A planned underground zone beneath a major Hong Kong park should set aside shops for local companies and be linked to a nearby arts hub, legislators said on Tuesday. During a Legislative Council development panel meeting, lawmakers supported a government proposal to develop a 538,000 sq ft, three-storey space under Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui . The development, on an area covering about 25 per cent of the 13-hectare park, will create all-weather pedestrian walkways, community facilities, shops, restaurants and car parks. But some lawmakers said the plan could be improved. One said most of the shops and restaurants should be reserved for Hong Kong brands. Hong Kong’s traditional shopping districts are all dominated by these shops and it’s not diverse at all. How can Hong Kong survive in the long term if we can’t develop our own brands? Michael Tien, legislator “If it’s not jewellery shops, watches, it’s international luxury brands [in the local area],” Michael Tien Puk-sun said. “Hong Kong’s traditional shopping districts are all dominated by these shops and it’s not diverse at all. How can Hong Kong survive in the long term if we can’t develop our own brands?” Tien urged the government to stipulate that retail spaces in the development should become a promotional area for Hong Kong brands, to make sure future mall operators would not just rent to the highest bidders. In response, the Development Bureau’s principal assistant secretary Victor Chan Fuk-yiu, said the bureau would be open-minded towards making the project “meaningful and successful”. A day out at the sewage plant? That’s the plan in space-starved Hong Kong Another suggestion was connecting the subterranean walkways to the Xiqu Centre in the neighbouring West Kowloon Cultural District. Under the proposal, there will be roughly 150,000 sq ft of walkways to ease overcrowding on the streets above ground. According to the proposal document, the project would reserve connection points for possible future use, but there was no specific mention of a passageway to the cultural district. Lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said the lack of a connection to the arts hub would be a “failure” on the government’s part, and urged officials to explore ways to link the two landmarks. Officials said that would mean having to move a fire station, which might not be possible. The bureau has launched the second round of a three-month public consultation on the underground space, which will end in August. Kowloon Park was one of four “strategic urban areas” – along with western Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, and Admiralty and Wan Chai – with the potential for underground development. Officials said developing the park would be a priority, while the others would be suspended until the right time.