Ma voices his support for Novel Hall’s preservation

UNIQUE VENUE::The president said the theater, which is in danger of being demolished or moved, cannot be replaced and urged authorities to cooperate to save it

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - Page 4

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday voiced his support for the preservation of Novel Hall, a medium-sized performing arts center in Taipei City’s Xinyi District (信義), calling for joint efforts from the central and local government to prevent the venue from being dismantled because its owner wants to relocate.

“Besides its historical and cultural significance, the Novel Hall is also irreplaceable as a recreational venue. I hope the Taipei City Government and the central government can work together to save Novel Hall,” he said while speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Taipei Pop Music Center in Nangang District (南港).

The fate of the hall sparked concerns recently after Chinatrust Commercial Bank revealed its plan to relocate its headquarters, which houses the theater, to Nangang District and sell the land in Xinyi.

Named after the original Novel Hall that Koo Hsian-jung (辜顯榮) established in Taipei in 1915, the theater is a major privately run arts and cultural venue in the city.

The Taipei City Government set up an interdepartmental task force last month headed by Taipei Deputy Mayor Chang Chin-oh (張金鶚) to find solutions to the theater’s possible relocation or demolition.

Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said yesterday that the city’s stance on the issue remained unchanged and it would continue to urge Chinatrust Financial Group to keep a promise it made 16 years ago.

The group at the time received a reward from the city government in the form of more land in the area where it was building its headquarters, after promising that it would provide part of the headquarter’s land for the performing arts and art exhibitions.

The city’s urban renewal committee is unlikely to approve any urban development applications for the property to be filed by its potential buyers, he said.

“So far, we haven’t received any paperwork or documents from the China Trust Financial Group about its plan for the land,” he said.

Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) said the group expressed its willingness to keep the venue at its current location, but is also considering building a new Novel Hall in a new location.

The government cannot force the group to preserve the theater, because it is the group’s property, but will continue to communicate about the issue, she said.

Ma, a former Taipei mayor, yesterday at the groundbreaking ceremony of the music center also promised government efforts to promote both pop music and alternative performances.

The center, with a total budget of NT$4.55 billion (US$152.14 million), occupies about 80,000m2 in Nangang District. It is to house medium-size performance venues, including a 5,000-seat main auditorium and live-performance venues.

According to Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the center will also feature a hall of fame that will exhibit pop music works dating back to the 1930s, recording and sound studios, as well as lecture halls, bars and restaurants. It is expected to open in 2017.