Wharf to scrap old buildings

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 July, 1999, 12:00am

Wharf (Holdings) has confirmed its plan to build a 100-storey skyscraper comprising offices, shops, hotels and serviced apartments by knocking down seven ageing properties along Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The proposed 405-metre tower will provide a total floor area of 3.02 million square feet, making it the biggest property block in terms of size in the SAR and one of the tallest buildings in the world.

A Wharf spokesman said the proposed Gateway III project, part of its long-term programme to revitalise the existing Harbour City development, was in a preliminary stage.

There was no rush to proceed and the timing of getting the redevelopment going would depend on market conditions, he said.

Under the proposed plan, Ocean Centre, New T&T Centre, World Commerce Centre, World Finance Centre, Ocean Galleries, Marco Polo Hotel and Prince Hotel would be torn down to make way for the mammoth tower.

These properties were built between 1977 and 1983, covering a total site area of about 300,000 sq ft.

According to Wharf, the proposed skyscraper will comprise 96 floors for commercial, serviced apartment and hotel uses, three roof-plant floors and a basement.

It will provide about 2.24 million sq ft of non-domestic or commercial space and 782,000 sq ft of domestic space.

The Wharf spokesman said there was no breakdown on the space for various use at the moment. The total redevelopment cost was not available either.

Analysts said it would be a costly exercise and they expected the plan would not get going for at least a couple of years, considering the continued weaknesses in the office, commercial and hotel sectors.

Given an estimated $2,500 per square foot average for construction costs and related finance charges, the project would cost $7.5 billion, although no payment was payable to the Government, they said.

The proposed project came as no surprise to the market as analysts said Wharf had indicated its long-term redevelopment intention repeatedly. The question was when to proceed.

'It will not be surprising to see Gateway III and even Gateway IV through redevelopments of Wharf's portfolio in Tsim Sha Tsui,' one analyst said.

'But I do not believe Wharf will proceed with the plan now while everybody on the market chooses to stop or delay building new investment properties.' The fact that rental incomes of the existing Harbour City properties had been securitised by Wharf early this year for an asset-backed bond also meant that an imminent redevelopment was unlikely, analysts said.

The seven existing properties provide a total floor area of 2.8 million sq ft. The Gateway III redevelopment is expected to bring about a net gain of about 200,000 sq ft in additional space.

Analysts expected the redevelopment would be carried out in phases.