Amid the noise of drilling and sawing reverberating around the mostly vacant Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei, puppeteer Hoi Chiu talks enthusiastically about his plans to turn his arts studio into a creative centre for people to learn puppetry. The 34-year-old is one of more than a hundred budding artists who have ventured into the former industrial building to set up shop and pursue their artistic dreams. Boasting 120 studios ranging from 300 to more than 1,300 square feet in size, the nine-storey centre in Pak Tin Street offers a wide range of facilities, including a 200-seat theatre, cafes and open-air exhibition areas. Its renovation was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The centre was a hive of activity last week with most of the tenants busy decorating their cubicles. The sprawling centre, scheduled to open in September, is certain to become a hip hangout for young people and arts enthusiasts. Hoi Chiu is one of the first batch of artists who applied for tenancy when news of the project came out. 'I was very excited by the news. All kinds of artists will be here, which will certainly make the place a breeding ground for art talent,' says Hoi Chiu who plans to sell his masks and puppets and hold puppetry workshops at his 300-square-feet studio. 'The sense of community will be very strong here. Artists from different backgrounds can provide support and creative ideas for each other.' Fred Yeung Fuk-yee, Hoi Chiu's partner in the arts venture, plans to sell his wooden artwork at the shop. 'The camaraderie among tenants appeals to me the most,' he says. The cheap rents have proved to be a lifeline to up-and-coming young artists. 'I pay about HK$2,000 in rent and management fees every month. It's really a bargain,' says Hoi Chiu. The project offers concessionary rents as low as HK$3 per square foot to full-time art students and fresh graduates. Eddie Lui Fung-ngar, the centre's executive director, says the place is bursting with talent. 'Artists in Hong Kong are mostly on the fringe. Common people don't regard making artworks as a financially rewarding occupation,' he says. 'We were oversubscribed five times. We had to screen out many applicants. 'After bidding for tenancy was over, I was surprised by the make-up of tenants. We have a guqin - ancient stringed instrument - master, erhu maestro and even shadow puppetry specialists. We hope that the centre can put Hong Kong on the international culture map.' Given the overwhelming response to the project among local artists, Mr Lui is confident the centre will become a new landmark in Hong Kong.