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Urban planning

Walkway overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour saved from demolition in land exchange deal

Owner of Quarry Bay site persuaded to scrap unpopular plan for 25-storey factory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 9:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 9:38am

A walkway overlooking Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour has been saved from demolition thanks to a government offer that persuaded the landlord to scrap a controversial plan for a 25-storey factory.

The 10-metre-wide promenade along Hoi Yu Street on the Quarry Bay coast will instead undergo upgrades for leisure and tourism purposes, according to the landlord’s latest plan revealed by the Development Bureau on Thursday.

Local residents and harbourfront authorities hailed the deal as a “win-win”. The landlord, Fine Tower Associates, will surrender two plots it holds at the site totalling 2,477 square metres (0.25 hectares). In return it will receive 8,532 square metres of adjacent government land upon payment of the full market premium.

A building will still be constructed at the waterfront site but will be a lower-rise complex for retail, hotel, leisure and office use. Its gross floor area will be 37,155 square metres – roughly the same as was planned for the factory.

“Taking advantage of the harbourfront setting, the facilities will help turn the area into a leisure and tourism” space, the bureau said.

“Pedestrian access will be provided to enhance the connectivity to and vibrancy of the waterfront.”

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Harbourfront Commission chairman Vincent Ng Wing-shun, an architect and preservationist, said the deal had put a stop to a project deeply unpopular with the public.

“I don’t want to say which party can gain more from the deal. We have to appreciate that a trade-off needs to be made,” Ng said. “Otherwise, we will have a 25-storey industrial building there.”

We have to appreciate that a trade-off needs to be made
Vincent Ng Wing-shun, Harbourfront Commission

Eastern district councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, who had supported protests against the factory project, said it was a “victory of public opinion”.

But both Ng and Chiu said they would keep an eye on the area as the development proposal put forward in the deal was still subject to approval by town planners.

The bureau promised the local district council and the commission it would keep them posted on its progress.

The original plan to build the industrial building was approved in 2001, but in 2003 the area was reclassified by officials as space for “cultural and/or commercial, leisure and tourism related uses” and “open space”.

The factory proposal was not in contravention of any planning or building regulations, or land lease conditions, when it was approved.

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Construction was slated to begin last year but the bureau and the landlord entered into negotiations to explore other options.

“The community has expressed a wish that the industrial building ... be replaced by a development more compatible with the surrounding environment,” a bureau spokesman said.

“We are pleased that the lot owner has responded positively.”