Half in the bustle of Central and half in the Peak means Mid-Levels' attractions span a range of lifestyle options . . . and prices
Anna Healy Fenton
Mid-Levels is that swathe of residential streets stretching from Wong Nai Chung roundabout in the east to Kotewall Road to the west, midway between the north coast of Hong Kong Island and the upper area of the Peak.
It includes Macdonnell Road, Kennedy Road, Conduit Road and the lower Mid-Levels section encompassing Robinson and Caine roads, as well as the up-market central locations of May Road, Old Peak Road and Tregunter Path.
In 1993, the escalator arrived - greeted with some scepticism at the time, but since proving of enormous benefit to the Mid-Levels.
In the morning it wafts the worker bees down the hill to their offices in Central. Then for the rest of the day, it runs up the hill.
It is hard to remember how anonymous south Hollywood Road, the SoHo area, used to be.
Newcomers to Hong Kong often gravitate to the Mid-Levels because it is obvious and convenient. Colliers Jardine residential sales manager Ricky Poon said people liked the proximity to downtown and 90 per cent of the buildings in the luxury sector were new, with facilities such as swimming pools, gymnasiums and squash courts.
The downside of these new blocks has been the perpetual construction noise, and though the amount of building ac tivity had eased, it was rare to find a weekend without drilling or hammering.
Mid-Levels divides naturally into two areas in terms of property type. Rents range from HK$10,000 a month at the lower end to telephone numbers in the up-market blocks.
Rents escalate according to the altitude and access to harbour views. FPDSavills director of residential leasing Cathy Costin said the big 5,000 square foot-to-60,000 sq ft apartments were popular with families and senior executives.
Although they had a budget for a house, they often went for a Mid-Levels apartment instead.
'Mid-Levels reminds them they are living in an exciting city - by night it looks like fairylights and by day they can admire the buildings,' she said.
Double apartments in top-of-the-pile Aigburth, a new development on Tregunter Path, are achieving HK$280,000 per month for a 6,250 sq ft high-floor duplex, while the asking rent for those lower down, measuring 3,000 sq ft, is about HK$110,000 a month.
More typical of the luxury-bracket offerings are flats in Dynasty Court, Old Peak Road, where units of 2,600 sq ft rent for HK$110,000 a month, and those of 1,900 sq ft for HK$65,000.
Agents Ricacorp have a 2,600 sq ft harbour-view flat for rent in Po Garden, Brewin Road, for HK$60,000.
During the past three months an anomaly has emerged in the Mid-Levels property market, FPDSavills research head Simon Smith said. On the luxury leasing side, rents have gone up 5.9 per cent, while sales prices have slumped 6 per cent.
He believed the rent rise was driven by the influx of expatriates arriving to join the dotcom feeding frenzy.
The poor performance in the sales department could be put down to investors switching to high-technology stocks.
A typical Mid-Levels luxury property is a lower-floor, 1,970 sq ft flat in the nine-year-old Dynasty Court development. It has an asking price of HK$16.3 million. A 1,655 sq ft flat in Tavistock II recently made HK$14.68 million, or HK$8,870 per square foot.
'Generally, luxury flats are making HK$8,000 to HK$13,000 a sq ft,' Mr Poon said. 'Older blocks, like May Tower I, built in 1974, are going for HK$6,000 to HK$6,500 a sq ft.' Away from the top end are the several streets running horizontally across the hillside above Central - with Conduit Road at the top, then Robinson Road, and Caine Road below. As a general rule, property prices follow the slope down.
High-floor harbour-view flats in Robinson Place, Robinson Road, have cooled from their market rental peak of HK$70,000 to HK$55,000 a month for 1,300 sq ft. Lower floors with no views begin at HK$32,000 a month. The development has retained its popularity.
Robinson and Caine roads are full of small flats in the range of 500 sq ft to 1,200 sq ft. Young singles liked the area, Ms Costin said.
It was reasonably priced and had the convenience of the escalator and the SoHo area. It was still possible to find a 1,000 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment in an older Caine Road building for HK$12,000 to HK$15,000.
Next week: Kornhill