A preservation expert praised the revitalization work at the former Central Police Station compound, saying that preserving heritage while providing a venue for leisure and the arts in one building is a rare achievement internationally.
Architectural historian Simon Thurley also said the design of Tai Kwun Centre of Heritage and Arts, located along Hollywood Road in Central, is bold in its fusion of old and new elements.
Thurley said the scarcity of land has always brought pressure to preservation work. But it is a global issue that can be solved by raising the awareness of the public to value heritage, he said.
Hong Kong is still “young” in terms of heritage preservation, Thurley said, adding that revitalization projects here focus more on redevelopment than protecting historical sites.
He said Hong Kong is different from Europe, which has laws to protect historical buildings and provide tax relief to owners of those buildings.
All alterations to heritage sites will need government approval as well, he noted.
However, local experts do not think the use of tax relief to promote the preservation of historical sites will work in Hong Kong.
“There is no similar property tax in Hong Kong,” said Lee Ho-yin, head of the Division of Architectural Conservation Programmes at the University of Hong Kong.
He suggested instead that the government collect a conservation tax when developers buy or sell properties to fund preservation projects.
Thurley is a former chief executive of the English Heritage, which preserves ancient and historical sites like Kenwood House and the Stonehenge.
He also participated in the project to revamp the London King’s Cross railway station.
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