A crying shame
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The privately run Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia is one of six recipients of development rights and will restore North Kowloon Magistracy in Sham Shui Po.
Its rival bidder was Liza Wang Ming- chun, chairwoman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong, which proposed the creation of a Cantonese opera training and performance center.
"When I found out, I wanted to cry," Wang said after Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor announced the winning applications for the revitalization of six historic Hong Kong buildings.
Wang claimed the government is only paying lip service to causes such as Cantonese opera.
She also questioned the transparency of the judging process, saying the panel's methods were "blackbox- like."
Savannah College principal Paula Wallace said the magistracy will be turned into a school specializing in creative and digital media.
"We have already had hundreds of students locally and overseas expressing interest in our proposed school," she said.
Wallace added that the college will fully fund the project and said the restoration will be carried out "with dignity."
In explaining the process of picking winning applicants, Revitalization of Historic Buildings advisory committee chairman Bernard Charnwut Chan said its focu
"We found a number of organizations applied just to get tenancy of the building," he said. Chan added that criteria such as the experience of the applicant, the economic benefit of the proposed project and its social value were among the factors considered in judging each application.
Another self-funded project under the scheme will be the reinvention of the old Tai O Police Station on Lantau Island as a boutique heritage hotel.
The Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation, which is backed by Sino Group, will be responsible for the project.
Lam said that the government will pay an estimated HK$490 million to cover refurbishment costs and HK$11 million in grants to winning applicants who expressed the need for financial support.
However, Lam and Chan have both come under fire from local media for choosing an overseas institution over a Hong Kong one for one of its buildings and for favoring a business- backed nonprofit enterprise.
The other winners include Yuen Yuen Institute, which will turn prewar school Fong Yuen Study Hall in Tsuen Wan into a Chinese cultural centre and museum.
Hong Kong Baptist University will revamp traditional Hong Kong shophouse Lui Seng Chun in Mong Kok into a Chinese medicine and health-care centre. The Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association will transform former public housing estate Mei Ho House into a youth hostel, while Hong Kong Cultural Heritage aims to turn Lai Chi Kok Hospital into a centre for Chinese culture.
"We will very soon announce the second batch of buildings that will be available for the next round of our scheme," Lam said, citing sites in Wan Chai and Sha Tin.