US military club reopened on Yangmingshan

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 3

The Grass Mountain Teen Club, a brick compound on Yangmingshan (陽明山) that served as a club for US soldiers and their families stationed in Taiwan from the 1950s to the 1970s, has reopened as a public space for music, food and nostalgia.

The former club, built in the 1950s and named Grass Mountain Teen Club in 1968, has been renamed the Brick Yard 33 1/3 (BY33). Combining indoor and outdoor spaces, it is a place where people can listen to vinyl records, eat food inspired by southern US cuisine and savor the atmosphere.

The project was undertaken under the Old House renaissance program launched by the Taipei City Government in 2012. Private investors were encouraged to join the project to restore “cultural properties” that had been abandoned and “revive” them by transforming them into cultural and creative spaces.

In 2014, U-Tech Media Corp won a public tender to renovate the US soldiers’ club, which consisted of red-brick buildings and two swimming pools on a nearly 3,300m2 site on a Yangmingshan hillside.

The compound, which was part of a cluster of dormitories for US military personnel stationed in Taiwan, was a key leisure site of the soldiers and their family members in the 1950s to 1970s.

At the BY33 opening ceremony on Thursday last week, U-Tech Media chairman Steve Chang (張昭焚) said the company budgeted NT$70 million (US$2.22 million) to restore the old compound, but spent NT$95 million because it wanted the renovation to be as close to its original state as possible.

Gordon Yeh (葉垂景), chairman of the Ritek Group, which founded U-Tech Media, said the company was determined to restore the buildings using their original construction techniques and it scoured the nation for builders with knowledge of traditional skills to assist in the project.

His team located the factory that produced the roof tiles used when the club was remodeled more than 30 years ago and found more than 10,000 of the same tiles still in the factory’s inventory, Yeh said.

After more than two years of construction, the club was transformed into a multipurpose complex divided into three areas: a dining room, a music room and a public bar.

There are also plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces for exhibitions and performances, according to U-Tech Media.

“We hope to attract locals, schools and other organizations,” U-Tech general manager Lo Yi-fu (羅宜富) said. “We built an exclusive space for people to listen to vinyl records and hold performances, mixing old and new music, Western and Oriental music.”

BY33 is open every day from 11am to 9pm except for Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Access may be restricted when there are exclusive activities, but admission is free.