Kowloon East CBD plan follows in footsteps of Singapore’s Marina Bay

District seen maturing as shortage of offices and tenants' desire to spread out take hold

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2014, 10:55am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 4:39am

Cities around the world have long competed for recognition through the creation of iconic skylines.

Hong Kong's is justifiably famous, but property experts say the government now hopes to turn Kowloon East into a new business district, following in the footsteps of Singapore's successful transformation of Marina Bay into an iconic financial landmark.

"Hong Kong has similar aspirations and its advantage, of course, is its closeness to China," said David Ji, head of research at property consultant Knight Frank. "For commercial properties, especially the office market, the government is developing Kowloon East in a plan to build a second central business district there.

"There have been some land sales and transport improvement projects there. The government also plans to move many of its offices there. Meanwhile, in Kowloon East, a few new buildings are already attracting tenants and buyers.

"Given the office shortage in Hong Kong, many tenants' desire to decentralise and the planned moving of government offices there, it will, in the medium to long term, become a more mature business district."

Kowloon East - comprising the former Kai Tak airport, Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay - covers 488 hectares. The government aims to turn the industrial area into a business district with grade A offices, an international cruise terminal and tourism facilities.

"International property investors are increasingly looking to this area for opportunities," Ji said, adding that the development picture in Hong Kong was different from Singapore.

Marina Bay, on the southern tip of Singapore, is a 360-hectare development on land reclaimed since the 1970s. It aims to expand Singapore's downtown district and support the city state's growth as a major business and financial hub in Asia.

The area is expected to deliver up to 2.82 million sq metres of office space when fully developed.

Desmond Sim, the head of research at CBRE in Singapore, said Marina Bay was successful because a government agency, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, guided the master planning and acted as the land sales agent and estate manager.

"The key difference between Singapore and Hong Kong would probably be the strength of implementation of the vision of the Singapore government," Sim said.

Several multinational corporations, including DBS, Google, Allianz, Swiss Re, Citi and Standard Chartered Bank, have set up offices in developments flanking the bay such as Marina Bay Financial Centre, One Raffles Quay and Asia Square.

Upcoming developments include Marina One, a 340,000 sq metre development comprising residential, office and retail components, which is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Kemmy Tan, the chief operating officer of Marina One's developer, M+S, said Marina One was in the heart of the Marina Bay financial district and would be the largest integrated development to be completed in coming years.