Kennedy Road residents condemn amended Hopewell hotel project

Campaigners fear traffic will worsen on Kennedy Road, and claim the amended Hopewell development is a far cry from a previous agreement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 4:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 August, 2014, 12:48pm

Kennedy Road residents have lashed out at a developer for submitting an amended town planning application for a hotel project that they say "reneges on their agreement".

At stake is the Hopewell Centre II project on Queens Road East, which developer Hopewell Holdings says will be a conference hotel with more than 1,000 guest rooms, a retail podium and several large-scale "hotel-related convention facilities".

Residents say the "sneaky" application submitted in June was a far cry from what was originally agreed with the government in 2008.

That deal, which involved a land swap, required Hopewell to scrap a massive slab-like building design in favour of a Y-shaped one and to scale down some of the facilities.

But the latest application reintroduces the slab-like design, which the residents claim will worsen air quality in the area and present a barrier to air flow.

A plan to include a 1,500-seat "convention theatre" has also angered residents who fear it will worsen traffic congestion on Kennedy Road - a mid-density residential neighbourhood - and on Queens Road East near Ruttonjee Hospital.

Hopewell said the new proposal only involved "minor refinements and enhancements", while the tens of thousands of square feet in convention space was referred to as "hotel-related convention facilities".

Kennedy Road resident and former lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said the convention and ballroom space was "completely disproportionate to the size of the hotel" and bigger than most major hotels in the area.

"If they really want a convention area then they should make a separate application to the Town Planning Board," she said.

Hopewell sought permission from the board before 2004 for convention and exhibition facilities but the board rejected them as Kennedy Road was a residential area and could not accommodate the increased traffic load.

"I can tell you this will set a precedent for unjust development in other districts," said group spokeswoman Sally Ho, who has been fighting the hotel project for close to a decade. "We reluctantly accepted the plan [in 2008] but now they have reneged on their promises."

She urged residents to submit comments to the board objecting to the altered plan before the August 26 deadline and urge Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who was then development chief, to press Hopewell to keep to its 2008 agreement.

A Hopewell spokeswoman said that as wind flowed westward through Kennedy Road, the revised "air wing" design was more favourable to air flow. Under the new design, the building would measure six metres wider east to west and 53.5 metres narrower north to south, she said.

"Most of those who use the [conference] facilities will be hotel guests so traffic load generated will be lower," she added.