A Japan-inspired plan could be a blessing for Causeway Bay and a boon to shoppers and retail business Hong Kong's glitziest shopping district - Causeway Bay - is earmarked to become a buyers' paradise should a 24-hour pedestrian zone and a Tokyo-type underground shopping street become a reality. The Planning Department proposes building a 50-metre underground pedestrian and retail link under Hennessy Road - linking the Hennessy Centre to the Sogo department store - to improve conditions for those strolling around one of the world's most densely populated shopping districts. A source close to the plan said the pedestrian-retail link would also generate 21,528 square feet of retail space, which would contribute towards the project's commercial viability. The scale of the underground shopping area would be expanded to include other streets if the pilot study of the retail link proved positive. The plan was presented yesterday to the Legislative Council. 'The concept was drawn up after taking reference from underground shopping streets in Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido,' the source said. The project, which would be built at least six metres underground, would be costly but revenue generated from the retail space could help subsidise the construction, the source said. 'Because of the project's complexity and high building costs, we believe that only a handful of developers will be interested in participating in the tender,' the source said. Hysan Development, the owner of the Hennessy Centre (which houses the Japanese department store Mitsukoshi), is one party that should benefit from the proposal. To make way for the 24-hour pedestrianising of Kai Chiu Road, behind the Hennessy Centre, the plan suggests closing the Hennessy Centre car park and relocating the loading and unloading bays at the Hennessy Centre. To compensate for the potential loss for Hysan if the plan went ahead, the Planning Department is considering allowing the developer to convert the six-level car park into commercial space, said Augustine Ng, assistant director of planning (territorial). 'It's a kind of incentive to encourage the landlord to abandon the car park,' the source said. Meanwhile, a Hysan Development spokeswoman said the company was concerned about the proposed closure of the Hennessy Centre car park. 'We are in talks with the government, but no agreement has been reached,' she said. Most industry players hail the proposal as a move in the right direction, saying it would give extra clout to Causeway Bay - the world's third most expensive retail district - as one of Asia's most popular shopping districts. But some fear that operators of small malls, such as the President shopping arcade, might lose their competitive edge unless they upgraded their properties. In general, however, the verdict was: 'Go ahead'. 'Most retailers and property owners in the area should benefit because the concept would substantially increase the pedestrian flow,' Colliers International director Simon Lo said. He added that it would raise the commercial value of the area even higher. 'It's a logical move to develop an underground shopping mall because new supply at ground level is unlikely,' he said. Koh Keng-shing, managing director of property consultant Landscope Realty, said that retail shops in Causeway Bay had extended from street level to higher floors, an indication that there was a strong demand for retail space in the district. 'A growing number of retailers now operate stores on the third and even fifth floors,' he said. A Sogo spokesman said the plan was positive for the retail market and would give customers more choices and an enhanced shopping experience. Sa Sa International chairman Simon Kwok Siu-ming said it was good news for retailers, who would have more space to work with when planning new stores. Sa Sa will be opening a 5,000 sqft store in Causeway Bay this year. The plan includes building new MTR entrances to link the underground pedestrian-retail area. A source said the consultation would continue till the end of August. No date has been fixed for gazetting the proposal. Wan Chai district councillor Cheng Ki-kin said the council, in principle, supported the proposal because it would give the district a facelift, especially in the 'old area' of Kai Chiu Road. 'It would improve the pedestrian environment and strengthen the shopping environment of Causeway Bay,' Mr Cheng said.