More tiny, expensive flats from URA at The Avenue in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 4:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 4:19am

It appears that the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) does not easily learn lessons.

In October 2010, the then development secretary, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, commented that the developer of the Queen's Cube project in Queen's Road East Wan Chai may "learn a lesson" due to the highly critical public response to its tiny flats and sky-high prices.

Under the grand advertising slogan "a gracious living experience in the heart of Hong Kong", the URA joint development with private developers Hopewell Holdings and Sino Land has just been released for sale at the former "Wedding Card Street" site in Wan Chai.

Now named "The Avenue" this project is between Queen's Road East and Johnston Road, and overlays the decommissioned Lee Tung Street. Again, the flats are tiny and the prices aggressive.

The miniscule balconies are similar to the Queen's Cube. It is difficult to understand how they help to create this "gracious living experience" or indeed have any practical purpose, apart from gaining bonus plot ratio as a "green feature" for the developers.

It is extremely doubtful that any of the Wan Chai local residents who were ejected from their convenient "heart of Hong Kong" location by the URA's use of compulsory purchase will be able to afford to return.

The per square foot money paid out by the authority to owners in 2005-2007 was only about 20 per cent of the current asking prices for the flats at The Avenue.

Also, the development density has been multiplied by the Town Planning Board's accommodating decision to allow a much increased plot ratio.

The Avenue's promotional material illustrates a street which is lined with frontages reflecting Wan Chai's historical architecture.

However, the accompanying disclaimer and qualifying statements mean that buyers do not know if they can expect authenticity or faux facades, Disneyworld style.

Once again, our URA shows that it is far more concerned with commercial profit-making (especially for the joint venture with private developers) than creating affordable homes for existing Hong Kong residents in their traditional locations.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels