Putting energy into transforming Central

Top News | Phoebe Ng 13 Sep 2017

An "Energizing Central Office" should be set up to steer the area's transformation into a better pedestrian environment, including potential pedestrianization of Des Voeux Road Central, it has been proposed.

Southern District Council member Paul Zimmerman said the district planning office, like the Energizing Kowloon East Office, should report directly to the Development Bureau to overlook specific areas that need work.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying in his swansong policy address in January set out a coordinated and comprehensive strategy for the "Walk in HK" concept and his successor Carrie Lam is expected to further improve the vision.

The idea of a city for pedestrians has never been new, with New York, Paris, London, Seoul and Singapore all trying to make their cities more walkable.

Zimmerman warned muddle and weakness in the SAR government could be holding us back.

"In other cities, they have a real priority to make it happen," he said. "They have worked so hard to manage public space streets and pavements," said Zimmerman, who is also chief executive of Designing Hong Kong.

"They have to look at these things in a holistic way, not individual departments' responsibilities."

The former mayor of Seoul demolished a bridge to create an urban park while London mayor Sadiq Khan has vowed to pedestrianize Oxford Street, the British capital's famous shopping street, by 2020.

Zimmerman said failure to keep up will make Hong Kong lose out. "Ultimately it is the street environment. There's more people coming. The density goes up, but the management has not improved," Zimmerman said."It is about the mandate between different departments. There is an organization issue here."

Zimmerman, who has been advocating pedestrianization of Des Voeux Road Central, has already written to Lam on the "Energizing Central Office" proposal.

In response, Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun hinted it could be included in the ongoing "Hong Kong 2030+" planning strategy.

Civic Exchange, a public policy think tank, is carrying out a study on management of pedestrianized streets.

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