Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Hong Kong airport secures 50-year land lease to develop retail, dining and entertainment hub

Government claims 10-hectare area is of strategic importance to city’s economy and not just a commercial project for the airport authority

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:38pm

The Airport Authority has sealed approval to proceed with a 50-year lease at a nominal premium to develop over 10 hectares of the hub’s north commercial district into a large-scale retail, dining and entertainment destination.

The news came as the Transport and Housing Bureau on Friday expressed support for the development project, saying the government had approved the area being carved out from the airport’s original land lease scheduled to expire on June 30, 2047.

A 50-year term for the site is to take effect from this year at a “nominal premium”, a bureau spokeswoman said.

The arrangement will enhance both the authority’s flexibility in using the area and the attractiveness of the project in the market, the spokeswoman said. “The authority has completed the relevant procedures on signing the land lease with the government.”

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The site spans an area of over 10 hectares and was used in the past as a temporary golf course and car park. It is to be converted for retail and hotel use, providing 1,000 hotel rooms and a total floor area of over two million square feet in the first phase of retail development, which is expected to be opened in 2019.

The spokeswoman said the project was of strategic importance to the economic and social development of Lantau Island and Hong Kong as well as forming a major part of promoting the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

She added many overseas airports have been pursuing the “skycity” concept to enhance visitors’ experience, noting the government considered the project a key initiative for Hong Kong’s economy rather than simply a commercial development for the authority.

However, the bureau reminded the statutory body to operate the site consistent with prudent commercial principles.

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“The government has required the authority to factor in the full market value of the land when devising tender conditions for disposal of the site and consider the tender bids as well as enter into commercial agreements with private developers,” she said.

Lam Chiu-ying, convenor of People’s Aviation Watch, questioned the government’s decision to grant the new lease for the project. Lam, a former chief of the Hong Kong Observatory, said the decision did not “fit the standing principle of financial prudence”.

“The grant is also unfair to other potential developers who may be able to make good relevant use of the land near the airport, such as the Trade Development Council and private companies,” he said.

Lam asked whether the authority, in running purely commercial facilities, would be acting outside its powers because it was created to operate an airport.