West Kowloon Cultural District

Arts hub seeks more cash for basement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:46am

The West Kowloon arts hub faces a major challenge of securing extra government funding for its vast underground complex, says the project's chief.

Michael Lynch, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said yesterday he had managed to achieve progress for the long-delayed, multibillion-dollar development, but foresaw the funding challenge in the coming months.

'The basement is a complicated issue. It goes all under the site ... It is complicated in financing,' said Lynch, who was giving a status report after his first year in office. 'Some of it will be paid by the government, some by business people who will be building offices and apartments there.'

The authority was negotiating over the government's contribution, which would amount to billions of dollars, he said.

As the underground design came after it secured its original endowment of HK$21.6 billion from the government in 2008, it would need a separate fund to build the complex, Lynch said.

He had mentioned this to lawmakers last year when he said the underground facilities and other green features in British architect Norman Foster's design would add an extra HK$4 billion to the costs.

The complex is now an integral part of the master layout plan by Foster's firm.

The architects propose to place all traffic and loading areas of theatres underground to create a green, pedestrian-friendly environment for the waterfront site.

The basement areas would be connected to surrounding roads, while five levels below will be the high-speed railway to Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which is also under construction.

Asked about the plan to rename the cultural district, which was first announced in 1998, Lynch said it would be part of the branding exercise. 'The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority is a bit of a mouthful,' he said.

The idea was to have a catchy name that represented Hong Kong's history, people and culture - like London's South Bank and Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island.

Lynch said consultants might be asked to think up a new name rather than farming it out for competition, which was done with the project's design.

Following the recent change in government, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor now chairs the authority's board.

Lynch said he welcomed the continuity, as Lam was already on the board as development chief and was well-acquainted with West Kowloon.

Having been in the city for a year, the Australian said he had enjoyed the local cultural scene.

His favourite local show was Titus Andronicus, a bloody Shakespearean tragedy adapted innovatively by local director Tang Shu-wing.