Designer, developer boldly go to court over space-age resort

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 December, 2009, 12:00am

Its futuristic design made it look more like a scene from a Star Trek film than a world-class resort and spa in the heart of Sai Kung.

But it was a legal dispute between the developer and the designer that destroyed the project, not an attack by the Klingons.

The Xuma Beach Resort and Spa would have been valued at more than US$420 million when complete, according to a report by international valuation experts Cushman and Wakefield issued to the developer, Hinton Enterprises, which includes former government chief architect Paul Yiu Yuen-on among its partners. But Hinton pulled out of the deal.

A legal dispute between the developer and its design consultant, Storm Associates Hong Kong, part of the Storm Signature Developments Group (Storm), has been under way since Storm's lawyers filed a writ against Hinton in the High Court on May 5.

It is a case of what might have been, as Storm's original plan was certainly out of this world.

The visitor's adventure would have begun with the journey to the resort, accessible only by helicopter, seaplane or boat. What greeted the visitor from there on was like something from another dimension.

'Prior to arriving at the resort's drop-off point, guests will be in no doubt that they are completely elsewhere, as the view of the site, with its curvilinear, sculpted forms nestled warmly into the landscape, is both a strange and almost alien one,' Storm's original proposal says.

'Each [guest] cannot fail to notice that the design ... completes and enhances the resort's integrated alien 'culture' appeal, hence ... the message now received by all of the resort's guests is a clear one - you have now left normality behind.'

The reality was more sobering, however, as Hinton withdrew because of 'many unforeseen circumstances with land titles and related ownership acquisition processes'.

This was rejected by Storm, which claims in the writ that not only had an oral agreement been breached, but that 'despite numerous requests and demands, Hinton had refused and/or failed to execute a formal written agreement in respect of the project'.

Storm is also seeking legal redress for more than 4,200 hours of design work on the 180,000 square metre resort - and damages for misrepresentation.

Hinton, run by Yiu and his partner Terry Hung Shing-yin, had been acquiring land in the Tan Ka Wan area of Sai Kung. Confident of assembling a complete plot, it brought Storm on board in October 2007 to come up with a concept design and commercial model for a comprehensive, seven-star beach resort and spa similar to those in Phuket.

Malcolm Copson, Storm's group chief executive, was adamant that the massive futuristic development would have been a success.

'The inspiration for my designs comes from anything and everything around me. I am not an architect but I am a qualified engineer with a seriously good imagination, which is why I describe myself as an 'imagineer'. The designs may look completely alien to some, but I assure you they can be built,' Copson said.

Hung refused to be drawn on the matter, saying: 'I can't make any comment on this as it is still going through the courts. It may be some time before we get a verdict and, until that time, I have nothing to say.'