Win for Hong Kong as historic buildings escape wrecking ball – for now

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HONG KONG has seen many of the structures from the World War II torn down to make way for newer, shinier skyscrapers – a reality that has resulted in rapid urban development and a wave of gentrification across the territory.

However, small steps are being taken to preserve the look and feel of a more nostalgic Hong Kong with conservation groups fighting against development in place of high-rise towers.

Last week, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), a statutory body funded by the Hong Kong government, pulled plans to demolish a set of low-rise tenements after hearing from conservation groups and the public.

The body said in a statement to the BBC: “The URA has heard various opinions from members of the community and has decided to withdraw the planning application filed earlier.”

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Meanwhile, activist Katty Kaw told the BBC she was celebrating the win, even if only temporarily.

“This is still a redevelopment area. We really want this whole area to be conserved as a historic neighborhood, rather than treating it as a dilapidated area,” she was quoted by the BBC.

Hong Kong’s development saw a surge in the early ’80s at the end of British colonial rule when property was highly valued as commodity.

ProfLee Hoyin, director of architectural conservation programs at University of Hong Kong’s faculty of architecture, told South China Morning Post: “During this time, almost all of the Western and Chinese urban buildings developed during the Victorian and Edwardian periods were rapidly demolished and replaced by larger and taller buildings of contemporary design.”

Text by Surekha Ragavan.