Kowloon East ticks all the right boxes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2011, 12:00am


Rarely does a Hong Kong government revitalisation plan create a buzz in the air, but its proposal for the area between Kwun Tong and the old Kai Tak airport site to be rebranded Kowloon East has done just that. With plans for a HK$12 billion monorail and the moving there of 11 government departments, it is being portrayed as a second central business district, a place for offices, green schemes and street art. This is precisely what the run-down and largely uninteresting part of our city needs and authorities have done well to put vision where there has been little but industrial wasteland. Having whetted appetites, they must now ensure that their ideas turn into innovative projects that quickly go from drawing boards to reality.

The lack of office space in Central and Wan Chai has long been putting pressure on resources and neighbourhoods. An end to harbour reclamation put paid to one avenue of expansion, which led to the renewed threatening of places of heritage and conservation value. The trend is especially prevalent in Wan Chai, where places of character and vibrancy that have served residents and visitors so well for decades are being torn down to make way for more skyscrapers.

Kowloon East will save homes and livelihoods and ease overcrowding. Being twice the size the area of Central, it offers 5.8 million square metres of total floor space. It is, in effect, a blank canvas on which an entirely new part of our city can be created, a chance to innovate and shine. The nine-kilometre monorail, to be emissions-free and with 12 stops, certainly fits that thinking.

Hong Kong's developers have a reputation for turning proposals to reality in double-quick time, but the government does not have so good a record when it comes to revitalisation projects. It took a decade to decide what to do with the Kai Tak site. Time is obviously needed to canvass creative ideas and plan properly, but excessive delays after such an exciting announcement will sap energy and enthusiasm. It is in all our interests that the idea promptly takes root and blossoms.