6 January

Official barriers to improving life for pedestrians in crowded Mong Kok

The upcoming sale of a government building in Mong Kok is a valuable chance to improve walkability in the area, but officials are shirking their responsibility. An edited version of the article below appeared in the South China Morning Post on 2 January 2016.

Paul Zimmerman, Pok Fu Lam district councillor and CEO of Designing Hong Kong.

I like the Ombudsman’s recent public announcements that tai chi is healthy, but not in public administration. Tai chi, in local slang, means to shirk responsibility. The Ombudsman, Connie Lau Yin-hing, is already so busy clearing obvious cases of maladministration that I wonder whether she will have time for the well-practised, evasive language bureaucrats dish out when they reply to proposals and questions.

In our campaign to improve walkability, our latest encounter with tai chi is over the sale of the Trade and Industry Department (TID) Tower, formerly known as Argyle Centre Tower II, on Nathan Road in Mong Kok. It is a 1980s building owned by the government. The tender for its sale closes on January 8. We have asked for it to include terms which oblige the buyer to internalise the links to Mong Kok MTR station and the Mong Kok Road footbridge. These stairs and escalators currently obstruct pavements and roads surrounding the building. Mongkok MTR station exits B1, B2 and B3 occupy the south and east pavements. Staircases of the Mongkok Road footbridge built by Sun Hung Kei occupy the pavement and two lanes of Mong Kok Road north of the building.

Removing these structures from the adjacent pavements and roads would improve pedestrian and vehicular circulation at street level. Moreover, linking the footbridge with a new Argyle Street footbridge via the Argyle Centre Towers is a critical piece of the puzzle the government has been struggling with: the creation of a comprehensive elevated pedestrian network desperately needed to alleviate the overcrowding of Mong Kok’s streets.

The sale of the building is a one-off opportunity to improve walkability. If we fail to spell out these requirements in the tender, it will be hard to convince the buyer to give up gross floor area and to invest in the works later.

The Government Property Agency’s first move to shirk responsibility was outrageous. It said: “Having consulted the Transport Department, we note that it would cause inconvenience to the pedestrians. It would require pedestrians to pass through the internal area of the building before reaching the footbridge and Nathan Road. The route, which will not be open at all times, will be indirect and is not desirable from the perspectives of property management and cost-effectiveness.”

We pointed out that there are many buildings in Hong Kong where this happens all the time, including 100 Queen’s Road Central and the Central-Mid-Levels escalator.

The second tai chi move was claiming that our proposal for amending the tender would cause undue delay to the disposal of the building. The government decided to proceed as scheduled so that “the office space in the TID Tower can be released to the market in a timely manner in accordance with our announced plan to increase the supply of commercial space in prime locations to meet keen market demand”.

This is not the first time we have encountered a misplaced focus on expediency over walkability.

When it became clear in 2009 that the Tamar footbridge would stop 10cm short of Admiralty Centre, we wrote to the government and pointed out the importance of a direct link into the elevated system of Queensway Plaza, Pacific Place and the connected buildings. Officials replied that it would require too much time to negotiate with the owners of Admiralty Centre. So instead, we now all have to go down to street level and back up again to continue on our way.

The government’s third tai chi move talked of how they would “encourage the successful bidder to consider ways of enhancing the connection between the TID Tower and the existing footbridge system and adjoining commercial buildings to improve the surrounding environment”.

From the failures to link Kowloon Bay Station and MegaBox, the Sheraton Hotel and the Middle Road Tunnel, and the Nexxus Building and the Central footbridge, we know that encouragement means little in the Government’s dictionary.

Which department will be responsible for such “encouraging” once the building has been sold? Would this include links to the MTR? Who would pay for the removal of the structures on the pavements and road? Will a bonus plot ratio be offered to compensate for the public passages through the property? Will the land premium be waived for the links over and under government land? These questions go on. 

All this would be so much easier to resolve before selling the building. Instead, we will have to wait and see whether this encouragement is real or simply a wimpy tai chi move, another one for the Ombudsman’s tray.

13 November

一次難能可貴的機會:讓旺角變得更好 One-off opportunity to make Mongkok a better place

難能可貴的機會:讓旺角變得更好 

政府公佈將出售工業貿易大樓旺角舊址。

這正是個難得的機會重新安置連接大樓、旺角行人天橋和港鐵站的電梯和樓梯。

旺角港鐵站B1、B2和B3出口佔據附近的行人路。為設置連接天橋樓梯和電梯旺角道減至兩條行車道。

環繞工業貿易大樓的車道和行人路非常狹窄。重新安置樓梯和電梯便能擴闊現有的道路和行人路。

要求發展商提供連接港鐵站的公共通道和天橋在香港十分常見。本地的建築師和發展商很熟悉怎樣在私人物業內提供讓公眾使用的通道、電梯和樓梯,並了解有關的設計、工程和管理方法。

發展商義務將電梯和樓梯納人大廈不會影響銷售。政府可以在標書內列明建築物需設24小時開放的公共通道,以及通道的闊度下限和容量等。買家會在投標時考慮有關條款。

無論買家計劃重建或翻新大廈,他們會自行考量條款所需的成本和空間,才決定落標。

出售工業貿易大樓是個難得的機會去改善當地環境。當有關地段已出售,便難以改善該區的環境,想回購土地亦不可行。

政府改動標書雖然會延後工業貿易大樓的銷售期,但有關改善能顯著提升該區的行人路環境和交通流量,使旺角成為更好的地方。

One-off opportunity to improve Mongkok

The Government has announced the sale of the vacant Trade and Industry Department Tower (TID Tower) in Mongkok to the private sector.

This provides an one-off opportunity to relocate the lifts and staircases connecting the Mongkok Road Footbridge System and the Mongkok MTR station into the TID Tower. 

Exits B1, B2 and B3 of the Mongkok MTR station occupy adjacent pavements, and the adjacent section of Mongkok Road was reduced by two lanes for staircases and lifts to the footbridge.

Roads and pavements around the TID Tower are narrow. Relocating the staircases and lifts would allow widening of the footway, the carriageway, or both.

It is common in Hong Kong to ask property owners to create public access to footbridges and MTR stations. Architects and developers understand the design, engineering and management challenges of internalizing public lifts and staircases, and allowing pedestrians to pass through private buildings.

The obligation to incorporate the staircases and lifts would not be detrimental to a sale. By specifying 24 hour access, minimum width and capacity in the tender, potential buyers can consider the implications prior to making their bid for this government property.

Whether buyers plan to redevelop the site or re-use the building as is, they will simply consider the cost and the space needed, and adjust the amount they bid accordingly.

The sale of the TID Tower provides a ‘once and for all’ opportunity. Once the site is sold it will be difficult to improve the area as future resumption is unpractical.

Making changes to the tender will cause a slight delay in the sale of the TID Tower. It is worth the effort as it would improve the pedestrian environment and traffic flow, and make Mongkok a better place for all.

25 September

聯署支持電車行人專用區 Petition to support DVRC rezoning

現時港鐵港島區西線經已通車,未來數年沙中線及中環灣仔繞道亦會落成,正好提供一個契機設立電車及行人專區。藉著交通路線重組,可以改善中區多年交通擠塞及空氣污染等問題。

創建香港、健康空氣行動、長春社及香港地球之友,向城規會遞交改劃申請。方案提出,在德輔道中中心保留一條通道,讓環保交通工具如巴士和電車行駛。與德輔道中垂直的永和街、祖庇利街、砵甸乍街和畢打街等交通不受影響,讓汽車可以接連皇后大道中和干諾道中。

城規會現正邀請公眾就改劃提交意見,截止日期是2015年10月16日。
請即加入我們的聯署並支持改劃,讓德輔道中成為一個無污染、無擠塞的公共空間!
http://www.designinghongkong.com/forms/view.php?id=51951

English version:
 http://www.designinghongkong.com/forms/view.php?id=53589

MAP

2 August

Restrict Tour Coaches in Bays Area 限制旅遊巴出入海灣區

Please go to the link below to sign the petition:
請到以下連結參與聯署:
http://designinghongkong.com/forms/view.php?id=47407

14 April

回應小販管理建議 Re: Hawker Management Proposal

以下為對「小販管理建議」的回應:
Here are our comments regarding the hawker management policy suggested by the government:

1.我們支持小膝政策的原則
We support the proposed principles for Hong Kong’s hawker policy.

2.我們要求額外的原則,包括店面延伸及戶外座位的安排
We urge for an additional principle
 together with Shop Extensions and Outdoor Seating Arrangements

3.我們支持政府所提出的建議
We support the measures proposed by government

4.小販不是社會福利
Hawker trade is not welfare

5.應推廣由地區主導的計劃
District led proposals should be promoted

詳情請參閱我們向立法會提交的書面建議口頭報告(均只有英文)
Details please see our written submission or presentation in Legislative Council.

8 April

Where can I sit?

missingseats_juGdO_1200x0_ojOPq_1200x0

If you want people to walk, you got to make sure they can sit. At first glance this appears a contradiction, but walkable cities need many places for people to sit.
People and especially elderly are willing to walk further and forego a vehicular trip if they know there is a place to rest half way. It also makes the city friendlier.

Well placed public seats allow people to relax. It creates opportunities for incidental encounters which are important for community building. It makes the city more accessible for people with disabilities.

So how far are you willing to walk? Ever wondered why there are not more seats around our city in public areas?

(more…)

25 March

More seats on the minibus 增加小巴座位

Please Sign Online Today! 請參與網上聯署!
We Will Write To The Government And Legislative Council With The Signatures Received.
收集簽名後,我們會去信政府及立法會表達訴求。

Go to: http://designinghongkong.com/forms/view.php?id=29063

 

More seats on the minibus

dhk minibus wp info

4 March
1 February

Petition to save Hong Kong Park
一人一信反對破壞香港公園

The government plans to spend 750 million dollars to relocate the Harcourt Road fresh water pumping station to Hong Kong Park. The construction will result in the removal of a wooded slope at Hong Kong Park and felling of 118 trees. It would impact 2,150 square meters of park space, and major sections of the 150 year old squared rubble defensive wall at Flagstaff House heritage site.

Please sign the below petition now.

政府建議耗資7.5億元,將夏愨道食水抽水站遷往香港公園範圍內一處斜坡,政府解釋該抽水站用地將改作商業樓宇發展。然而,於香港公園建造新的抽水站,將削去園內部分斜坡範圍,影響香港公園範圍內的一段有150年歷史的古老石牆。計劃亦會令園內受重置工程影響的118棵樹木被砍伐,並將公園空間減少2,150平方米。

請馬上參與以下聯署
——————————————————–

7 November

The right harbour authority, otherwise we’ll be better off without
要就要對的海濱管理局 否則唔要罷就

 

The Government is consulting the public on the setting up of a Harbourfront Authority but both the digest and response form fail to address key concerns. These include a lack of oversight over the harbour as a whole; the lack of advisory powers over Government departments; a lack of legitimacy in land allocation; bias towards commercial operations; and a loss of the public voice on the Board.
政府正就設立海濱管理局諮詢公眾,然而其諮詢摘要回應表格均忽略了箇中關鍵──譬如欠缺對海港的整全視野;政府部門欠諮詢權力;土地分配欠合法性;對商業操作的偏見;及董事會內無公眾聲音。

Since 2004, Designing Hong Kong has called for an authority to create world class waterfronts. Now the shortcomings need to be resolved before the community and legislators support the proposal.
2004年始,創建香港便一直爭取一個獨立的政府權力架構以創造世界級的海濱。事到如今,當務之急是要趁社會和立法會議員支持計劃前,解決其中的問題。

 

(more…)