Operated by Chinachem Group, the 122,000 square-foot Market has been transformed into a “Playground for All” by accentuating an Approachable, Energetic and Gregarious appeal. It also follows two major principles in response to the public’s aspirations towards preserving collective memory of the old Hong Kong and creating public enjoyment with new innovations.
Playground for All
Chan continued with more surprises, “there are also bars inside the Dining Ground which is rare to find in a regular mall setting. During day time, you see people coming into the Market for lunch, but at night the Market will turn itself into a nightlife spot where more expatriates will gather for a beer.”
Benjamin added, “also the Market is a space without boundaries. We forewent the idea of traditional partitioning but used 300 plants instead as green partitions to divide and celebrate spaces.” Chan further said, “it feels like when you reach out your hand, you will mentally overlap and see what’s going on on the other side.”
In the coming five years, the Central Market will have plans for holding 250 events for the interests of different demographic groups, including tours, workshops, exhibitions and performances. Also, there will be initiatives to promote the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) to nurture the creative thinking of the next generation and provide fun and meaningful visits.
When old meets new
Public opinion surveys and consultations were conducted before the revitalisation project started. The mainstream views urged for the preservation of the iconic features of the Market so that collective memory of the building can be passed down to the next generations.
One of the most iconic features of the building is its Grand Staircase. The conservator used traditional Shanghai plastering techniques to recreate its traditional look. Benjamin said one of their responsibilities was to systematise the public’s memory by adding innovation to the preserved features. “You can find a QR code on the Grand Staircase and other historical features of the building. In the near future, people will be able to share with us their own stories and historical facts of a particular stall and feature, we’ll then organise and store the information in our built-in system to create an urban memory base for visitors to get access to as they scan the QR codes.”
Curated retail and heritage experienceThirteen of the original market stalls have been preserved with Shanghai plastering finishing. The original iron rod for hanging meat, water storage tank, fish tank and the display shelves of the vegetable and fruit stall have also been restored to show its historical appeal.
Golden Resources Development Limited invited renowned Hong Kong art directors Joel Chu and Silver Cheung to re-create two of the preserved stalls as a traditional rice stall which brought back the precious moments of the rice culture from the 50’s and 60’s to the Market.
The stall showcases an array of historic and antique items commonly used in a traditional rice stall, for example, abacus, weighing scale, newspaper for wrapping rice, hemp bags and price tags written in traditional Suzhou numerals to let modern visitors picture what it was like to go rice-shopping in the old days.
Stanley Wat, their General Manager HK & Global Rice Business of Golden Resources Development Limited, said the rice stall will not however do any actual selling of rice or souvenirs, “we don’t want any commercial element to side track the visitors. We hope that older people can reminisce their e”xperience with traditional rice stalls while the young people can learn about the history of Hong Kong.
Support Local Businesses and Start-upsA very satisfactory take-up rate of over 90% has been achieved for phase one, drawing over 70 tenants, with operations ranging from street foods to specialty restaurants, cultural craft boutiques, and lifestyle grocery stores.
Among all these, you won’t find any international chain stores in the Market as would normally be seen in a regular shopping mall because the Market is dedicated to help local and start-up businesses to make the place more approachable to the public.
The Market introduced the plug-to-operate concept to the tenants, offering them basic fixtures and fitting-outs with the support of a comprehensive point-of-sale (POS) system, which effectively helps to lower the set-up cost and enables tenants to operate as soon as they move in.
Celebration for AllTo mark the success of the Central Market reopening, there was a celebration party held on 12 November where representatives from Chinachem Group, The Urban Renewal Authority, tenants, business partners and community stakeholders all joined together and enjoyed a variety of celebrity performances with laughter.
Second phase of revitalisation
The second phase of revitalisation is expected to finish in the second quarter of next year at the earliest. It will involve the redesign of the facade facing Des Voeux Road in Central and the installation of an escalator that leads to both the first floor and the 24-hour passageway on the second floor.
In the future, a wider variety of tenants are also expected to join the Central Market and the Market will join hands with different organisations to co-create a new landmark that nurtures a vibrant community and cultivates a contemporary urban lifestyle.
“Chinachem has been super helpful throughout the setup of our shop. They also offered plug to operate model to help with insurance, licensing, shop designs and payment system so that we would not have to worry about all the annoying administrative matters that are key to the setup of a F&B venture.”
Eric Lee, Manager of Hong Kong Tram Store also agreed to this, “The Central Market is so brave to accept small stores like us to run businesses there. We are also very happy with our performance as the Market attracts a high footfall to visit our store.”