Hong Kong’s good fortune: Happy Valley’s horse racing brings prosperity to former swampland
The area offered the only flat ground suitable for horse racing on Hong Kong Island
Thousands of people pack into Happy Valley every Wednesday night for the weekly horse racing, one of two weekly race meetings held in the city. The other is every weekend at Sha Tin.
The racecourse was built in 1845 to provide entertainment for the British. The area was previously swampland, but also offered the only flat ground suitable for racing on Hong Kong Island.
According to news reports, the government prohibited rice growing by villages in the surrounding area to make way for the racecourse. Since the first race took place in December 1846, horse racing grew in popularity among the Chinese residents until it became a weekly feature. The race track was rebuilt in 1995, when it was turned into a world-class horse racing facility.
The racecourse is just one feature of this affluent residential area, which stretches right up to Stubbs Road and beyond.
The area is also sometimes known as Wong Nai Chung Kuk or Wong Nai Chung Valley because of the Wong Nai Chung, or yellow mud, stream that leads into the area.
Along the racecourse road are a number of prominent residential buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s, with spacious flats ranging from 800 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft.
Agents say that homes located on Sing Woo Road, Blue Pool Road and Stubbs Road are also very popular with expatriates and rentals range from HK$15,000 to more than HK$150,000, depending on the area and location. Rentals for smaller flats in some older buildings can be slightly cheaper.
Agents say that Happy Valley is one of the most popular districts among expats looking to rent accommodation because it is entirely residential and close to the central business district. Happy Valley has attracted young upwardly mobile professionals from elsewhere on the island in recent years because of a number of good schools and a relaxed lifestyle with restaurants and hospitals.
Ricky Chan, an agent for Ricacorp Property Agency, says that good rental deals can be found in Sing Woo Road, with its mix of old and newer developments. “In some of the older developments built in the ’70s and ’80s one can find rentals from HK$12,000 per month,” Chan says. But he adds that such low rents would only be sufficient to land a small place of 350 sq ft to 450 sq ft.
Daniel Ng of Midland Realty says the location of the flat is more important than the size, for single expats or a young couple. Happy Valley offers a convenient 15- to 20-minute commute to Central or Admiralty by bus or taxi. He also suggests that with Causeway Bay and Wan Chai just 10 minutes away, the property values in the area have shot up by almost 20 per cent in recent years.
Blue Pool Road in the upper reaches of Happy Valley has luxury developments with bigger apartments.
Hang Lung Development’s luxury project at 23-39 Blue Pool Road is in a prime location. The project is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and comprises 18 luxurious three-storey residences with a saleable area from 4,571 sq ft to 4,599 sq ft. According to the developer, the complex received a Gold Level certificate from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for homes programme and a Certificate of Excellence in Architecture (Best Residential) in the professional category at the 10th Perspective Awards in 2013.
Village Tower in Village Road has apartments on sale from HK$12 million upwards. Property prices in the road start from HK$12,000 per square foot.
Happy Valley has popular serviced apartments such as Eaton Residences, Eight Kwai Fong and The Ventris, which offer services to the business traveller such as long-term packages.
The Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital offers top-class medical facilities. It is one of the leading private hospitals in Hong Kong known for its quality patient care.
The hospital was known as The Yeung Wo Nursing Home at its founding in 1922 with 28 beds. Today, it has around 500 beds and more than 30 speciality centres, offering diagnostic and therapeutic services.