Yau Yat Chuen, Kowloon
Alex Frew McMillan
Yau Yat Chuen was at the centre of property-obsessed Hong Kong's universe recently, when No 62 Begonia Road, the site of a former boys' home, was sold for an impressive HK$579 million. That's HK$15,742 per buildable square foot, which, for those of you who are not familiar with such things, is a lot.
You may lump Yau Yat Chuen in with Kowloon Tong, but the residents of the leafy lanes that loop west of Tat Chee Avenue - movie star and TVB presenter Natalis Chan Pak-cheung among them - might disagree.
'One More Village' - yau yat chuen - was part of the jumble of squatter houses that spilled over from Shek Kip Mei. After the second world war it blossomed into a low-rise neighbourhood of European-style homes, like Kowloon Tong. With both neighbourhoods beneath the flight path to Kai Tak airport, high-rises were not an option - and won't be, at least legally, until the restrictions are lifted.
Relatively few of the houses that originally lined the 'flower streets' - they are named Peony, Osmanthus and Marigold, etc - still stand. Most have been torn down and replaced with small apartment blocks. Those that do remain fetch eye-popping prices. No 12 Wistaria Road, for example, sold for HK$150 million in February. The new owner is expected to knock down the 7,000 sqft building and replace it with a 10,000 sqft edifice.
Unlike fictitious Wisteria Lane, which is full of desperate housewives, not a lot happens on Wistaria Road. According to the South China Morning Post archives, only one thing of note has occurred on the road in the past 20 years; in 2007 a tree fell onto a cab. No one was injured.
'Yau Yat Chuen reflects the whole spectrum of the middle class,' Victor Chan Soon So, who covers the area for Midland Realty, says. 'If Yau Yat Chuen doesn't hold its value, you'll see a slide in the market right away.'
Kai Tak restrictions mean buildings are not permitted to rise above 10.6 metres, or three storeys over a car port - but many do.
Around Yau Yat Chuen
1 Tsuek Kiu Street
There's a cluster of stores on the corner of Tat Chee Avenue and Tsuek Kiu Street, mainly property brokerages, a sure sign of the main attraction of the area. But at least there's a supermarket and a handful of cha chaan teng for residents who don't want to trek over to Festival Walk.
2 Yau Yat Chuen Garden City Club
The Neapolitan pink and white exterior of the club is firmly rooted in the 1980s but the prices are very present day - they were officially raised on April 1 to HK$700,000 for a personal membership and go for HK$600,000 in the secondary market, having been about HK$150,000 in the middle of 90s. With indoor and outdoor pools, squash courts and four tennis courts, its laid-back atmosphere draws mem- bers from Ho Man Tin and Kowloon Tong.
3 Festival Walk
Three or so decades ago, Tat Chee Avenue extended no further than Begonia Road, with wooden huts stretching towards Beacon Hill. The street now runs all the way to the Festival Walk shopping centre, which is fitted out with all the usual megamall accoutrements: an ice rink, a cinema, hordes of mainland shoppers and a score of Asian and international- style restaurants.
4 Parc Oasis and Village Gardens
The estates just north of the flower streets have brought high-rise development to where wooden squatter huts once were. The brick-fronted, white-trimmed, multiblock Parc Oasis, rising 11 floors - there were ways round the Kai Tak building restrictions, and they involved money - was built between 1992 and 1995. The Village Gardens development is a little older, and a storey or two shorter.
Average house price HK$9,800 per square foot for smaller apartments (about 600 square foot; HK$5.9 million)
Average rent HK$20,000 for 750 sq ft flat in Parc Oasis
Restaurants/bars 30 in Festival Walk
Walking distance to MTR 10 - 15 mins
Nearest ATM Festival Walk