The Antiquities and Monuments Office (AMO) on Thursday proposed to upgrade the status of the former State Theatre in North Point to a Grade 1 historic building, fulfilling a demand of heritage conservation activists.
It marked the third upgrade this year for the structure, which was built in 1952, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The theater, which was a key landmark in Kong Kong’s cinematic and artistic world until it closed in 1997, did not have any historic building grading at the beginning of 2016.
After a developer acquired stake in the 64-year-old property, conservation activists expressed fears that the building could be demolished for commercial redevelopment.
Following a campaign to preserve the old structure, the Antiquities Advisory Board (AAB) requested the AMO to re-assess the situation.
With the decision Thursday, the State Theatre will be listed as a provisional declared monument.
The old building evokes memories of the heyday of Hong Kong cinema, carrying a legacy from post-war Hong Kong with a unique style of architecture.
Surveyor Peter Wong Bay, who is an AAB member, described the King’s Road structure as exemplary architecture with high social value and role that could be compared to the Lee Theatre.
The building deserves Grade 1 classification, he said.
The building’s new status, however, has not eliminated the risk of it getting demolished.
Under existing laws, the owner of a building can decide to retain or demolish a property as long as it has not been declared as a monument.
Bernard Lim Wan-fung, former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the AMO’s decision came after collective efforts from community groups.
However, he fears the structure could still be torn down and rebuilt into a commercial property as there is still a long road ahead for it to become a declared monument.
Lim said that according to his information, the developer has already acquired the lion’s share of the rights of the building.
A consortium led by New World Development Co. (00017.HK) is said to have been actively snapping up property rights in the area, and that their work is nearing completion.
In October, the consortium is believed to have bought another 21 units at the site, which can be converted into 350,000 square feet of constructible floor space.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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