The government is facing renewed calls to drop its plan to hand the West Kowloon cultural project to one bidder now that the property market is looking up. With developers showing strong bidding interest in government sites, academics and legislators said the government should reconsider the option of auctioning the residential and commercial lots in the proposed cultural district and use the capital to sustain cultural facility development. Legislative Council members said they would press the government to rethink the proposal at the Legco planning, lands and works panel next Tuesday. Non-affiliated legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said: 'It is a very big project involving a lot of money and valuable land resources. We should do it properly. Now the market situation has changed. The outlook for the property market seems brighter. 'Developers are more eager to bid for land. I would question whether the single-contract approach is still the best option.' Mr Chan said he would urge the government to rethink its approach at next week's panel meeting. Similar views were shared by legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, vice-chairman of the Democratic Party, who said his party opposed the single-contract approach. The project, with a giant canopy designed by Lord Foster, will be built on 40 hectares of reclaimed land on the southern tip of the West Kowloon reclamation. About 30 per cent of the site will be earmarked for arts and culture and the rest for commercial and residential development. The cost of the entire project is estimated at $24 billion but could rise as the value of shops and residential developments in the proposed district is expected to surge. The project is controversial because the government wants one contract, the winner of which will design, build and operate the cultural district for 30 years. Construction is expected start in early 2007. Smaller developers said the tendering method excluded them from competing. The arts community has also expressed concerns at the lack of consultation and said the project might risk being turned into a developers' colony. Five bids were received before the June 19 deadline for submissions. One bid from a joint venture between the city's two biggest developers, Sun Hung Kai Properties and Cheung Kong (Holdings), is tipped to be the probable winner. Polytechnic University associate professor Lam Pun-lee said: 'Society will react in a big way if the government insists on granting the project to one bidder.' He urged the government to auction the sites separately and use the funds to support cultural development because it was the fairest and most efficient way to maximise government revenues. Wong Kwok-chung, an associate professor of real estate and construction at the University of Hong Kong, said the government must be careful about granting the project because of the political environment. Some market observers said because of the uncertainty of the West Kowloon development, developers including Cheung Kong and Sun Hung Kai Properties had bid aggressively in last week's land auction, looking for ways to replenish their land banks. The Housing Planing and Lands Bureau said an exhibition of all proposals that met government requirements would be held next year.