Taipei, Oct. 28 (CNA) The Taipei City government was urged Friday to fully protect a former residential area in Yangmingshan that served U.S. army personnel between the 1950s and 1970s, amid concerns that the land might be sold and developed inappropriately.
At a public hearing held by Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung, lawmakers, a scholar and cultural activists called for the thorough preservation of the large housing complex built for U.S. military advisers sent to Taiwan during the Cold War.
The U.S. officers came to Taiwan after the 1950 Korean War broke out to strengthen military collaboration with the island and help protect it from falling into the hands of the communist People's Republic of China.
The base they and their families lived on was specially selected in 1952 in the Shanzihou area at the foot of Yangmingshan National Park.
That 13-hectare area is now owned by Bank of Taiwan, according to Ting, who said the bank plans to transform it into a commercial zone for restaurants, guest houses or luxury housing.
If the area's development is not handled well, it will have a considerable impact on the ecology of the mountains and traffic on nearby Yangde Boulevard, which is often jam-packed on the weekends, warned Hsia Chu-joe, dean of the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University (NTU).
The 118 houses remaining from the period all have different interior designs and pillars made of hinoki wood, a highly prized building material, said Yang Tung-sheng, a representative of the neighborhood.
Yang said it would be unfortunate not to preserve the precious houses, 22 of which have been designated as historic buildings by the city government.
O Han-ping, director of a culture and history studio established to protect the area, accused the city government of trying to turn the residential area into a zone combining commerce and residences.
But Wang Yi-chun, chief secretary of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, said the city had not agreed to the bank's proposal to manage the complex using a build-operate-transfer (BOT) system because it would not be able to supervise the operation in the future.
Hsieh Teng-lung, executive vice president of the Bank of Taiwan, denied that the bank was planning a large-scale development in the region, saying the initiative was simply designed to revive the land based on the city government's planning.
(By Lu Hsin-hui and Kendra Lin)