'Ki-shiing...swiissh' and move right in
Premises boasting a dash of colour combined with competitive rents and innovation are likely to stand out as the economic crisis makes the office market even more competitive.
And packing a punch in this direction with a 'Ki-shiing ... swiissh ... thud' is The Factory, K.Wah's project in Wong Chuk Hang. You'd be right to think that all this gets the thought bubbles ascending as they would in a comic strip. For K.Wah brought in a leading comic-book artist to add character to the former industrial premises on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
The Factory has been transformed into units aimed at businesses in the creative industry seeking competitive rents while remaining on the island and not having to relocate to Kowloon.
Mauro Marchesi is a renowned comic artist from Italy and the creator of the character Hollywood Bau. He is also a professor of visual storytelling at the University of Urbino in Italy, and teaches at the International Comic Book School in Florence.
Marchesi lent his skills to The Factory's facade and interiors, making the building - named after Andy Warhol's New York studios - something of an iconic landmark.
With 12 floors of rentable office space, the colourful commercial block boasts a spacious duplex layout for each unit plus facilities aimed at people whose work style does not fit into the usual nine-to-five pattern.
'The comic theme was a pleasant surprise from the architectural firm involved in this project,' Hilda Wong, senior marketing manager of K.Wah International Holdings, said. 'Management was supportive of the concept of enhancing the dynamic and creative side of the building through the story of a comic heroine - Hollywood Bau.'
Ms Wong said the whole preparation process, from drafting the sketches on paper to doing the ground work, took Marchesi and his assistants six months.
In reshaping the use and function of the industrial building, the company made an effort to preserve its original structural details and fixtures.
The roof garden is another highlight for tenants and provides a venue for them to host business functions.
'We understand that the business of our tenants may require them to organise events and functions for their clients. The rooftop garden provides an excellent venue for people such as fashion designers and product designers to organise a small exhibition for overseas buyers to show their products,' Ms Wong said, adding that the office property also provided a catering service to support business functions.
'Our thinking is that it is like a serviced work base where anyone can work, rest and play, and we provide all the facilities to accommodate the unique work style of tenants. This is the work style of members of the new generation - you simply can't separate work from living.'
Opened in February, The Factory has about 36 units ranging from 2,000 sqft to 17,000 sqft at between HK$12 and HK$16 per sqft. The project has not only attracted the attention of designers and small business owners in the creative industry, but also lifestyle businesses such as gallery operators and wine importers.
Seeing a gap in the office leasing market for people wanting a flexible work style, K.Wah launched its New York loft-style commercial block to meet the requirements of the creative industry.
Ms Wong said K.Wah conducted comprehensive market research to understand what a new generation of small businesses needed before embarking on the project.
'We interviewed companies whose corporate culture promotes a flexible work style, as well as professionals from the creative industry such as designers and artists to help us shape the unique character of this office building,' she said.
Facilities on the premises can also support the around-the-clock work style of tenants such as fixed pipe air-conditioning instead of a central air-conditioning system and 24-hour concierge service. The commercial block is also complete with ample parking space, remodelled passenger and cargo lifts and a security surveillance system.
K.Wah says tenants in the Yip Fat Street premises are a five-minute drive from Causeway Bay with the Aberdeen Marina Club, Ocean Park and Jumbo Seafood restaurant nearby, and new attractions such as Aberdeen Fisherman's Wharf and the new MTR South Island extension on the way.
Ms Wong said another attraction was tenants moving from traditional office areas to non-traditional office districts, and not simply because of the current economic situation.
'Hong Kong's excellent transport infrastructure has extended its traditional central business district to other areas such as Quarry Bay and Fortress Hill.
'We have seen banks and big corporations moving to Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong. And Wong Chuk Hang, for example, is home to many fashion and sourcing companies,' she said.
Larger businesses could also be interested in The Factory's murals and considering a move to a New York-style loft premises. Neil Campion, executive director of Vigers Realty, said: 'With the local economy unlikely to rebound soon, there are some large tenants seriously looking at non-traditional office areas because there could be huge rental savings of as much as 60 per cent compared with prime office districts.'
With more tenants looking for further reductions on what the leasing market has to offer, some developers and property owners are adopting different strategies to retain tenants including allowing greater flexibility in leasing terms.
Others are targeting a niche clientele to offer an office environment that can best address the work style and business nature of a specific industry and create value for their business.