Causeway Bay to lose an urban oasis as I.M. Pei's Sunning Plaza faces wrecking ball

Demolition of I.M. Pei's Sunning Plaza and rest of block paves way for upscale shops and offices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 5:11pm

Tenants of Sunning Plaza in Causeway Bay are bidding farewell to the 31-year-old I.M. Pei-designed building, which is to be torn down for redevelopment.

A bar-restaurant, cake shop and office tenants had to move from the site yesterday.

"I feel like the sky today - crying," said John Palis, operations manager of the Inn Side Out bar and restaurant.

He started working there when it opened in 1999, but now he has had to close it.

"This place is one of a kind in Hong Kong - a big outdoor area with four palm trees."

The restaurant will reopen at the South China Athletic Association next month for association members and their guests.

A bigger, mixed-use office and retail complex with more retail space will be built on the site and in place of adjacent apartment building Sunning Court, which will also be demolished.

It has not yet been decided whether the open area used for the Inn Side Out's outdoor tables will be kept, said a spokesman for landlord Hysan Development.

Palis said he has heard that the outdoor area will be enclosed.

"It's depressing because this place is an oasis in the urban area for people to feel what life is," said architect Joseph Tang Chun-sing, one of the restaurant's regular customers. "Making money is important, but you should maintain some integrity to society. Humans need this kind of space."

The building was Pei's first project in Hong Kong before his only other - the Bank of China Building in Central. Chun said it was a shame that such a precious building would be torn down. He said very few buildings of its class were left in Hong Kong.

Another customer, magazine food writer Brian Chung, had strong words for the developer.

"I hope they lose money," he said. "It's a shame - this is an oasis in the business district of Causeway Bay for people to unwind. Greedy landlords like this are not helping Hong Kong or diversifying Hong Kong."

Palis said he has asked Hysan not to cut down the four palm trees. He told them Inn Side Out would try to take them to its new location.

Italian restaurant Da Domenico, next door, has already closed and was moving out yesterday.

Hysan has said the demolition is mainly to create offices for tenants moving out of Central. According to plans, the gross floor area will increase by about a quarter after the project is completed in 2018.