore chain is reportedly seeking to expand its operations to Hong Kong and could be eyeing the Central Market project for its first culture and lifestyle outlet. Eslite said last year it would finalize a decision early this year.
However, Hong Kong authorities have declined to confirm Eslite’s interest in the Central Market project, which is scheduled for completion in five years.
Established in 1939, the four-story Central Market was once one of the largest markets in Hong Kong. It was listed as a third-class historical building in 1990 to save it from being torn down before urban renewal work began.
Ma said the new mall would include bookstores, restaurants, recreational areas and an outdoor park on the rooftop. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be complete and open to the public in 2015.
Lin Chung-chieh (林崇傑), director of Taipei’s Urban Redevelopment Office, said the “central oasis” project would be the first cultural and recreational outlet in Hong Kong.
URA officials had visited Taipei last year to learn from it’s experience in revitalizing old markets and buildings, he said.
URA officials visited Red House in Ximending and the Huashan Creative Park as well as the 44 South Village, a veterans’ community that is now filled with independent bookstores, coffee shops and handcraft stores.