Can a former factory turned art space help sell real estate? Hongkong Land intends to find out. The property developer is spending millions to convert an ageing electrical switch factory in Beijing into a leading arts centre. Three buildings are being transformed into art venues including a dance and music space, several restaurants, an experimental theatre and a dance club. The project, which will open next month, will have a short lifespan. After just 20 months, it will be torn down to make way for an apartment block. The arts venue is part of Hongkong Land's plan to create an upscale environment for a massive new residential development called Central Park, a joint venture with developer Beijing Vantone. Located on the edge of the fast-growing central business district in downtown Beijing, the project will have four residential towers of as many as 33 storeys each. The first tower will be completed next spring and 90 per cent of its 558 apartments have already been leased. The former factory will be torn down in 2005 to make way for Tower Four. Yet Hongkong Land plans to refurbish the switch factory, turning it into an arts space to attract Beijing's cultural elite. The idea is to cultivate wealthy buyers - a necessity given that Central Park's one- to four-bedroom apartments range in price from 1.1 million yuan (HK$1 million) to 4.8 million yuan. The arts project, called Switch On, may be helpful in convincing buyers to pay a premium for the apartments. 'Like downtown New York or London, we would like to create a lifestyle area that includes restaurants, cafes and wine bars,' said Zhang Jiu Hong, general manager of the Central Park project. This may be helpful given the state of the property market. A glut of construction has caused overall residential rates to decline 20 per cent in the past five years, from 5,478 yuan per square metre in 1997 to an average of 4,303 yuan per square metre in the first quarter of this year, according to figures from JP Morgan Chase. However, some analysts say the Olympics in 2008 will provide added demand. So far, 70 per cent of Central Park buyers are local, 90 per cent have bachelor's degrees, all own cars (with 30 per cent having two or more) and 70 per cent are employed by multinationals, according to Hongkong Land. Just a few steps from the half-finished Tower One lies the site for Switch On. The main 1,260 square metre factory was constructed in 1952 to produce home electrical appliances and industrial tension power switches.