Plans are afoot to transform SoHo. Have your say at the carnival there this Sunday TO THOSE IN the know, SoHo is the laid-back, funky nightlife scene of Hong Kong. It is quieter and less frenetic than other entertainment districts and, as the art gallery hub of Central, is also the place where creative types hang out. But for visitors to Hong Kong, it could almost be a case of blink and you miss it. It has only been in recent times that SoHo has been designated as a district at government level, and only two or three years that its name has appeared in tourism brochures. Even after they get there, visitors may not be sure that they have found it because of a shortage of signage. With its identity now at last officially recognised, SoHo is about to be thrust firmly into the limelight. A grand plan has been unveiled to give it an extreme makeover, ahead of its debut as a world-class dining venue. SoHo has always had its own identity. So named because of its location - south of Hollywood Road - SoHo does not, as some believe, try to mirror those similarly named districts in London and New York. There are parallels, though, says SoHo Association chairman Nimal Jayawardena, who is also responsible for organising the Rockit Music Festival, in that 'we do try to recreate cool experiences from other cool districts in the world'. Spawned as a result of the installation of the Mid-Levels escalator, SoHo has evolved in an ad-hoc way, rather than through strategic planning. A revamp of its image was deemed in order by the SoHo Association which, as part of its lobbying to reinvent SoHo, commissioned a blueprint for an ambitious urban makeover, taking into account town planning improvements already scheduled by the government - such as widening footpaths - and a broad range of practical and aesthetic innovations. 'SoHo has to change a lot to make it more visually appealing,' Mr Jayawardena says. 'It is more laid back, more like a neighbourhood, and more of a community than other entertainment districts in Hong Kong, but we needed to take it up a level. Our brief [to the designer] was to make SoHo a world-class precinct, while retaining its inherent characteristics.' Ideas cover the full gamut of urban design, from simple signage and streetscape improvement, to rezoning of traffic flows to allow for alfresco dining. The blueprint, now with the government for discussion, involves a mixture of public and private funding. The wish list includes a sculpture garden where installations from various countries and companies will be a symbol of the bohemian art culture and entertainment nature of SoHo. This will be reinforced by an abstract of murals wherever there is wall space, along the escalator and outside restaurants. Creative shade structures are suggested, along the lines of those used in New York's Soho. Trees will be planted, bollards installed, traffic restricted and more seating provided. With creative lighting design and thought given to creating photo opportunities, SoHo will become a must visit destination for tourists, the designers say. Mr Jayawardena says the ideas in the blueprint are not final and community opinion is welcome. The SoHo carnival on Sunday, an event familiar to many SoHo regulars, may be just the forum for such discussion.