• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:03am
NewsHong Kong

No U-turn on Kowloon Cultural District basement plans despite spiralling HK$23b cost

Government makes it clear underground road system to keep arts hub free of traffic must stay as it is - or else it's back to square one

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:20pm

Scrapping the HK$23 billion basement at the West Kowloon Cultural District to cut burgeoning costs is not possible, the government says.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made it clear that the underground road system would be retained as she disclosed that the knock-on effect on the arts hub of the delay in building the cross-border high-speed railway could be much bigger than expected.

She said the two-year hold-up in the railway's construction could affect two other arts facilities besides those sitting on top of the West Kowloon terminal - which is now not due for completion until 2017.

Lam, chairwoman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, was speaking at yesterday's meeting of the Legislative Council committee monitoring the development at which lawmakers demanded that the government change if not scrap the 17-hectare basement.

The cost of the basement has now been put at HK$23 billion and this could rise further because of the delay in the railway and uncertainty over facilities in phase three of the district.

The Labour Party's Cyd Ho Sau-lan said the government should allow some traffic above ground.

Culture and sports lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, also a West Kowloon authority board member, asked if the basement could be scrapped. "The HK$23 billion basement now costs more than the arts hub's original estimate of HK$21.6 billion," Ho said.

Lam responded: "The plan was chosen after three stages of public consultation. We asked for a 23-hectare public open space from day one, and without an integrated basement we cannot achieve this," Lam said, adding that the plan was approved by the Town Planning Board.

"Scrapping the basement would mean we would have to start … all over again. This is not practical," she said.

The plan calls for the cultural facilities to be completed in three phases. It had earlier been thought that the railway delay would affect only phase-two facilities.

But yesterday Lam said the Xiqu Centre for Chinese opera and the Lyric Theatre in phase one were also jeopardised.

Railway construction works involve the location of an exit of the Xiqu centre - which had been due for completion by 2017 - while an area on the waterfront where barges will store construction sand is located at the site of the Lyric Theatre, which had been due to be ready in 2019.

"We need the MTR to cooperate," Lam said.

She said she needed to talk to the corporation to explore ways to tackle the issue.

The chief secretary meanwhile insisted the original HK$21.6 billion set aside for the arts hub would be enough to cover six to seven venues in phases one and two.

Phase-three facilities and the basement on which they sit will follow after 2020, when the first two phases were completed.

The delay will cause an operation deficit of HK$400 million as retail and dining facilities will not be ready in time.



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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
One is intrigued by how our government rejected spending HK$6 billion on a building for RTHK, a building that - after land sales on Broadcast Drive - would bring in a HK$6 billion windfall, and yet insists that a project with a HK$13 billion deficit should go ahead. Of course one features a "patriotic" Chinese Opera centre and the other is a thorn in the side of government officials, but that wouldn't have anything to do with it, would it?
On the other hand, as the MTRC is responsible for much of this price increase, that's firmly where the money should be recouped.
Carrie, just please, please do away with the whole cultural desert madness.

You can't force culture down people's throats. Cultural Districts don't get planned. They, at best, emerge spontaneously. How many theatres does one city need I ask you? Are the current theatres signalling under-capacity. Not exactly, no.

Give us a nice waterfront park instead, with some terraces, restaurants and maybe a open-air place for performances. I am talking grass and trees. Trees. Have you heard of them? Maybe a museum if you really must add to the series of badly visited museums we already have.

But this string of buildings with their $23bn basement... insanity. 'Medium Theatre II'?! - it sounds like a parody of urban planning gone bonkers.
Sounds like another government rip-off of public money for a vanity project that won't benefit the common man.
While I am far from a fan myself, Cantonese opera is actually the one thing that always attracts fully filled theatres at the HKCC and HKAPA.
Yep, not logical to say we have to spend $23bn on this now. Just don't spend any more and turn it into a park. This thing has been an enormous waste of time and energy from the moment it was dreamed up. It's as if the Government is not happy unless it's spending money on tower blocks and roads. HK doesn't really need it. The money would be far better spent on pensions, hospitals, education - or, if John Tsang is to be believed, added to our piggy bank and saved up with all the other trillions. Hey, it can be used to reduce the taxes that he is itching to introduce.
Thanks Ms.Lam - just throw away $20 billion dollars of our money!
Why is the construction or project management company not paying fine for delays? Was there no insurance of any sort? If not, this is a shocking crime in public project management.
btw, throwing good money after bad is often dumb. Sunk cost - move on and save the money for better things. How about better education system for children, ie the future of HK? Pl tell me that public would not vote for it. Referendum please ms carrie lam?
Restaurants and bars down by the water would be awesome and cost nothing! 100 restaurants all with sea view and a massive roof like Singapore. It would become the #1 nightspot in the world.
The art hub will not be popular as museums are not popular. Not sure which idiot thought this up. Who will go to Cantonese opera? Really no one was thinking.
No one goes now and no one will go later.
"...back to square one" sounds like the best idea yet. Scrap this massive white elephant. I don't expect any sanity from this govt as they are totally unable to re-think earlier decisions in light of new factors.
They overthink everything and under think the outcome- creativity of course.



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