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Repurposing Classic Buildings Proves a Hit with Taiwan Tourists

Heritage sites sensitively reinvented as hotels and high-end outlets emerge as popular visitor attractions.

Photo: Bed and breakfast reborn: Repurposing heritage sites in Taiwan. (Xinhua News Agency)
Bed and breakfast reborn: Repurposing heritage sites in Taiwan.
Photo: Bed and breakfast reborn: Repurposing heritage sites in Taiwan. (Xinhua News Agency)
Bed and breakfast reborn: Repurposing heritage sites in Taiwan.

As has already become something of a trend in Hong Kong, Taiwan is now looking to restore and refurbish a number of its heritage buildings. This has seen several historic sites redeveloped for leisure or hospitality purposes, with the finished projects proving hugely popular with both residents and visitors.

A prime example of this is the former staff quarters of the Taiwan Cooperative Bank, set in the Da'an district of Taipei. Back in August, the site reopened as the Folio Daan Taipei, the first own-branded hotel established by Fubon Hospitality Management, part of the Fubon Group.

As a key part of the project, Fubon's design team was at pains to conserve the original townhouse architectural style of the building. They also retained and restored a number of the building's original features, including its granite outer walls and balconies. In the process of reinventing and repurposing this classic building, the hotel group's overall concern was to revive the style and look of the Taipei of the 1950s.

This move to restore classic properties has been popular in Taiwan for some time now. As a result, a number of once dilapidated buildings in Tainan's Anping and West Central district, as well as in the Dadaocheng area of Taipei, have been reinvented as boutique hotels.

In every case, the priority was to create a luxurious modern interior, while retaining the retro stylings and features of the exterior of the building. Maintaining a perfect balance between the old and the new is seen as crucial when it comes to attracting both local and overseas patrons.

In addition to the hotel sector, this move to restore classic buildings has also been taken up by restaurants and coffee shops. In the case of Starbucks, its Manka store in the Wanhua district of Taipei occupies the former residence of the Lin family, a site officially designated as a heritage building. The project marks the first time the coffee chain has restored an historic building in Taiwan. Widely seen as a success, the Manka site now enjoys substantial patronage, with its popularity said to be at least partially down to the sensitive way the restoration was completed.

Similar success has met a number of redevelopment projects undertaken by Dawncake, the popular upmarket Taiwanese confectioner and souvenir shop. The company has restored two sites in Taichung – the 4th Credit Coop Bank and the Miyahara Eye Hospital – with both now proving to be hugely popular with local and overseas patrons.

The HOK Café – a new high street brand launched by Kuo Yuan Ye (House of Kuo), the Taiwanese cake and pastry giant – has found success with a similar policy. The outlet currently operates from a refurbished 80-year-old building in the Shilin district of Taipei.

Acknowledging the success of these initiatives, Taiwan's Tourism Bureau has now issued revised guidelines for the operation of bed and breakfast establishments in the territory. These new guidelines make it easier for new hospitality facilities to be opened in heritage buildings, as long as the unique features of these sites are retained.

The adoption of the new guidelines will be particularly welcomed by operators in the Anping district of Tainan and the Dadaocheng district of Taipei, both of which are at risk of violating the law as it previously stood. With the new regulations coming into effect before the end of the year, it is expected the change will trigger a new wave of refurbishments and repurposing across the territory.

Lillian Kao, Taiwan Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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