Hong Kong property

Nan Fung Development’s Kai Tak project targets start-ups and creative enterprises

Nan Fung Development paid a Hong Kong record of HK$24.6 billion for a commercial site in Kai Tak in May. Now the developer is revealing its plans for the Kowloon East site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 October, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 October, 2017, 7:55pm

Imagine your office across a big park, besides a river and next to an MTR station in the heart of the city.

Nan Fung Development has envisioned something similar with its commercial site in the Kai Tak area, which promises to be a unique selling point in the city’s next central business district, and something which is currently not on offer in Central.

“Our site is situated beside the Kai Tak River, next to the proposed Kai Tak MTR station and across from a big garden. Together with nearby cultural and leisure facilities under construction, the whole area will attract start-ups and creative enterprises,” said Donald Choi, managing director of Nan Fung Development.

In May, cash rich Nan Fung Development, the textile producer that morphed into the developer of Hong Kong’s most exclusive real estate, won a commercial site in Kai Tak area for a record HK$24.6 billion (US$3.16 billion), smashing the previous world record set by the Murray Road site in Central during the same month.

The Kowloon East site, designated for office, retail or hotel development, will yield a total gross floor area of 1.91 million square feet.

The price represents HK$12,863 per square foot, 91 per cent higher than a nearby site won by Sogo department operator Lifestyle International Holdings in November, 2016. The department store operators won the site to house Hong Kong’s first iconic twin towers, for HK$7.39 billion, or HK$6,733 per sq ft.

Choi noted there were major changes underway in modern office working culture.

“The fast growth of co-sharing offices has already become a global trend. But our new project in Kai Tak will go further than this concept,” said Choi, who started his career as an architect.

“In future, people will just switch on their computers and begin working in our [Kai Tak] shopping mall’s coffee shop, pubs or open spaces once they come in,” he said. “They can also work while sitting on the grassland besides the river.”

Choi also expressed concern about sky rocketing construction cost.

He urged the government to help ease the burden of the world’s most expensive construction costs by looking to innovative approaches used in other centres.

For example, Hong Kong could learn from the US where whole apartments can be prefabricated and then assembled on site.

These components will click and seal together to form modular high-rise buildings, he said.

“It is not only to reduce cost but also to speed construction and enhance safety in the building industry,” he said.

He urged the Hong Kong government to allocate land for producing prefabricated apartments for the whole industry.

“It works similar to a central kitchen which distributes ready made lunchboxes to different parts of Hong Kong. For the construction industry, whole apartments can be precast in the factory and transferred to different construction sites for assembling,” he said.

At present, lots of procedures are still performed on construction sites despite tiny plots, he said, adding that a shortage of construction workers is another reason to increase automation.

Choi, who will step down as managing director at Nan Fung Development by the end of this year, remained tight-lipped about his next move.

But industry sources said he may take up a role at Chinachem Group as chief executive early next year.