Story of the Month - July 2016

Story of the Month - July 2016

 

Kim Shin Lane Site Visits and Interviews

Following some survey work done at Kim Shin Lane earlier this year, Prof. Mee Kam Ng and RA Ross Cheung led the research team to visit the site in this summer and get in touch with some local residents to solicit their opinions about its future development. Kim Shin Lane, a narrow scavenging lane, and two long rows of buildings along the lane together form a unique urban landscape in the area of Cheung Sha Wan. Since its completion in 1959 amidst the postwar boom of construction, KSL has witnessed the rise and fall of Hong Kong’s textile industry in this district. After over half a century, these physically deteriorating buildings are now dwarfed by its increasingly vertically-redeveloped neighbourhood.

 

 

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The Narrow Scanvenging Lane of Kim Shin Lane

Source: Jiageng Zhu

 

 

Our site visit gave us a vivid impression over this dynamic neighbourhood with a lot of social and commercial activities going on. While most shops are local small businesses, for example, hardware stores and restaurants serving local food at a reasonable price, some fancier cafes that probably target at middle-class office workers or residents are emerging in this area. This is not surprising as there have been a few newly redeveloped residential towers and office buildings in this dilapidated neighbourhood. As soon as we turned into Kim Shin Lane, a somehow hidden pedestrian lane, the jumble of awnings, partitions, hanging dryers and many other things immediately delivered a surreal yet a bit chaotic image of this seemingly overcrowded community. However, we still spotted some elderly people sitting, chatting or wandering around. Our concern over the hygienic condition was heightened after we entered some of the buildings that welcomed us with numerous cables, wires and meters in disarray above the entrance. In spite of this messiness and unsatisfied physical condition, its low rent and good accessibility to public transport still attract a lot of low-income families. That’s why we can find subdivided units very common in these buildings, and some of the units are being renovated and subdivided during our visit.

 

ksl-002

Kim Shin Lane, the exterior and interior of its buildings

Source: Jiageng Zhu

 

 

Our team has conducted oral interviews in this neighbourhood in the past months. Interviewed residents talked about the changes of KSL over these years, for example, increasing mobility of residents and increasing number of subdivided flats. While the hope for redevelopment has circulated among some owners for many years, the opinions over its redevelopment have diverged and the Owners’ Corporation’s recent attempt to implement demand-led redevelopment under the Urban Renewal Authority Ordinance was not successful. Some aging occupants simply cannot afford to maintain their property, and some other owners are reluctant to invest in old buildings, which, they consider, should be redeveloped. Some of those who object to redevelopment are landlords who are enjoying a handsome return of their partitioned flat in this convenient locality. There is also a small voice that aspires to see a revitalization of the neighbourhood into one that is cleaner, more sanitary, safe and people-friendly. Whereas the hegemonic ‘slash and burn’ approach of urban regeneration still prevails in Hong Kong, this ongoing project, as part of the collaborative research with National Cheng Kung University, will continue to seek for diverse voices at the grassroots level and search for  a more humane and sustainable way to serve the needs of our communities.

 

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