Government offices may leave Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 12:00am

The government may free up prime sites for office buildings in Wan Chai by moving some of its own offices to Kowloon and the New Territories.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the government would study the feasibility of rebuilding Immigration Tower, Wan Chai Tower and Revenue Tower at Kai Tak and in Tseung Kwan O.

If the plan goes ahead, developers could be expected to pay HK$20 billion for the land freed up in Gloucester Road, a surveyor said.

The move would not be possible before 2011, when infrastructure work at Kai Tak ends.

However, Mr Tsang said the government would not resume holding regular land auctions, as some developers have demanded, but would stick with the application list system under which developers must lodge bids for sites to trigger their sale.

He said holding regular auctions could distort the market.

The financial secretary said the next application list would comprise 62 sites - 10 commercial, 10 for hotels and 42 residential. If all the hotel sites were developed, they would increase the rooms available in the city by between 9,000 and 11,000.

The government believes the move would not only provide more land in the central business district on which to build grade A office blocks, but bring fresh impetus to new districts and create new jobs.

Mr Tsang said it was not necessary for all government office buildings to be in core business areas.

While noting that the government's Hong Kong 2030 Study forecasts the land available for new grade A offices in the next few years would be adequate, he said moving government offices away from central districts would stimulate economic growth.

Government sources said the study was at a preliminary stage and there was no concrete plan for the sites' redevelopment.

'The buildings could be demolished or renovated,' the source said. 'We do not have an answer now.'

The relocated government offices should be easily accessible, the source said.

The three blocks house the Inland Revenue Department, Immigration Department and Justice Department, and have a total gross floor area of about 2.2 million sq ft and a net usable area of 1.9 million sq ft.

Surveyor Pang Siu-kei estimated developers would pay at least HK$10,000 per sq ft for the land in Wan Chai, valuing the sites at as much as HK$20 billion.

'The site would be a popular one because it is well connected,' he said, 'but are people willing to travel to remote areas for government services?'

Mr Pang said the idea would take some time to gain public support.

A member of Wan Chai District Council, Kennedy Lee Kai-hung, opposed the idea, saying it would deprive residents - especially the elderly - of convenient access to government services.

Luk Wai-man, of Sai Kung District Council, welcomed the plan, hoping it would bring more jobs to Tseung Kwan O.

'It is a sleeping city; we do not have office buildings at all,' Mr Luk said.