Public may mistake Tsim Sha Tsui revamp for 'another Cyberport': Zimmerman

Harbourfront Commission member and supporter of plan by government and developer to revitalise promenade says poor communication of plans could make Hongkongers suspicious

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 10:03pm

A supporter of the proposal to improve and extend the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront has warned it risks being seen by the Hong Kong public as "another Cyberport" - a reference to the controversial granting of development rights in Pok Fu Lam to a corporation without an open tender.

Paul Zimmerman was speaking hours after the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) launched a strong defence of the revitalisation plan, which is backed by New World Development.

Zimmerman, a member of the Harbourfront Commission and a district councillor representing Pok Fu Lam, blamed the bad reception so far for the plan on poor communication rather than poor design. The design was submitted to the Town Planning Board by the department and New World on July 10 and will be considered by the board when it meets on Friday, August 21.

I have warned both the LCSD and New World ... that the project may be seen by the public as another Cyberport, even though it isn’t
Paul Zimmerman

Zimmerman said he was very pleased New World had agreed to finance the improvements and extend the Avenue of Stars on the waterfront to cover Salisbury Garden and Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade.

“The problem is that the public and the Harbourfront Commission were not always kept up to date with changes in the plan. I have warned both the LCSD and New World this week that the project may be seen by the public as another Cyberport, even though it isn’t,” he said. The government gave Richard Li Tzar-kai’s Pacific Century Cyberworks the right to build Cyberport in 1999 without conducting an open tender for that project.

Zimmerman added: “The Harbourfront Commission has pushed for improvement works along the waterfront for years. New World, having built the Avenue of Stars, was initially reluctant to spend more money on the area but it changed its mind after it started redeveloping the New World Centre. We were very pleased about that.”

New World spent HK$40 million in 2004 to build the Avenue of Stars and the government granted it 20 years of operating rights. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department operates the cultural venues along the waterfront.

Zimmerman, who also heads the think tank Designing Hong Kong, said he was happy with the plan to add more shaded sitting areas for those wishing to admire the world-famous view from the promenade and to make the popular tourist spot more attractive.

He would have liked to see more space allocated to food and beverage outlets but said he suspected the government was wary of giving more space to commercial activities.

“It may fear a knee-jerk reaction from the public, who are suspicious of any collusion between the government and a big property developer,” he said. An outspoken critic of the government on some issues, Zimmerman said he understood the public’s cynicism. However, he said there was no difference between the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront plan and the way other private companies had invested money to improve Hong Kong neighbourhoods, such as Swire Properties’ upgrade of the Star Street area in Wan Chai.

A better way to sell the project to the public would be to install a neutral management team after construction is completed in three years, he said. “Get the Harbourfront Authority to manage it, for example. Then you won’t get a tug-of-war between the LCSD and New World, and the project will be less susceptible to accusations of collusion.”