A plan by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to revamp the Central Market is facing another obstacle after the Land Department said a land premium would have to be paid for the site because part of it will be used for commercial purposes, Sing Tao Daily reported Monday.
The URA may have give up the Central Oasis plan as the premium the government will charge is unlikely to be a nominal sum, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.
The Land Department plans to appraise the land value first before it deducts construction expenditures to come up with how much premium the URA needs to pay.
Sources said land premium is normally waived for reconstruction projects, which is why the government demand came as a surprise to the URA.
High-level government officials are aware of the situation and the URA has been told that the government would be “less strict” in the appraisal, the sources said.
The authority seeks to transform the 75-year-old building into a venue for arts and culture, while charging low rents for small restaurants and shops. That means a market-based premium of HK$1 billion (US$129 million) would make the entire plan unfeasible.
In his 2009-10 policy address, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen unveiled an initiative aimed at achieving a balance between development and conservation in Central.
As part of this initiative, the URA was tasked to revitalize the Central Market by introducing more greenery and creating public space for relaxation and leisure activities.
However, the scheme has been hampered by several issues. For example, its architectural plans received approval from the Buildings Department only two months ago after a long delay.
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