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Old Hong Kong

How The Landmark mall revived Central after hours, and lived up to its name

Hongkongers may have sniggered at its name, but The Landmark mall, which opened in 1980, and the office towers above epitomised an era of rapid redevelopment in the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 6:30pm

When Hongkong Land posted signs around its massive Central property redevelopment in 1979 announcing the upcoming opening of The Landmark, the mall’s title drew derision in some circles.

“We hear the latest game on the cocktail circuit is to suggest how this name might be bettered when the next one is built,” a Post columnist wrote. “Front runners in popularity, we hear, are ‘The Eyesore’ and ‘The Monstrosity’.”

In 1977, the company had begun to tear down five old properties on Queen’s Road Central – Gloucester Building, Lane Crawford House, Marina House, Windsor House and Edinburgh House, none taller than eight floors – to make way for the 47-storey Gloucester Tower complex, which the Post described as “an edifice”. Edinburgh Tower was added to the complex three years later; the company had been uncertain whether the first tower would saturate the business district’s grade-A office property market.

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A modern, upscale retail concept for its time, The Landmark was intended to “bring life back to Central” after hours, when office workers left for livelier nightlife areas such as Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. It featured 20,000 sq ft of open space, plus 80 shops, boutiques, banks and restaurants, and would usher in a new era in convenience and comfort, the company said.

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According to the publicity blurb: “The Gloucester Tower complex … brings back a natural rendezvous to Central in the form of its huge air-conditioned atrium … a public space with trees, shops, restaurants and boulevard cafes overlooking the plaza itself.”

“When the entire project is complete, Land officials boast that Hongkong’s people will be able to walk from the Star Ferry into the city centre, shop or dine at a variety of outlets, and be under shelter all the time,” the Post reported.

The glitzy mall threw open its doors in November 1980, and the first shop to open on its ground floor was a branch of the Optical Shop, one of the city’s largest retail chains.

That Christmas, the Hong Kong Philharmonic held a free concert in the gleaming new atrium.

“Perhaps nothing emphasises the dramatic changes which have taken place in Hong Kong over the years than the redevelopment of one block of buildings in the heart of the city,” the Post commented.