Renewal plan kills Graham Street Market
by Katty Law, published as a letter in the South China Morning Post on Jan 27, 2008
The claim of the Urban Renewal Authority that the 150-year-old Graham Street market will not be negatively affected by its redevelopment scheme is unacceptable.
URA's statement that the market is located outside the project boundaries is particularly misleading, considering that the main market streets of Graham, Gage and Peel are sandwiched between the 37 old buildings slated for demolition by the URA. More than 30 market shops selling fish, meat, fruit and vegetables and all kinds of cooking ingredients will be erased in one go when the URA's bulldozers move in sometime next year. Some of these ground-floor shop spaces also provide much-needed storage for our street hawkers. They too will be seriously affected when these buildings are pulled down. Central residents and those who rely on this market for food will be at a loss because there are no other markets in the area and the URA has not made any provision for relocating these shops.
Unfortunately, the process of destruction has already started as the URA began to resume properties in October. We expect to see more shops close in the coming months as their leases expire.
The URA's claims that safety measures during the construction period will ensure that street hawkers can continue business on site are even less believable. With the area becoming a noisy and dusty construction site in the next seven years and the authority's plan to hollow the ground for an underground car park, how can hawkers operate safely in such an environment? The situation will be made worse when shoppers no longer want to come here. The market will die when business runs out.
Community members have repeatedly urged the URA to present an honest and complete picture of its redevelopment plan - the 3D model presented to the public shows only three levels of shopping malls along the so-called Old Shop Street while the four high-rise towers are missing. When asked to present the model produced for the Town Planning Board, the URA said it had been damaged and sent to Shenzhen for repair. Apparently, it never came back. Why is URA so afraid to show us the true picture?