The Taipei City Government has broken promises to protect a historic brothel site affected by urban renewal, advocates said yesterday, slamming renewal plans that only preserve building facades.
“The government does not have to get a landowner’s permission to designate a building as having ‘historic architecture,’ but owner consent is typically sought because of the potential influence on their property rights. However, in this case, the buildings’ owners were already slated to move elsewhere,” Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) secretary Kuo Pei-yu (郭姵妤) said.
Kuo was criticizing the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs for failing to designate homes from the Japanese colonial era on Guisui Street (歸綏街) and Ningxia Road (寧夏路) as historic architecture.
If the designation is made, the city’s Department of Urban Development had agreed to seek control over the buildings in exchange for city-owned land as part of the urban renewal approval process, she said.
The failure to take action reflects the city’s wider avoidance of choosing public interest over private property, she added.
Her group’s roots can be traced to the fight against banning legal prostitution in the 1990s. It eventually transitioned to providing services to former prostitutes and maintaining the historic Wenmeng Building (文萌樓), a former brothel, on Guisui Street in Taipei’s Datong District (大同).
Although the building was designated a city historic site in 2006, the former brothel owner, who also owned the building, sold it several years ago, sparking an extended legal battle after the new owner sought to evict COSWAS members.
“The previous city government had already started directly expropriating the building because of the new owner, but Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) administration canceled that process while promising to address the issue through a public urban renewal process,” Kuo said.
“It is now clear that such a process will never be initiated and in the meantime, we have lost our court battle after the final eviction verdict was handed down in May last year,” Kuo said.
Advocates are hosting a final exhibit at the site in the expectation that they will soon receive an eviction notice, she added.
Coupled with the city’s failure to preserve the sites, COSWAS’ eviction will leave the formal brothel district “gutted,” she said.
“The city’s plans call for preserving the street front. That will leave just an empty shell,” she said.
Source: Taipei Times