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Tourism

Hong Kong government pledges to improve management of Avenue of Stars

New World Development and officials questioned over waterfront project by a member of Harbourfront Commission

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 12:37pm

The Hong Kong government has promised to enhance management of the Avenue of Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront as it denied striking an “under-the-table deal” with a developer over the tourist spot’s renovation.

Since 2004, New World Development has managed the attraction on the Kowloon shore of Victoria Harbour. The attraction has been closed since 2015 for renovation funded by the company.

At a Harbourfront Commission meeting on Thursday, member Paul Zimmerman pressed New World Development senior project director Jeff Tung Jing-kong for details of the company’s contract with the government.

“How much money are you spending and what are you getting in return?” Zimmerman asked, referencing the undisclosed cost of the recent work.

Reopening of Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars could be pushed back to February 2019

While Tung did not address the question, Leisure and Cultural Services Department assistant director Elaine Yeung Chi-lan said “we do not have an under-the-table deal”.

“The current deal, which everyone knows, is the contract with New World and with the management company, and it will last until 2024,” Yueng said.

New World Development got the deal to manage the site without the job being put out to public tender, drawing disapproval from critics who said the arrangement was not transparent.

The assistant director also said the department would reform a management committee overseeing the operation of the attraction.

In addition to representatives from the government, New World Development and other stakeholders, Yeung said a representative from the Harbourfront Commission and experts in the field would be involved.

The new arrangement should be “open enough for everybody”, Yeung added.

Speaking after the meeting, Zimmerman said New World Development could benefit from the rise in property value brought by the revamp.

The company recently opened a part of its massive office and commercial complex, Victoria Dockside, which is minutes from the attraction.

In the future, the government should grant shorter management contracts so it has more control, he said.

Avenue of the Stars in the hands of a single developer: how wary should Hongkongers be?

At the same meeting, Tung suggested hosting more cultural activities on the Avenue of Stars and making use of the two marine areas it encloses.

He also proposed adding landing steps for emergency use.

Both proposals were supported by the commission members present.

To increase accessibility to the film stars’ hand prints which give the attraction its name, Tung said they would be moved from the ground to handrails. The new handprints will be laser cut-outs, rather than plaques.

The avenue is scheduled to reopen no later than February 2019.