TST East faces urban decay

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2005, 12:00am

Even a new rail link has failed to draw shoppers to the area

Investors and retailers in Tsim Sha Tsui East hoping for a boost to their businesses after the opening of a new rail link between Hunghom and Tsim Sha Tsui a year ago appear to have lost out. The line has failed to draw shoppers to the area, as some analysts had expected.

And with Hong Kong's biggest nightclub, China City, due to move out on Friday, the area is likely to become even less attractive as a commercial hub, according to some market watchers.

CB Richard Ellis executive director Yu Kam-hung said the business outlook in the area was gloomy.

'There can hardly be further development,' he said. 'It is a natural process of urban development, or decay, if you like. Hong Kong has developed into a financial centre. Most prime offices have moved to Central or Wan Chai. Tsim Sha Tsui East, where the offices were built to accommodate traditional trading firms, has inevitably become quieter.'

Last year, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp opened East Tsim Sha Tsui, an interchange station with Tsim Sha Tsui station on the MTR. The government also has plans to relocate the bus terminal outside the Star Ferry pier on the Kowloon side to Tsim Sha Tsui East, making way for an amphitheatre at the Star Ferry site in a project to beautify the waterfront.

Ricacorp Properties sales manager Adam Lai warned that retail business in the area could be further hit when more construction work began.

'People will not go shopping in a big construction site. At present, the main park in the area - the Centenary Garden - is undergoing redevelopment. More hoardings would scare away shoppers,' said Mr Lai, who cited the example of Wing On Plaza near an exit of the East Tsim Sha Tsui station, where more than a third of the shops have been idle over the past year.

Rents at the New Mandarin Plaza, on the periphery of Tsim Sha Tsui East, are between $70 and $115 per square foot, while rents at prime malls such as Peninsula Centre, where the China City nightclub is located, are about $130 a square foot.

These figures are 5 per cent to 10 per cent up from last year, but lag far behind the almost 200 per cent returns for some shops in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, according to Ricacorp Properties.

Sino Land is reportedly planning to renovate its two shopping arcades in Tsim Sha Tsui East - Tsim Sha Tsui Centre and Empire Centre - in an attempt to boost business.

A senior executive at a leading private developer said: 'The multi-ownership of shopping malls in the district has made large-scale improvements difficult. One mall does some renovation, but others do not. It can hardly jazz up the whole district.'

Albert Tong, deputy regional sales director (retail) in Kowloon for Centaline Property Agency, was more optimistic.

He said several new, upmarket restaurants would be moving into the area.

'At present, it is more or less a tourist precinct. But changes are expected around March or April next year,' he said.