Waterfront tenders raise concern
Two open spaces on the Central waterfront are to be put up for tender to private companies, raising concerns from the harbour watchdog that public access may be limited.
The government says it hopes the move will introduce attractive designs and activities to shape the newly reclaimed areas as a world-class harbourfront. But Vincent Ng Wing-shun, a member of the Harbour Commission, urged it to set out management details carefully.
'The commission is very concerned about the accessibility issue,' said Ng, who has seen similar management models on waterfronts in Singapore and Canada. 'We welcome a harbour with vibrant activities but we have to make sure the general public can afford them.'
The commission, a non-statutory body, was set up by the government to replace the advisory Harbourfront Enhancement Committee last year to take on a larger and more powerful role in planning the waterfront than its predecessor.
The two sites are one with an area of 0.93 hectares north of City Hall and another of 9.9 hectares from the Star Ferry Pier to the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The smaller site allows retail and dining facilities over not more than 7,500 square metres across three blocks no higher than 20 metres. The larger site is designated mostly as open space with 480 square metres for restaurants and fast-food shops.
The Development Bureau will start inviting proposals on Thursday. An open tender will be launched after views have been collected and the two sites will be made available by the end of this year and early next.
The bureau's deputy secretary Gracie Foo Siu-wai said the successful tenderer would be expected to encourage art and cultural performances. Partnership with non-governmental organisations and social enterprises would be an advantage in winning the tender, she said.
Open spaces designed for the sites by the Architectural Services Department and managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department have been criticised as boring and restrictive with people barred from walking on the grass. Under a management agreement yet to be drafted, the areas will be leased to the successful tenderer for no more than 50 years and the operator will be required to share revenue with the government after a specified period.
The winning consortium will be asked to design, build and operate the facilities while the government will retain ownership of the land.
'The government does not plan to inject capital into the waterfront projects at this stage. But the consortium is allowed to organise paid activities such as circus and open-air concerts in order to sustain its operations,' Foo said.
A committee involving interested parties will be set up to monitor the winning consortium and the consortium can be summoned to answer questions from lawmakers to enhance its transparency, she added.
The collaboration model will also be considered for waterfront sites in front of IFC in Central and at Hoi Yu Street in North Point.