Over the years, the Central Market has been modified with the rapid social changes and the needs of the community. The building was demolished and rebuilt in the 1850s, 1890s and 1930s. The current Central Market building is the fourth generation since it came into existence.
There is a common misconception that the Central Market was originated from the Canton Bazaar. In fact, Central Market had developed from a Bazaar. The first generation of the Central Market can be traced back to 1841-1842. When the British captured the waterway between Hong Kong and Canton during the First Anglo-Chinese War in 1841, numerous parties of British and foreign merchants and missionaries came to Hong Kong. Large numbers of infrastructure were required by the colonial government at that time. The native masons, bricklayers, carpenters and scaffold builders who were required for the construction of infrastructure were immediately followed by a considerable influx of Chinese food provision dealers. The majority of them settled near the current site of the Central Market, approximately at Queen’s Road and Pottinger Street, and formed a Bazaar.
The Chinese furniture dealers gathered in another place, namely the Canton Bazaar (廣州市場). According to many history texts and historical maps, the Canton Bazaar should be located to the east of Murray Barracks, that is the district known today as Admiralty.
The Chinese population on Hong Kong Island increased from 5,650 to 12,361 between 1841 and 1842. Such rapid population growth called for the emergence of a market place. It is believed that a market, namely Central Market, was formally opened to the south of its present site on 10th June 1842 and farmed out to a Chinese, called Afoon. It is believed that the Central Market might be the first well established market in Central.
In the Policy Address of 2009-10, the Chief Executive proposed a new initiative called “Conserving Central”. As part of this initiative, the Government tasked the URA to revitalise the Central Market.
The Chief Executive tasked the URA to revitalise the Central Market in the Policy Address 2009-10.
Since 2009, the URA continuously organised a series of public consultations, public opinion surveys, public engagement exercises and provided regular updates on the project progress to Central and Western District Council. The planning process has been lengthy due to the involvement of numerous government departments and different stakeholders. In addition, various judicial reviews and appeal proceedings had caused significant delay to the project.
Nonetheless, the URA has never considered giving up or abandoning the Central Market revitalisation project. In September 2015, the URA announced that it would adopt a simplified version of design to revitalize the Central Market and to commence the revitalisation project as soon as possible, in response to the public aspirations.
The revised scheme was later approved by the Town Planning Board (TPB) with conditions on 18 March 2016. The Buildings Department approved the amended General Building Plans submitted by URA on 25 November 2016.
On 29 March 2017, the Chief Executive-in-Council approved to grant the site to URA for 21 years by way of private treaty for the revitalisation of the Central Market and its future operation. The Lands Department would also grant the URA a short-term tenancy for 5 years to facilitate the early commencement of the preservation works that would meet public aspirations to have the revitalised Central Market building re-opened for public use and enjoyment as early as possible.
The judicial reviews against the original revitalisation proposal caused a significant delay to the project. With the construction cost rising over time, the original estimate was rendered out-of-date and seriously inadequate. In 2015, the URA estimated that the project would cost HK$1.5 billion and take around 8 years to complete.
After reviewing the project details with a view to rationalising both the cost and the works to be carried out, the URA adopted a simplified version of design to revitalize the Central Market so as to commence the project as soon as possible for early public enjoyment.
The URA announced in September 2015 that it would adopt a simplified version of design in preserving and revitalizing the Central Market. The project cost was estimated at around HK$740 million at 2016 prices.
During the construction stage, pedestrian access on the second floor of the Central Market Building will be maintained. The public could still use the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System that is connected through the building. Certain public toilet facilities will continue to be provided for the community.
The URA expects to commence the construction works as soon as various approvals are obtained from relevant Government Departments. The URA targets to start relevant building works in the third quarter of 2017 and complete the project by 2021/22.
The revitalised Central Market will provide a total floor area of about 12,000 square metres, including the roof, for affordable cultural and retail facilities. According to the scheme approved by the Town Planning Board, an open space of 1,000 square metres will be provided at the existing atrium and entrance plaza facing Queen’s Road Central, while the external walls on the ground floor facing Jubilee Street and Queen Victoria Street will be opened up to enhance accessibility and connectivity. The new façade facing Des Voeux Road Central will also be re-instated to enhance visual permeability of the building and recreate the characters in the authentic Central Market.
The URA plans to preserve at least 13 stalls including stalls designed for fish, poultry, beef/mutton, pork, vegetables and fruit in the Central Market. The market stall preservation plan was already approved by the TPB.
While the authentic elements will be preserved, the stalls will be integrated with the interior design and future uses.
With reference to the public comments obtained from the extensive public engagement exercises, the Advisory Committee concluded a set of operation principles and guidelines. For examples, there will be no luxury brand shops or bland, homogenized retail shops; while cultural and affordable retail shops that incorporates multipurpose use such as greenery and public open space will be encouraged.
URA has engaged the consultant KPMG to conduct a study to work out the details of the operational arrangements based on the operation guidelines obtained from the stakeholders’ requirements exercises. The consultant shall advise URA the most appropriate methods to tender operator(s) and operation methods under the established operation guidelines by COCAC derived from public aspiration and URA’s social mission.
The scope of research includes:
1. Operating mode
2. Tender arrangement
3. Key contract terms
4. Review criteria