Town Planning Review

Sustainable community building in the face of state-led gentrification: the story of the Blue House cluster in Hong Kong

Town Planning Review (2018), 89, (5), 495–512.

Abstract

This paper examines how a community in Hong Kong, led by a local charity, mobilised its bonding, bridging and linking social capital to transform a government-initiated regeneration project that had aimed at commodifying a residential heritage building cluster as a shopping facility to attract tourists into a community commons. The community succeeded in retaining the housing right of sitting tenants and the use right of the building cluster to experiment with re-embedding economic development within social relationships. The Blue House cluster is located in Wanchai, a rapidly gentrifying area east of the Central Business District in Hong Kong. Although continuing residents have experienced a kind of ‘in situ displacement’ as the surrounding built and socio-economic environments have continued to gentrify, the case nevertheless provides valuable insights into the merit of adapting heritage buildings as a base for those relationship-rich community members to practise recommoning, to (re)build with new residents a sustainable community.

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APPADURAI, A. (1995), ‘The production of locality’, in F. Richard (ed.), Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge, London and New York, Routledge, 178–99. ‘The production of locality’ Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge 178 99 Google Scholar

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FURSOVA, J. (2016), ‘The “business of community development” and the right to the city: reflections on the neoliberalization processes in urban community development’, Community Development Journal, 53, 119–35. ‘The “business of community development” and the right to the city: reflections on the neoliberalization processes in urban community development’ Community Development Journal 53 119 35 Google Scholar

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HUI, P. K. (2009), ‘Differential community and reciprocal currency’, in Yu (ed.), 61–75. ‘Differential community and reciprocal currency’ 61 75 Google Scholar

HURON, A. (2017), ‘Theorizing the urban commons: new thoughts, tensions and paths forward’, Urban Studies, 54, 1062–69. ‘Theorizing the urban commons: new thoughts, tensions and paths forward’ Urban Studies 54 1062 69 Google Scholar

INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT (2008), Proposals Invited for Revitalizing Blue House Cluster, 12 February 2008, Hong Kong, Government Information. Proposals Invited for Revitalizing Blue House Cluster Google Scholar

JENLINK, P. M. (2007), ‘Creating public spaces and practices spaces for democracy, discourse, and the emergence of civil society’, System Practice and Action Research, 20, 429–40. ‘Creating public spaces and practices spaces for democracy, discourse, and the emergence of civil society’ System Practice and Action Research 20 429 40 Google Scholar

KAY, A. (2005), ‘Social capital, the social economy and community development’, Community Development Journal, 41, 160–73. ‘Social capital, the social economy and community development’ Community Development Journal 41 160 73 Google Scholar

KEYES, C. L. M. and HAIDT, J. (2003), Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived, Washington, DC, American Psychological Association. Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived Google Scholar

KRUPAT, E. (1983), ‘A place for place identity’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 343–44. ‘A place for place identity’ Journal of Environmental Psychology 3 343 44 Google Scholar

LAI, C. (2006), ‘Community at odds over future of historic buildings’, South China Morning Post, 30 July 2017, EDT4. ‘Community at odds over future of historic buildings’ South China Morning Post Google Scholar

LAI, K. C. (2009), ‘Blue House: reflections on the strategy of entering grass-roots communities’, in Yu (ed.), 33–37. ‘Blue House: reflections on the strategy of entering grass-roots communities’ 33 37 Google Scholar

LAM, W. K. (2009), ‘Community services of the St James Settlement: retrospect and prospect’, in Yu (ed.), 9–18. ‘Community services of the St James Settlement: retrospect and prospect’ 9 18 Google Scholar

LEE, S. and WEBSTER, C. (2006), ‘Enclosure of the urban commons’, GeoJournal, 66, 27–42. ‘Enclosure of the urban commons’ GeoJournal 66 27 42 Google Scholar

LEY, D. and TEO, S. Y. (2014), ‘Gentrification in Hong Kong? Epistemology vs. ontology’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38, 1286–303. ‘Gentrification in Hong Kong? Epistemology vs. ontology’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 1286 303 Google Scholar

MARKUSEN, A. (2004), ‘The work of forgetting and remembering places’, Urban Studies, 41, 2303–13. ‘The work of forgetting and remembering places’ Urban Studies 41 2303 13 Google Scholar

MIES, M. (2014), ‘No commons without a community’, Community Development Journal, 49, i106–i117. ‘No commons without a community’ Community Development Journal 49 i106 i117 Google Scholar

MING PAO (2007), ‘Town Planning Board approved the amended Blue House Development Scheme Plan’, Ming Pao Daily News, 6 January 2017, A06 (in Chinese). ‘Town Planning Board approved the amended Blue House Development Scheme Plan’ Ming Pao Daily News Google Scholar

NG, M. K. (2016), ‘The right to healthy place-making and well-being’, Planning Theory and Practice, 17, 3–6. ‘The right to healthy place-making and well-being’ Planning Theory and Practice 17 3 6 Google Scholar

PERFORMANCE AND INNOVATION UNIT (2002), Social Capital: A Discussion Paper, London, HM Government. Social Capital: A Discussion Paper Google Scholar

PISELLI, F. (2007), ‘Communities, places, and social networks’, American Behavioral Scientist, 50, 867–78. ‘Communities, places, and social networks’ American Behavioral Scientist 50 867 78 Google Scholar

PROSHANSKY, H. M., FABIAN, A. K. and KAMINOFF, R. (1983), ‘Place-identity: physical world socialization of the self ’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 57–83. ‘Place-identity: physical world socialization of the self ’ Journal of Environmental Psychology 3 57 83 Google Scholar

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SAEGERT, S. (2006), ‘Building civil capacity in urban neighbourhoods: an empirically grounded anatomy’, Journal of Urban Affairs, 28, 275–94. ‘Building civil capacity in urban neighbourhoods: an empirically grounded anatomy’ Journal of Urban Affairs 28 275 94 Google Scholar

SJS (ST JAMES SETTLEMENT) (2007), ‘New thoughts on community conservation: starting from the Blue House’, Proceedings of the 6th Conference of the Pacific Rim Community Design Network, Quanzhou, Fujian, China, 18–21 June 2007 (in Chinese), http://courses.washington.edu/quanzhou/pacrim/papers/HKHS-BlueHouse-130607-lowres-English.pdf (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

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UNESCO (2017), Project profiles for 2017 UNESCO Heritage Award winners, http://bangkok.unesco.org/content/2017-heritage-awards-conservation-working-class-housing-hongkong-receives-top-honor (accessed 9 January 2018). Google Scholar

URA (URBAN RENEWAL AUTHORITY) (2006), ‘Stone Nullah Lane/Hing Wan Street/King Sing Street (H05-026) Detailed Social Impact Assessment Report’, unpublished SIA report submitted to Town Planning Board 19 May 2006. ‘Stone Nullah Lane/Hing Wan Street/King Sing Street (H05-026) Detailed Social Impact Assessment Report’ Google Scholar

URA (URBAN RENEWAL AUTHORITY) (2017), Schemes and Policies, Urban Renewal Authority website, http://www.ura.org.hk/en/projects/redevelopment.aspx (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

VASUDEVAN, A., MCFARLANE, C. and JEFFREY, A. (2008), ‘Spaces of enclosure’, GeoForum, 39, 1641–46. ‘Spaces of enclosure’ GeoForum 39 1641 46 Google Scholar

WANCHAI DISTRICT COUNCIL (2006), Our Stone Nullah Lane, Hong Kong, Wanchai District Council and St James Settlement (in Chinese). Our Stone Nullah Lane Google Scholar

WEBSTER, C. (2007), ‘Property rights, public space and urban design’, Town Planning Review, 78, 81–101. ‘Property rights, public space and urban design’ Town Planning Review 78 81 101 Google Scholar

WILSON, P. A. (1995), ‘Embracing locality in local economic development’, Urban Studies, 32, 645–58. ‘Embracing locality in local economic development’ Urban Studies 32 645 58 Google Scholar

WONG, A. (2006), ‘Tourism shell or living history?’, South China Morning Post, 6 October 2006, EDT13. ‘Tourism shell or living history?’ South China Morning Post Google Scholar

YU, Y. M. (ed.) (2009), Starting from the Stone Nullah Lane: 20 Years of Community Services by the St James Settlement, Hong Kong, Masterpress Ltd (in Chinese). Starting from the Stone Nullah Lane: 20 Years of Community Services by the St James Settlement Google Scholar

YUAN, C. Y., YU, Y. M., SZETO, M. and CHEN, Y. C. (2009), ‘Community creative industry: new agenda for sustainable development’, in Yu (ed.), 109–14. ‘Community creative industry: new agenda for sustainable development’ 109 14 Google Scholar

APPADURAI, A. (1995), ‘The production of locality’, in F. Richard (ed.), Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge, London and New York, Routledge, 178–99. ‘The production of locality’ Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge 178 99 Google Scholar

BAILEY, N. (2012), ‘The role, organization and contribution of community enterprise to urban regeneration policy in the UK’, Progress in Planning, 77, 1–35. ‘The role, organization and contribution of community enterprise to urban regeneration policy in the UK’ Progress in Planning 77 1 35 Google Scholar

BLOMELY, N. (2008), ‘Enclosure, common right and the property of the poor’, Social and Legal Studies, 17, 311–31. ‘Enclosure, common right and the property of the poor’ Social and Legal Studies 17 311 31 Google Scholar

CAFFENTZIS, G. and FEDERICI, S. (2014), ‘Commons against and beyond capitalism’, Community Development Journal, 49, i92–i105. ‘Commons against and beyond capitalism’ Community Development Journal 49 i92 i105 Google Scholar

CSD (CENSUS AND STATISTICS DEPARTMENT) (2012), 2011 Population Census – District Profiles. Hong Kong: Census and Statistics Department, http://www.census2011.gov.hk/en/district-profiles.html (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

CHAN, A. P. C. and CHEUNG, E. (2014), Public Private Partnerships in International Construction: Learning from Case Studies, New York, Routledge. Public Private Partnerships in International Construction: Learning from Case Studies Google Scholar

COX, K. (1999), ‘Ideology and the growth coalition’, in A. Jonas and D. Wilson (eds), The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspective, Two Decades Later, Albany, State University of New York Press, 21–36. ‘Ideology and the growth coalition’ The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Perspective, Two Decades Later 21 36 Google Scholar

DALBY, S. and MACKENZIE, F. (1997), ‘Reconceptualising local community: environment, identity and threat’, Area, 29, 99–108. ‘Reconceptualising local community: environment, identity and threat’ Area 29 99 108 Google Scholar

DALE, A. and NEWMAN, L. (2009), ‘Social capital: a necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development?’ Community Development Journal, 45, 5–21. ‘Social capital: a necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development?’ Community Development Journal 45 5 21 Google Scholar

DB&PL (DEVELOPMENT BUREAU AND PLANNING DEPARTMENT) (2016), Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030 Public Engagement, Hong Kong: Government Printer. Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030 Public Engagement Google Scholar

DEFILIPPIS, J. (2001), ‘The myth of social capital in community development’, Housing Policy Debate, 12, 781–806. ‘The myth of social capital in community development’ Housing Policy Debate 12 781 806 Google Scholar

DEFILIPPIS, J. (2004), Unmasking Goliath: Community Control in the Face of Global Capital, London, Routledge. Unmasking Goliath: Community Control in the Face of Global Capital Google Scholar

DEVELOPMENT BUREAU (2017), ‘Batch II of revitalisation scheme’, Conserve and Revitalise Hong Kong Heritage, https://www.heritage.gov.hk/en/rhbtp/ProgressResult2_Blue_House_Cluster.htm (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

DISTEFANO, L. D., LEE, H. Y., TAN, R. J. and TAN, R. G. B. (2002), Conservation Guidelines for the Adaptive Re-use of the ‘Blue House’ and Its Immediate Surrounding Area, Hong Kong, Architecture Conservation Office. ‘Blue House’ Conservation Guidelines for the Adaptive Re-use of the ‘Blue House’ and Its Immediate Surrounding Area Google Scholar

ECOLOGIST, THE (1994), ‘Whose common future: reclaiming the commons’, Environment and Urbanisation, 6, 106–30. ‘Whose common future: reclaiming the commons’ Environment and Urbanisation 6 106 30 Google Scholar

FRIED, M. (1963), ‘Grieving for a lost home’, in L. J. Duhl (ed.), The Urban Conditions, New York, Simon and Schuster, 151–71. ‘Grieving for a lost home’ The Urban Conditions 151 71 Google Scholar

FURSOVA, J. (2016), ‘The “business of community development” and the right to the city: reflections on the neoliberalization processes in urban community development’, Community Development Journal, 53, 119–35. ‘The “business of community development” and the right to the city: reflections on the neoliberalization processes in urban community development’ Community Development Journal 53 119 35 Google Scholar

GIBSON-GRAHAM, J. K., CAMERON, J. and HEALY, S. (2013), Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities Google Scholar

GITTEL, R. and VIDAL, A. (1998), Community Organising: Building Social Capital as a Development Strategy, Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications. Community Organising: Building Social Capital as a Development Strategy Google Scholar

GREEN SHOP (2017), Social Enterprise, http://www.sjs.org.hk/tc/project/social-details.php?id=2 (accessed 10 February 2017) (in Chinese). Google Scholar

HARVEY, D. (2012), Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, London and New York, Verso, Kindle edition. Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution Google Scholar

HODKINSON, S. (2012), ‘The new urban enclosures’, City, 16, 500–18. ‘The new urban enclosures’ City 16 500 18 Google Scholar

HOWARD, E. (1965 [1898]), Garden Cities of To-morrow, Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press. Garden Cities of To-morrow Google Scholar

HUI, P. K. (2009), ‘Differential community and reciprocal currency’, in Yu (ed.), 61–75. ‘Differential community and reciprocal currency’ 61 75 Google Scholar

HURON, A. (2017), ‘Theorizing the urban commons: new thoughts, tensions and paths forward’, Urban Studies, 54, 1062–69. ‘Theorizing the urban commons: new thoughts, tensions and paths forward’ Urban Studies 54 1062 69 Google Scholar

INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT (2008), Proposals Invited for Revitalizing Blue House Cluster, 12 February 2008, Hong Kong, Government Information. Proposals Invited for Revitalizing Blue House Cluster Google Scholar

JENLINK, P. M. (2007), ‘Creating public spaces and practices spaces for democracy, discourse, and the emergence of civil society’, System Practice and Action Research, 20, 429–40. ‘Creating public spaces and practices spaces for democracy, discourse, and the emergence of civil society’ System Practice and Action Research 20 429 40 Google Scholar

KAY, A. (2005), ‘Social capital, the social economy and community development’, Community Development Journal, 41, 160–73. ‘Social capital, the social economy and community development’ Community Development Journal 41 160 73 Google Scholar

KEYES, C. L. M. and HAIDT, J. (2003), Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived, Washington, DC, American Psychological Association. Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived Google Scholar

KRUPAT, E. (1983), ‘A place for place identity’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 343–44. ‘A place for place identity’ Journal of Environmental Psychology 3 343 44 Google Scholar

LAI, C. (2006), ‘Community at odds over future of historic buildings’, South China Morning Post, 30 July 2017, EDT4. ‘Community at odds over future of historic buildings’ South China Morning Post Google Scholar

LAI, K. C. (2009), ‘Blue House: reflections on the strategy of entering grass-roots communities’, in Yu (ed.), 33–37. ‘Blue House: reflections on the strategy of entering grass-roots communities’ 33 37 Google Scholar

LAM, W. K. (2009), ‘Community services of the St James Settlement: retrospect and prospect’, in Yu (ed.), 9–18. ‘Community services of the St James Settlement: retrospect and prospect’ 9 18 Google Scholar

LEE, S. and WEBSTER, C. (2006), ‘Enclosure of the urban commons’, GeoJournal, 66, 27–42. ‘Enclosure of the urban commons’ GeoJournal 66 27 42 Google Scholar

LEY, D. and TEO, S. Y. (2014), ‘Gentrification in Hong Kong? Epistemology vs. ontology’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38, 1286–303. ‘Gentrification in Hong Kong? Epistemology vs. ontology’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 1286 303 Google Scholar

MARKUSEN, A. (2004), ‘The work of forgetting and remembering places’, Urban Studies, 41, 2303–13. ‘The work of forgetting and remembering places’ Urban Studies 41 2303 13 Google Scholar

MIES, M. (2014), ‘No commons without a community’, Community Development Journal, 49, i106–i117. ‘No commons without a community’ Community Development Journal 49 i106 i117 Google Scholar

MING PAO (2007), ‘Town Planning Board approved the amended Blue House Development Scheme Plan’, Ming Pao Daily News, 6 January 2017, A06 (in Chinese). ‘Town Planning Board approved the amended Blue House Development Scheme Plan’ Ming Pao Daily News Google Scholar

NG, M. K. (2016), ‘The right to healthy place-making and well-being’, Planning Theory and Practice, 17, 3–6. ‘The right to healthy place-making and well-being’ Planning Theory and Practice 17 3 6 Google Scholar

PERFORMANCE AND INNOVATION UNIT (2002), Social Capital: A Discussion Paper, London, HM Government. Social Capital: A Discussion Paper Google Scholar

PISELLI, F. (2007), ‘Communities, places, and social networks’, American Behavioral Scientist, 50, 867–78. ‘Communities, places, and social networks’ American Behavioral Scientist 50 867 78 Google Scholar

PROSHANSKY, H. M., FABIAN, A. K. and KAMINOFF, R. (1983), ‘Place-identity: physical world socialization of the self ’, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3, 57–83. ‘Place-identity: physical world socialization of the self ’ Journal of Environmental Psychology 3 57 83 Google Scholar

RODMAN, M. C. (1992), ‘Empowering places: multilocality and multivocality’, American Anthropologist, 94, 640–56. ‘Empowering places: multilocality and multivocality’ American Anthropologist 94 640 56 Google Scholar

SAEGERT, S. (2006), ‘Building civil capacity in urban neighbourhoods: an empirically grounded anatomy’, Journal of Urban Affairs, 28, 275–94. ‘Building civil capacity in urban neighbourhoods: an empirically grounded anatomy’ Journal of Urban Affairs 28 275 94 Google Scholar

SJS (ST JAMES SETTLEMENT) (2007), ‘New thoughts on community conservation: starting from the Blue House’, Proceedings of the 6th Conference of the Pacific Rim Community Design Network, Quanzhou, Fujian, China, 18–21 June 2007 (in Chinese), http://courses.washington.edu/quanzhou/pacrim/papers/HKHS-BlueHouse-130607-lowres-English.pdf (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

TUAN, Y. (1977), Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience Google Scholar

UNESCO (2017), Project profiles for 2017 UNESCO Heritage Award winners, http://bangkok.unesco.org/content/2017-heritage-awards-conservation-working-class-housing-hongkong-receives-top-honor (accessed 9 January 2018). Google Scholar

URA (URBAN RENEWAL AUTHORITY) (2006), ‘Stone Nullah Lane/Hing Wan Street/King Sing Street (H05-026) Detailed Social Impact Assessment Report’, unpublished SIA report submitted to Town Planning Board 19 May 2006. ‘Stone Nullah Lane/Hing Wan Street/King Sing Street (H05-026) Detailed Social Impact Assessment Report’ Google Scholar

URA (URBAN RENEWAL AUTHORITY) (2017), Schemes and Policies, Urban Renewal Authority website, http://www.ura.org.hk/en/projects/redevelopment.aspx (accessed 23 March 2017). Google Scholar

VASUDEVAN, A., MCFARLANE, C. and JEFFREY, A. (2008), ‘Spaces of enclosure’, GeoForum, 39, 1641–46. ‘Spaces of enclosure’ GeoForum 39 1641 46 Google Scholar

WANCHAI DISTRICT COUNCIL (2006), Our Stone Nullah Lane, Hong Kong, Wanchai District Council and St James Settlement (in Chinese). Our Stone Nullah Lane Google Scholar

WEBSTER, C. (2007), ‘Property rights, public space and urban design’, Town Planning Review, 78, 81–101. ‘Property rights, public space and urban design’ Town Planning Review 78 81 101 Google Scholar

WILSON, P. A. (1995), ‘Embracing locality in local economic development’, Urban Studies, 32, 645–58. ‘Embracing locality in local economic development’ Urban Studies 32 645 58 Google Scholar

WONG, A. (2006), ‘Tourism shell or living history?’, South China Morning Post, 6 October 2006, EDT13. ‘Tourism shell or living history?’ South China Morning Post Google Scholar

YU, Y. M. (ed.) (2009), Starting from the Stone Nullah Lane: 20 Years of Community Services by the St James Settlement, Hong Kong, Masterpress Ltd (in Chinese). Starting from the Stone Nullah Lane: 20 Years of Community Services by the St James Settlement Google Scholar

YUAN, C. Y., YU, Y. M., SZETO, M. and CHEN, Y. C. (2009), ‘Community creative industry: new agenda for sustainable development’, in Yu (ed.), 109–14. ‘Community creative industry: new agenda for sustainable development’ 109 14 Google Scholar

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Ng, Mee Kam