Bypass vent will ruin views, say critics
Harbour advisers are concerned that a ventilation building for the Central-Wan Chai Bypass will occupy a large area of a waterfront site, polluting the public open space with exhaust fumes and ruining views.
Alternative designs for the building, which is to be constructed in front of Two IFC and is proposed as either a 'streamlined green roof', or a cube called 'the play of illusion', are to be revealed at an exhibition for public consultation today.
The structure, which will be 18 metres high and occupy an area of 1,470 square metres, is one of three ventilation buildings to be built for the 4.5km bypass that will run underground at the reclaimed Central harbourfront and will be opened in 2017.
But harbour advisers are worried that the building will take up a lot of space and become an eyesore. The latest plan for the reclaimed Central harbourfront, envisages that a site near the ventilation building, known as Site 2, will feature one location for cultural, retail, restaurant, entertainment, tourism and community uses, and will be managed by public-private partnership. The site, together with the neighbouring Site 1, will also have a large landscape deck covering the tunnel.
Sites 1 and 2 were originally planned as locations for hotels and offices but the government reconsidered this proposal and replaced them with low-rise structures for community use after public opposition.
Paul Zimmerman, chief executive officer of Designing Hong Kong, and a Harbour Commission member, said it was the location rather than the design of the ventilation structure that worried him.
'You can see what people will experience if the bypass vent is placed here - exhaust fumes issuing forth into the open space.
'The government promised that Sites 1 and 2 will become a podium plaza for community use. People are expecting a beautiful environment there,' Zimmerman said.
He suggested shifting the ventilation building westward nearer to Central Pier 1, a place further from the harbourfront open space with less human traffic.
Opposition is also brewing among businesses in the IFC mall. Red Bar + Restaurant on the fourth floor of the mall is circulating a flier urging customers to object to the building, and says the structure will be an eyesore and block the harbour view in front of the mall.
Patrick Lau Hing-tat, another Harbour Commission member, said the ventilation location was not desirable.
'No matter how you dress it up, it will take a lot of open space.'
Civil engineer Greg Wong Chak-yan said a ventilation building and a certain amount of exhaust fumes will be inevitable given that the public had agreed the bypass should go underground.
In response to an inquiry from the South China Morning Post, the Highways Department said it was 'not recommendable' to relocate the building as this would require the scheme to be gazetted again and a new environmental assessment of the impacts of such a change, 'which will cause serious delays to the completion and commissioning of the bypass project, of at least 1 1/2 to two years'.
Moving it to the site near Pier 1 as the group suggested would require additional ventilation and cable tunnels of several hundred metres which would create an even bigger ventilation building and cause traffic disruption in the area, The department also said the impact of the present design would be acceptable with mitigation measures.
Breath of fresh air?
One of the ventilation shafts for the Central-Wan Chai bypass is located on a podium for public use in front of the IFC
Construction started in December 2009
Completion date: 2017
Route: 4.5km dual three-lane trunk road of which 3.7km will be in a tunnel
Sources: Designing Hong Kong, Highways Department