Hysan Development

Government floats below-ground proposals for Hong Kong’s built-up areas

Tokyo-inspired underground developments eyed for TST, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 11:02pm

The government has launched a three-month public engagement seeking views on how to best make use of underground spaces in four key urban areas.

Government planners identified the built-up areas of Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley and Admiralty-Wan Chai as “strategic urban areas” with the potential for two to four-storey underground development.

The Planning and Civil Engineering and Development departments said doing so could relieve above-ground congestion, improve pedestrian connectivity, enhance the living environment and create more space for community use.

Targeted areas included the underbellies of Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.

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“Underground spaces can also be used to relocate existing undesirable above-ground facilities, thereby releasing valuable surface land for more beneficial and compatible uses,” the department said.

Inspirations for the proposal, cited in a 44-page consultation document released yesterday, included Tokyo and Taipei’s sprawling shopping streets and the La Defense business district in Paris, which all integrate commercial development with the city’s railway system.

The proposed development beneath Southorn Playground, for example, would provide two levels of underground space that would connect Wan Chai MTR Station, Gloucester Road and Lee Tung Street.

It’s already too crowded and another mall or car park is not going to help
Wan Chai district councillor Cheng Ki-kin

Below Kowloon Park, the government proposed three four-storey underground spaces, which would connect Nathan Road to the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) and Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront.

The document however highlighted geological issues and infrastructure challenges in connecting existing underground facilities, such as MTR stations or, in the case of Happy Valley racecourse, a stormwater tank. Private land issues above ground were also listed.

Institute of Urban Design vice president Ivan Ho Man-yiu said any progressive city design was welcomed, but stressed not all the proposals would be workable.

Pointing to Hysan Development’s failed bid to build a Tokyo-style underground shopping street in Causeway Bay, which faced land ownership issues, Ho urged the government not to underestimate the difficulty of construction and financing and to consult local residents.

“Underground development is easier in new development areas than in old districts,” he said. “That being said, underground development at WKCD was on virgin land and look how that turned out.”

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Wan Chai district councillor Cheng Ki-kin said it would be “close to impossible” to develop below Southorn Playground.

“It’s already too crowded and another mall or car park is not going to help,” he said.

The first stage of the consultation will conclude in February. The second stage will seek comments on conceptual schemes and preliminary master plans.