Located in front of the luxury residential skyscrapers above Union Square, work on the West Kowloon Cultural District is set for further delays as a new design is revealed. But property experts believe it will not hurt the real estate market in the area in the long run.
Sir Norman Foster, the British architect whose concept was chosen for the project, was in Hong Kong last month to introduce the latest design for the arts hub. Foster has incorporated elements from the two design firms originally on the shortlist for the concept design, and from various other stakeholders into his 'City Park' concept.
He says his design has evolved after listening to the people of Hong Kong. 'We have incorporated the spaces and features that matter most to them - their input is vital to make the new cultural quarter a success long-term.'
There will now be a Chinese cultural centre with a market, a literature museum, and three plazas to create open spaces. On the harbour facing Hong Kong Island, there will be two piers for water taxis and ferries to improve accessibility, and a floating platform for performances. However, the project needs more than the HK$21 billion earmarked for it.
'We hope to have completed the statutory planning process next year so that construction can begin in earnest for the partial opening of the Great Park in 2014,' says Michael Lynch, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.
Property experts are not too worried about the effects of the delay on luxury properties such as The Arch or The Harbourside. 'The fact that the facilities will be better will more than offset any delay in the long run,' says Jeff Law, head of Kowloon residential at Savills. 'The cultural hub is a positive factor for properties. It places the district in a different level from other districts, as it will be a global attraction.'
'In the past, West Kowloon properties have outperformed other districts in the peninsula, with strong buying interest from mainland investors,' says Benny Yiu Wai-nam, senior sales director at Hong Kong Property. 'Prices are holding up better than many other districts, reflecting the strong holding power of property owners in West Kowloon.'
The latest design will have a consultation period throughout October. It is on display at the Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park.