HONG KONG (Reuters) - A philanthropic bid by a Hong Kong tycoon to preserve the one-time residence of kung fu legend Bruce Lee and transform it into a major tourist attraction honoring the film icon was approved on Tuesday.
The green light comes after a long-running struggle by fans to save the 5,700 square-foot, two-storey town house from an inglorious fate as a seedy love motel in a leafy Kowloon suburb.
The fate of Lee’s last home had hung in the balance for years, until its owner, real estate and hotel tycoon Yu Pang-lin, made a surprise decision last year to donate it to the city where the martial arts master first shot to fame.
“Both sides have now reached a consensus to go ahead and essentially proceed with this good plan,” Yu told reporters after a meeting with government officials.
“I’m 88 years old now and hope that while I’m still alive I’ll be able to see this Bruce Lee museum completed,” he added.
Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it agreed to preserve the “original outlook of the building and its features” with an aim to revitalize it for long-term sustainable operation as a tourism attraction.
Parts of the home will be recreated, including Lee’s study and training hall stacked with martial arts weaponry and other paraphernalia of his discipline.
While further details have yet to be hammered out, Yu wants the site, which has served as a love motel with rooms rented out by the hour — to include a library, martial arts center and a movie theater to fully commemorate Lee’s life and philosophy.
A government spokeswoman gave no timeframe but hoped to get the project up and running as soon as possible.
Lee, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1973 aged 32, starred in such kung fu classics as “Fist of Fury,” “Game of Death” and “Enter the Dragon.”
Revered both by martial arts adherents and movie buffs the world over for popularizing the kung fu cinematic genre, Lee also helped usher in a golden age of Hong Kong film in the 1960s.
Before Yu’s charitable gesture however, the government seemed reluctant to invest public money in a major site to commemorate the legacy of one of Hong Kong’s most famous names.
While born in San Francisco, the brash though sinewy fighter was raised and made his name in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s Bruce Lee fan club welcomed the breakthrough, and expressed hopes the residence could prove as big a draw as other global memorial sites such as the Beatles Story in Liverpool and Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion in Tennessee.
Editing by Jerry Norton