Groups submit 5 proposals for revitalising landmark building on Repulse Bay beach

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2009, 12:00am

The debate on what to do with Repulse Bay's 60-year-old Seaview Building is expected to intensify after the government received five proposals this month, including one which suggests turning the building into a classic car museum.

The building at Repulse Bay beach was to be sold for hotel development early this year. But the plan sparked concerns about privatisation of the beach area.

The five proposals have been submitted to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department since it abandoned redevelopment plans and invited expressions of interests in June from the private sector to revitalise the building.

The proposals cover services and facilities ranging from a conventional beach club, food stalls, a high-end party spot to the classic car museum idea. All developers, including an overseas company, have included dining services in their plans. But not all are affordable to the general public, with three suggesting creation of high-end restaurants as a way to recover development costs.

The car museum - with a price tag of HK$250 million - is the most expensive proposal. It offers no beach-related facilities but features a drivers' club and a retail shop. The proponent wants a 20-year tenancy to recover costs.

Beachgoers may prefer another plan which involves a rental corner and massage services. It is the only proposal providing beach-related facilities. It would cost HK$35 million and require a 14-year tenancy.

The plan that could be realised the fastest is also the cheapest. It proposes filling the existing building with different eateries catering to beachgoers during the day and staging glamorous private parties at night.

The department said Southern District councillor Tsui Yuen-wa had also proposed turning the building into a memorial museum for Eileen Chang, a writer whose popular novel, Love in a Fallen City, is set in Repulse Bay.

While praising the beach club proposal for accommodating swimmers' needs, the department said the classic car museum would require significant alterations to the building, for example, replacing a concrete wall with a glass wall.

In a paper submitted to Southern District Council, the department suggested a tenancy of more than 10 years and requested that the winning developer shoulder renovation costs. An open tender will start next year and development is expected to be completed in 2015.

Southern District councillor Ronald Chan Ngok-pang said the classic car museum would boost tourism in the district but should also benefit beachgoers. 'The proposal, as long as it's financially sustainable, would lead to a win-win situation since it brings benefits to the public, tourism and saves the government renovation costs,' Chan said.

Designing Hong Kong concern group co-founder Paul Zimmerman said a longer tenancy would allow more creative proposals.

'The revitalisation should not be segregated from the beach and alfresco dining should be allowed,' he said.