• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:31pm
NewsHong Kong

Government urged to drop West Kowloon arts hub basement plan over spiralling HK$23b cost

Estimated cost up HK$13 billion in less than a year, and it might go higher

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 5:57pm

The government has been urged to consider whether the costly basement planned for the West Kowloon arts hub should be scrapped in view of soaring costs and likely delays. The call came as officials prepared to place before legislators today a paper showing the estimated cost of the basement and related works has soared from HK$10 billion to HK$23 billion in less than a year.

The cost could go higher: the government said the estimate did not take into account the effect of delays to the cross-border high-speed railway that terminates in the arts hub area, and detailed designs had yet to be done.

Critics - including arts groups and members of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority - questioned whether more taxpayers' money should be poured into construction while only HK$3.3 billion was allocated to arts and cultural development overall in this financial year.

"This will put the arts hub into a financial black hole," Mathias Woo, executive director of arts group Zuni Icosahedron, said.

A West Kowloon board member who declined to be named said that while the government would pay for the basement - part of the conceptual plan prepared by architects Foster + Partners - it had made the arts hub plan look "ridiculous".

"Why do we need an integrated basement? Just like what we asked in the past: why did we need a canopy?" said the board member, referring to the huge cover in a previous design, also by Foster, proposed when the arts hub was to have been turned over to a single developer.

In tabling the new estimate at a Legislative Council panel meeting today, the government will propose dividing the basement project into six zones and returning to Legco to ask for a total of HK$10 billion in four stages from now until 2016-17.

Replying to an inquiry from the South China Morning Post, the government said the rough estimate for the basement if completed in one go by 2020 would be HK$19 billion.

Add in HK$4 billion for the public infrastructure and protection works for the Airport Express tunnel and the bill is HK$23 billion - more than the endowment of HK$21.6 billion to establish the cultural district in 2008.

"But the above estimate has not taken into account the impact of the delay in the Express Rail Link project," said a government spokesman.

The costs of building the Xiqu Centre and visual culture museum M+ cover the building of their respective basement sections.

The government said if it divided the work into different phases, it planned to ask Legco for HK$10 billion - HK$7 billion for the integrated basement and HK$3 billion for public infrastructure works - for the sections of basement on which the Lyric Theatre and private properties and offices are located.

Cost estimates for the basement section located above the rail terminus, which will see a two-year delay, and the section on which phase three facilities will be located are not included.

Another board member said the arts hub should not stick to Foster's expensive basement "[and] neither to the super expensive Xiqu Centre design. So far no budget has been allocated to cultural software development." This person also requested that his name not be disclosed.

Last year the government stated that the "ballpark estimate" for the design and construction costs of all facilities in the arts hub had gone up to HK$47.1 billion.

Some West Kowloon committee members said they were too uninformed to give advice. "Meetings are dictated by those who can speak the government language," said one adviser.

But ridding the project of the expensive integrated basement might not be feasible.

The lawmaker for the architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency, Tony Tse Wai-chuen, said when 23 out of 40 hectares of the site became a park, "where does the traffic go?"

He said the basement was a must but whether HK$23 billion was too costly was difficult to judge because little information was available.

"Where does the figure come from?" Tse asked.

Tse said financial viability had been a problem for the cultural district, which lacks a holistic business plan.



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An arts hub is useless without a society that truly values art. If you're not planning on encouraging that shift, then forget the crummy infrastructure.
This is has been a fiasco since day one. $47 billion dollars to build an arts centre - where is the logic in this? All we needed was a park, a couple of buildings and a place where HK people could connect with our harbour & some culture - then the cheating Donald Tsang decided to create this monster; employing a civil service attitude of incompetence and kick backs, hiring ****'s with virtually no experience and allowing the old guard and their cronies to hand pick contractors and advisors to continue lining their own pockets. WKCD is a disgrace and in any other place it would be investigated for the fraud that it is ....
When is the government going to realise a fancy museum or two ain't going turn this into an arts hub, it's the software the people and the culture. If it's not there it becomes another white elephant that takes 20 years too long and billions too much to build.
Kill this project! Go ahead with the 2 buildings underway if contracts have been awarded and turn the long stretch of land between the 2 into a mixed use development. Keep the park at the peninsula and make it a new HK landmark (the park, that is). This grandiose scheme was a white elephant from the beginning but no one wanted CH Tung and Donald to lose face by killing it.
Basement? This idea is as absurd as the original canopy idea.
Yeah they could put a band shell in the park get a corporate sponsor and have music in the park all summer bringing local and international musicians here. They are so overblown in their thinking to do this. Free music and green space is what's needed. Not some stupid mess of concrete.Examples:
Well put. People are more interested in texting skills than art here
How about we just forget this "arts hub" full stop. I'm sure that landscaping a beautiful park area for the everyday person to enjoy would be best.
We don't need more monstrous buildings (by Foster or anyone else), but an oasis in the city with trees, grass and some alfresco eateries for families to enjoy... That's what we need.
Victoria Park slowly gets eaten away at every few years, so how about giving us something bigger and better!
Stop wasting more time and money!
They should use the land to create a restaurant / bar district with a nice suspended roof. Then create a couple of theaters like west end or Broadway. That is what people want.
right now no one goes to the current canton operas. Why joining them together in 1 location will make a difference?
We really need nice restaurants area on the harbor like Sydney, Singapore etc...
It will not like the hermitage in st petersburg or even the louvre in Paris.
People have no interested in art here anyway, they all day eating and chatting on their super smartphones but dumb people.
Article states >>Cost estimates for the basement section located above the rail terminus, which will see a two-year delay, and the section on which phase three facilities will be located are not included.
But >> when you drive along the south side of Elements shopping Centre, its obvious that
the basement section from the rail terminus to the park, is already well under construction.



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