Prime waterfront sites challenge developers and architects. If a building design is not worthy of a location it can detract from the beauty of the city’s famed harbour. But this is not the main concern when harbourfront land is auctioned. The government focuses on price, since it relies on premiums paid by developers for a significant part of its revenue. An exception to the rule will be the 4.76-hectare New Central Harbourfront Site 3 , next to the International Finance Centre. It is described as “the last strategic business site in Central”. The government is making a rare departure from its usual “show us your money” approach. It wants developers to also submit design proposals so the government can assess both price and design, instead of awarding sites based on the highest bid alone. How welcome and overdue! The harbour, after all, belongs to the people. Development should complement and enhance the city’s biggest asset. Money not everything, as government takes rare approach to land sale Secretary for Development Wong Wai-lun says the last comparable example of price-and-design assessment was in 2002, when the former Marine Police Headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui was sold as a business and hotel site, now known as 1881 Heritage. Hopefully, the Central project will set the standard for striking a balance between development, public open space and access to the harbour. The winning developer will be required to devote half of the area to green public space and enhance connectivity between the harbourfront and inner Central. Concerns that the design requirement may deter bidders have been dismissed by analysts, who say the ailing business environment is more likely to do that. It is refreshing to hear Wong say that “proper design and utilisation is very important to our future economic development. Money is not our only consideration”. It remains to be seen if the winningbid reflects that sentiment. Meanwhile, it is good that the Harbourfront Commission, an oversight body, has discussed the sale of the site, according to commission member and architect Ivan Ho Man-yiu. He believes, rightly, the space should have an original design that attracts international and local visitors. Testament to its potential is that foreign investors have shown an interest.