The iconic Star Ferry pier will be demolished next month, three months earlier than scheduled, government officials revealed Tuesday.
Two days after the Star Ferry Company vacated the 48-year-old landmark at Edinburgh Place, the administration said the famous clock tower will be dismantled in December, followed in phases by the rest of the structure.
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung said that since disclosing its intention to relocate the terminal in 1999, the government has followed all legal procedures "to a letter."
"The building is valuable, but what is more valuable is the site, the sound of the bells and the memory. That doesn't mean people are concerned about the building itself," he said.
Suen's comments, made at a special meeting of the Legislative Council's planning panel Tuesday, drew fire from legislators who pointed to the public's growing calls for preservation.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat and other legislators urged officials to consider relocating the terminal to the Central harborfront.
But Suen, who at first said such a project would be "relatively simple," later changed when asked by Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit to say how relocation could be completed ahead of demolition next month.
The official then said even if the government could relocate the pier, it would appear "quite odd and out of place." The government would thus consider other possible locations. The Edinburgh Place terminal, which was constructed in 1958, was the Star Ferry's third home since it began running in 1898. The government maintains the structure is not old enough to be classified as "historical."
Lawmakers in September passed a non-binding motion urging the government to retain the pier and clock tower.
However, government transport experts responded such a plan would be impossible as it would conflict with planned changes to the waterfront.
The Star Ferry's new three-story terminal in the Central ferry piers area opened for service Sunday morning.