Shopping mall axed in revised hill plan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am


City officials have shelved the idea of a giant shopping mall on Government Hill and promised to allow for more public space in their final revision of plans for its redevelopment.

However, critics of the project said the changes were cosmetic and would not appease its opponents, who are seeking greater efforts to protect the site's cultural legacy.

Announcing details of the redevelopment of the former government headquarters, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would go ahead and demolish the west wing of the Central government offices in Ice House Street, Central, and put the site up for sale despite the opposition.

But it will give up the unpopular idea of building a giant underground shopping mall - which it had previously said it would substantially reduce - shrinking the commercial areas, excluding offices, to less than a sixth of the previous plan.

It still plans to go ahead with a 32-storey grade-A office tower, with the Securities and Futures Commission and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing as tenants.

Business and property figures welcomed the revised plan, saying the loss of the mall would not make the project less attractive.

One critic, Government Hill Concern Group spokeswoman Katty Law Ngar-ning, said the minister had 'utterly disregarded' public opinion.

Although HKEx and the SFC said they had not decided whether to move to the site, Lam said the two bodies would take up two-thirds of the office space and pay market rent to the future developer.

Alnwick Chan of property consultancy Knight Frank said the latest changes would not have much effect on the value of the site. He estimated the project would earn the government about HK$8.6 billion.

Other surveyors said the changes would lead to a loss of one or two billion dollars in land revenue.

Lam said the site was still a 'very good investment' and the revisions were made with the public in mind.

'This land tender will be very unusual and very exceptional because of its particular circumstances and the need to respond fully to the public comments that we have received.'

Tendering will start in 2013.

In a public consultation this year 12 organisations made submissions to support or show no objection to the redevelopment and 11 opposed it.

Law said Lam had dismissed the opponents as a minority.

'But our application to the Town Planing Board has received 6,000 supporting submissions and has not yet been discussed,' Law said.

She said Lam's announcement yesterday was an attempt to create a fait accompli and influence the board.

Tanya Chan of the Civic Party said the changes were cosmetic. 'The government must respect society's call to stop selling the land.'

Shih Wing-ching, founder of Centaline Holdings, said the HKEx and SFC would be desirable tenants for a developer.