A land developer has moved to take control of the State Theatre building – a Grade I historic site in North Point – saying that it plans to reconstruct the building with a view to conserving part of it.

The State Theatre Building consists of residential and commercial parts, as well as the former State Theatre. The theatre opened in 1952 and closed in 1997. It has a unique roof structure, with parabolic concrete roof trusses. It was highly praised by architectural conservation groups as a leading example of Modern Movement architecture.

Even though it was granted a Grade I historic building status in 2016, the status does not protect the building from being demolished or converted into other use.

state theatre
The State Theatre. Photo: Paul Chan, via Facebook.

On Monday, subsidiaries of New World Development Company Limited made an application to the Lands Tribunal for a compulsory sale order of the State Theatre building, after they acquired 80 per cent of the properties. The application was made in order to unify the ownership of the building for redevelopment purposes.

“The Group has a view to conserve relevant part of the building being the former State Theatre,” a New World Group spokesperson said. “Yet, as legal proceedings for compulsory sale are afoot, the Group is not in a position to confirm any development plan until it has acquired 100 per cent ownership and conducted [a] thorough inspection of the present condition and structure.”

“The New World Group has a long-standing interest in promoting arts and culture. In the case of [the] State Theatre Building, although it is premature to discuss any future development plan at this stage, the Group will actively consider how to preserve the essence of the former State Theatre after it has successfully unified the ownership.”

An infographic on the historical, cultural and architectural value of the State Theatre. Photo: Supporthk.org

New World said it has it would coordinate with community groups to carry out a series of programmes to increase the public’s understanding of the former State Theatre’s historical and cultural significance, and the history of North Point.

Walk in Hong Kong, a group which has been campaigning for the conservation of the site, urged New World to conserve the landmark by following the highest international heritage conservation standards.

State Theatre
State Theatre’s arch bridge. Photo: Walk in Hong Kong.

“Specifically, Walk in Hong Kong calls for the exterior of [the] State Theatre, which includes the building’s iconic ‘arch bridge’ roof structure, to be kept,” it said. “The building’s internal two-level structure should also stay.”

“In addition, Walk in Hong Kong urges New World Development Group to respect the history of the cultural landmark and factor in local community needs when deciding the future use of the building, so that it can once again be a place to be enjoyed by many.”

Last year, Walk in Hong Kong presented a series of proposals for the preservation of State Theatre.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.