THE Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) is to build an 88-storey office and hotel tower on the massive site above its planned Kowloon station along the new airport railway. When completed early next century, the tower will replace the 78-storey Central Plaza in Wan Chai as Hong Kong's tallest building. Chinachem Group has proposed constructing a 108-storey building in Tsuen Wan, to be called Nina Tower after the group's chairman Nina Wang, but does not have planning permission. Hopewell's Gordon Wu has been talking about building a 93-storey retail and hotel complex in Wan Chai for about a decade, but he still has not been able to accumulate a large enough site or win planning consent. By contrast, the MTRC building already has planning approval and will consist of 1.91 million square feet of office space and a 450-room five-star hotel. The total cost, including the government land premiums, is expected to be about $16 billion. The mega-tower above Kowloon Station will be the seventh and final package to be offered out to tender by the MTRC to private sector developers. The MTRC has totally rethought its plans for the Kowloon Station development, having commissioned a redesign at a cost of more than $10 million. There will now be fewer but taller buildings. Thomas Ho, property director of the MTRC, said the new scheme was approved by the Town Planning Board in mid-September. The number of towers in the overall development has been cut from 32 to 23, while building heights have generally been increased. In total, the MTRC's new scheme for the Kowloon Station property development will provide 5,126 new apartments spread over 18 towers. The number of flats has been increased by 15 per cent from the original planned 4,588 units. Including the 88-storey tower, there will be 2.84 million sq ft of office space housed in three towers and 963,900 sq ft of new shops. In view of the slowdown in demand for retail space, the retail development area has been reduced from the original planned 1.35 million sq ft. There will be a total of four hotels providing 2,400 hotel rooms. A five-star hotel will be built in the 88-storey tower in package seven and three four-star hotels are to be constructed in packages three, four and six. In addition, 6,624 car-parking places will be provided. Because of the sheer size of the project, the development will be split into seven batches and offered to developers for tendering over the next seven to eight years. The first package, comprising 1,776 units in six residential towers and 1,332 car-parking spaces, was offered out to private developers for tender on November 10. Jack So, chairman of the MTRC, said the tender closing date for that package would be on December 15, with the development contract awarded to the winner in the first quarter of 1996. It has been learned that at least three short-listed consortiums have been invited for the first package tender. They include a consortium formed by five of the territory's largest developers, comprising Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land Development, Hang Lung Development, New World Development and Swire Properties. Sino Group has teamed up with Manhattan Garments and other parties to bid for the project. Another consortium is a combination of HKR International and an unidentified party. Other big names in the property market chasing the deal are believed to be a consortium formed by Li Ka-shing's flagship companies Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa. Two companies are said to have teamed up with mainland backed Citic Pacific to join the fray. Peter Woo's flagship companies Wheelock & Co and Wharf (Holdings) are also believed to be shortlisted by the MTRC for the first package tender.