The conservation of the 68-year-old State Theatre in Hong Kong’s North Point district will be the highlight of property company New World Development’s (NWD) redevelopment plan, according to its executive vice-chairman.
The developer, which is worth HK$99.7 billion (US$12.9 billion), was pursuing financial success as well as social benefits with the project, Adrian Cheng Chi-kong said. “On top of making money, we will create shared value – a connection between social progress and business success,” he said. The company took control of two residential buildings and the theatre, which was classified as a Grade 1 historical building in 2017, that come under the State Theatre Building under the city’s compulsory land acquisition law on Thursday.
The company has gradually built up ownership of the property by acquiring units from individual owners since 2015. Upon the acquisition of an 80 per cent stake in the site, it applied to the Lands Tribunal in 2018 for a compulsory sale to buy up the remaining share under the city’s compulsory land acquisition law. The law, which only applies to buildings that are more than 50 years old, is used to encourage urban renewal. NWD, which now owns 100 per cent of the site, must now compensate any holdout owners based on a Lands Tribunal reserve price of HK$4.77 billion or HK$12,468 per square foot.
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According to Lands Tribunal documents released in August when the compulsory auction was approved, the 36,200 sq ft site can yield a maximum gross floor area of 383,000 sq ft, and its redevelopment could yield about HK$9 billion at current market value. NWD said at the time that flats on the site could be sold for HK$27,000 per square foot, while car parking spaces could fetch HK$2.8 million each, according to the document.
A spokeswoman for the company, however, said the valuation of about HK$9 billion was based on the demolition of all structures – including the theatre – on the site. The theatre’s conservation would eat into the site’s redevelopment area, reducing its value, she said, adding that details of the development plan were not available at the moment. She also said the company had put a higher valuation to ensure that the affected owners of shops in the shopping centre and a few flat owners in the two residential buildings that had yet to sell their property received better compensation.
“As the conservation project will definitely be costly, the financial value of the redevelopment is not yet known. But it will contribute to the community,” said Leo Cheung, corporate development director of valuations and property management at Pruden Group.
The theatre has long been an icon of popular culture in Hong Kong. “We do not just want to preserve the essence of the former State Theatre,” Cheng said. “We will revive it and make it a destination to draw millennials.”
The 1,300-seat theatre last showed films in 1997 and has since evolved into a neighbourhood shopping centre. Parts of the structure have been left derelict after a fire in 1995.
“We want to grow with the community and share with the community,” Cheng said. The company has announced the set up of a team of local and international conservation consultants.
Leading the team are UK firms WilkinsonEyre and Purcell, which worked on the Gasholders London redevelopment scheme and the restoration of Tai Kwun, respectively, as well as Hong Kong-based AGC Architects, which took part in the revitalisation of Lui Seng Chun, a 89-year-old tenement house in Hong Kong that has been restored as a Chinese Medicine Centre.
As of Thursday, only two shops remained on the ground floor of the shopping centre. One of them, Brilliant Tailor, was still open for business. “My shop has been here for 40-50 years,” said Tsang Siu-man, 78, who pays about HK$4,000 a month for his 100 sq ft shop.
“The mall used to be packed whenever there were new releases of local and foreign films, as well as Chinese opera. My business did so well – I made 30 suits a month. Now, I don’t even manage 10 a month. Fortunately, my customers know that I will close doors soon and many have ordered several suits over the past month. They know I will retire after the mall closes,” he said.
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