The revised plan for the West Kowloon Cultural District could retain the best of a single-developer concept and dispel public criticism over profits being pocketed by one party, the secretary for home affairs says.
Patrick Ho Chi-ping said the public had failed to see how the single-developer approach could benefit the growth of the cultural hub. He said it was only through a coherent development plan that clustering and synergistic effects could be achieved.
He said: 'We still take the single developer as a conceptual provider of the whole layout. But the developer also has to divest a lion's share of commercial interest. I think the public was more concerned about how commercial interest could be concentrated in one pocket.'
The latest plan, unveiled by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan on Friday, has scrapped the controversial single-developer approach. It requires the winning bid to set aside half of the commercial and residential space for open bidding, implying that the developer will control only 65 per cent of the 40-hectare waterfront site, with at least 30 per cent reserved for arts and cultural facilities.
The winner will have to pay $30 billion into a trust fund for the operation of the cultural facilities and a statutory body that will run them.
Dr Ho also said the winner would only be able to make recommendations on which part of the land to carve out for bidding. The final decision would rest with the government.
Responding to criticism that the statutory body would effectively work in favour of the major developer as it would free it from the responsibility of running the cultural complex, Dr Ho admitted that the government could never please everyone.
'At the beginning, we said we would let developers run the cultural complex. But the public [said] that developers were not equipped to run it. Now we rid the developers of the task and ask the people to take over, there are criticisms again. What do you want? Should it be run by the government instead?' he said.
'I think the government is doing its best to listen to the people. After all, West Kowloon does not belong to the government. It belongs to the people in Hong Kong. They have to have a sense of ownership of this project. Do they have to like it? I think they do.'
Dr Ho said the statutory body, which is expected to be set up in 2007 at the earliest with all members appointed by the chief executive, would require different expertise at various stages.
He said talks with the three shortlisted developers - Dynamic Star International, Sunny Development and World City Culture Park - would begin soon. They have until the end of January to decide whether they want to take part in the modified plan.