Joint approach for new-look waterfront

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2007, 12:00am

Public-private partnerships proposed to manage harbour sites

Developers will be asked to design and manage some waterfront areas under a public-private partnership model proposed by the government, a top official says.

The Central and Wan Chai reclamation areas could be the first to be managed under the arrangement, the official said, adding that designs for the new Central waterfront would be put on show in January for public comment.

Harbourfront Enhancement Committee chairman Lee Chack-fan welcomed the idea, but committee members said it must be studied carefully to see what financial incentives should be offered to developers.

Permanent Secretary for Development Raymond Young Lap-moon, said the government was looking for a new way to manage waterfront areas to enhance their diversity and vibrancy.

Areas under government control were not linked well and lacked vibrancy, he said. 'Instead of asking various departments to manage the new open spaces, we are thinking of inviting private groups to do it.'

He said the groups could be developers, or developers in partnership with NGOs. Certain conditions would be imposed. For example, the areas would have to be revitalised with activities and landmarks and should be open to the public.

A similar idea had proved successful at the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui, he said. The promenade, next to the New World Centre, was built by New World Development at a cost of HK$40 million in 2004.

The developer was commissioned by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to manage the promenade for 20 years. It said the attraction now drew more than 800,000 visitors a month.

Mr Young said the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee would be consulted on the new management model. If endorsed by the committee, it would first be used for the Central and Wan Chai reclamation areas.

He said the Planning Department was preparing models of designs for the Central waterfront, to be released for a second-round public consultation in January. People will be asked to vote for their preferred option.

Waterfront areas are currently not managed by a single department; responsibility goes to the department that takes ownership of the land. And areas owned by private developers may not be open to the public.

Professor Lee said some waterfront areas in private hands would remain closed and lifeless unless the developers were brought into improvement schemes. He said the new model would allow for increased flexibility and resources.

Committee member Andrew Thomson, representing the Business Environment Council, said overseas examples should be studied to ensure the open space was an asset to the community and would not be overwhelmed by development.

He said developers would not be interested in the scheme unless projects were financially rewarding, so they might seek to add commercial and retail development to generate revenue for maintenance.

'It is still premature to say whether [the new model] is preferential. We will look at all alternatives, including setting up an agency or a committee for management in the long run.'

Christine Loh Kung-wai, chairwoman of the Society for Protection of the Harbour, said the society supported a well-designed harbourfront, but whether it was interested in managing the areas would depend on the details of the scheme.