HKU's ambitious plan for waterfront gives access back to the public

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 9:56am

The carnival held at the Western Wholesale Food Market last month gave visitors a taste of what a revitalised waterfront would look like under an ambitious proposal.

Families from around the Western district took over what is normally a busy working market, where HK$2.3 billion worth of foodstuffs changes hands each year. They engaged in a weekend of cooking demonstrations, handicraft classes and children's games.

"We were on hand to explain our Western harbourfront plan to visitors and the feedback was very positive. They liked the idea of having parts of the waterfront returned to the public," says Professor Anthony Yeh, head of the department of urban planning and design at the University of Hong Kong and leader of the team that came up with the proposal.

The HKU plan includes a continuous promenade stretching over 2.4 kilometres westward from the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park that would give the public full access to Hong Kong's most valuable natural asset.

Industrial sites, such as the wholesale food market and the cargo handling areas, would give their prime waterfront locations to the public outside operational hours.

A large observation tower built on the breakwater of the Kennedy Town cargo handling area would be the focal point of the whole project, an easily identifiable landmark for what Yeh calls the new western gateway to Hong Kong.

"The western side of Hong Kong Island used to be [the] most vibrant part of the city so we want to revitalise its past glory. The new MTR line makes the whole area a lot more accessible and this is a great opportunity for transforming what is currently a very passive part of the waterfront," he says.

Yeh would also like to see a direct ferry service that shuttles people to and from the West Kowloon Cultural District directly opposite Kennedy Town.

The Central and Western District Council has recently decided to endorse the plan and the HKU team will address the Harbourfront Commission this month.

The HK$100 million District Council Signature Project Scheme will turn part of the conceptual plan into reality, but the full version needs a generous government contribution.

"We are still working out the full cost and the government will have to decide whether it's worth it. The thing is, many cities are actively branding themselves. We need more icons," Yeh says.

Enid Tsui