Hotels and offices come to Sai Ying Pun, but prices are still on the low side in the land of preserved seafood

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2000, 12:00am

SAI YING PUN LIES between Pokfulam and Sheung Wan in an area that used to be an old port. Part of the Western district of Hong Kong, it is characterised by stretches of traditional shops, especially dried seafood shops selling shark fin, a high population of pensioners and some of the best schools in town.

More than 90 per cent of the buildings in the area are quite old, consisting of commercial buildings and small industrial units. But in the past five years or so the area has seen the development of new hotels and office buildings, some of which are still under construction.

About half of the residential buildings in Sai Ying Pun are more than 30 years old, many of them only about seven storeys high.

They are mostly occupied by pensioners and families who have lived there for generations. Many of these buildings have not been renovated or refurbished for decades, even though the Hong Kong Government requires that buildings and apartments more than 20 years old should be inspected and repaired.

Compared with neighbouring residential areas such as Pokfulam and Kennedy Town, property prices and commercial retail prices in Sai Ying Pun are lower.

Apartments in Kennedy Town, generally cost 10 per cent more than those in Sai Ying Pun, according to Chan Wing-hong, assistant manager of the Western district branch of Centaline Property Agency.

Almost all residential developments are built above commercial centres, such you find rows of shops and restaurants along the road. Passersby cannot miss the smell as they pass along Des Voeux road, where many shops sell shark fin, abalone, scallops and all types of dried herbs.

In spite of the prevailing smell, many locals and tourists visit the shops over the weekend to buy the expensive seafood used in Chinese cooking.

Connaught Gardens, the most popular development in Sai Ying Pun, has the highest sales and rental records. It was built in 1986 and is situated on Connaught Road West, one of the three stretches of road that runs east-west through Sai Ying Pun. Developed by Cheung Kong Holdings, Connaught Gardens is the only development in the area that is built in the form of an estate, comprising three blocks of apartments.

Each block is 34 storeys high, but the apartments are rather small, about 415 square feet each, with two bedrooms. Those facing the sea have a good view of the Victoria Harbour and Kowloon.

Sale prices of apartments range from HK$3,200 to HK$3,500 per sq ft. Overall, one needs to pay about HK$1.4 million for one of these apartments, which comes with a parking space, unusual for Sai Ying Pun.

Lechlier Court, in High Street, is just five years old. Here, the apartments are larger, with the area varying between 780 sq ft to 961 sq ft with three bedrooms. Such an apartment would sell for about HK$4,000 per sq ft.

A recent sale records a high-floor apartment of 961 sq ft being sold for HK$3.88 million. To rent an apartment in Lechlier would cost about HK$22 per sq ft or about HK$20,000 per month, all rates included but without a parking space.

One can find cheap apartments but in less ideal condition for less than HK$6,000 per month. An example would be a 400 sq ft flat in the New Star Building in Queen's Road West.

For parking, people can go to the Kwan Yick Phase Three, a residential development that also rents out some of its parking spaces at HK$2,700 per month for non-residents.

Some new single developments have been built recently. Chun Kiang Court is less than three months old. Apartments in this 27-storey building have an average size of 720 sq ft and cost HK$3,300 per sq ft.

According to property consultants, the most compelling reason for people moving to Sai Ying Pun is that it falls within the net of some of the most prestigious schools in Hong Kong, including St Paul's College, King's College and St Claire's Girls' School. Hong Kong parents who are anxious about their children's education move into the area for the convenience and they are given priorities during admission time.

Though there is no MTR station in Sai Ying Pun, it is just about a five to 10 minutes' bus ride to Central and Admiralty. The nearest MTR station is Sheung Wan, which is about a 15 minutes' walk.

However, residents of Sai Ying Pun get around easily because of a choice of transport. People with time can use the trams which run along Queen's Road West from Sai Ying Pun to Shau Kei Wan in the east of the island, Happy Valley and Kennedy Town in the west.

Next week: Tai Po

Graphic: PROOgwz