Sweet Disney deal to ease the housing crisis
Rezoning land use at second phase of Hong Kong theme park through public-private partnership would result in new town for middle-income families
Seeing is believing. Many people have argued land left idle next to the Disney theme park for almost a decade should be developed for housing But that’s just talk, given the flat-out refusal by the government.
But it makes all the difference seeing an actual development plan. Now a local architect – who wants to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting some powerful people – has drafted proposals on doing just that; and they make perfect sense to me.
OK, the plan about bulldozing the whole theme park for redevelopment is a non-starter, but it’s still useful as a reference because much housing could be provided under the plan.
We are talking about 120,000 flats catering to more than 350,000 residents.
The other plan, which keeps Hong Kong Disneyland but develops and redesigns its surroundings, could be a win-win-win, that is, for Disney, the government and the public. It could accommodate 26,000 flats for more than 75,000 residents.
At a time of an acute housing shortage, as the government keeps telling us, every little bit of land helps. And we are talking about at least 100 hectares, about 10 per cent of what the government claims is needed to close the gap between supply and demand in the coming decades.
This can become a model new town for decades to come, with a brilliant waterfront and world-class infrastructure and access by road, rail and water, a lushly landscaped “green” community that prioritises clean transport systems, pedestrianisation and cycling, with new schools, recreational facilities and hospitals to boast.
Disney won’t go for it, you say. Not necessarily, if you dangle a big enough dollar sign in front of Mickey Mouse.
After 2020, corporate Disney still has two five-year options on buying the empty plot of land called Phase II, measuring 60 hectares, for park expansion, if there is ever such an expansion. Instead of building more rides, make Disney a co-developer with the government: public-private partnership, one of our officials’ favourite ways of enriching developers!
The government will rezone land usage for Phase II; Disney will buy it at a discount in return for building a town for middle-income families, something like Taikoo Shing in Quarry Bay.
Hell, even throw in a small plot or two for luxury flats to sweeten the deal for Disney.