Weekend Property

Apartments in Repulse Bay’s The Lily come with breathtaking views and bags of prestige – but at a price

Considered a folly when it was first completed during a period of upheaval in the financial markets, The Lily, designed by Norman Foster, today stands as the most prestigious residential building in Repulse Bay

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 9:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 3:06pm

If you wanted to live in a home built by global architectural superstar Lord Norman Foster, you’d expect to pay a king’s ransom for the privilege – that is, if you could find any such home.

The Pritzker Prize-winning Londoner and global architecture influencer is best known for his iconic public buildings, rather than residential apartments. Yet, in Hong Kong, apart from the Hong Kong International Airport terminal and the HSBC building on Queen’s Road Central, there’s a serviced apartment property which bears his mark.

Extravagant in every way – from its breathtaking views and gravity-defying shapes, to its opulent fit-out – The Lily, in Repulse Bay, is a property which oozes prestige. It’s been home to the city’s top bankers – those with a housing package to allow it. But that’s not the only synergy The Lily shares with the HSBC building. Though they were “born” at different times, both were conceived as a sign of confidence in Hong Kong.

When Foster’s firm, Foster+Partners, was assigned the HSBC building at the dawn of the heady 1980s, it was, the company recalls, a sensitive period in Hong Kong’s history. The economy was booming, but consumer confidence was wobbly as the prospect of the handover loomed – leading of course to “Black Saturday”, September 24, 1983, the day the Hong Kong Monetary Authority recalls as the day “the whole financial system nearly went under”. In response, Foster+Partners was briefed to build HSBC’s headquarters as “a statement of confidence: to create ‘the best bank building in the world’”.

A decade after its opening, during the handover year (1997), Chinachem Group owner the late Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum had similar thoughts for the prime Repulse Bay Road site she had bought for a reportedly then-record HK$5.55 billion. Wang envisaged a building which would be “a sign of her confidence in Hong Kong”, recalls Stella Abraham, national director and head of residential leasing and relocation services at JLL. So she went to London and commissioned Norman Foster to build it.

He fashioned the beachfront high rise in the shape of a lily. Soaring 95.5 metres high, with angled windows and curvaceous ceilings, it would become one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable landmarks.

Housing the most luxurious apartments and serviced apartments of the south side, The Lily’s prestige was comparable only to the best on The Peak. Of all the properties in the Chinachem portfolio, this was said to be Wang’s favourite.

The Lily remains in a league of its own
Stella Abraham, JLL

The serviced apartment component accounts for around one-third of The Lily’s total 184 units, each architecturally crafted to frame picture-postcard views of the South China Sea and greenery behind.

Despite the market’s anticipation, the finished building stood vacant for years due to factors including financial market upheavals, finally opening its doors to residents in 2010.

Time has not diminished its status, according to Abraham. “The Lily remains in a league of its own,” she says. “It is still considered to be the most luxurious building in the area, as evidenced by how much it costs to live there.”

You would need to budget for a minimum of HK$100,000 per month to live in one of the lower-floor apartments; upwards of HK$138,000 for the higher floors; and HK$440,000 for the premium penthouse. One of the penthouses available (3,924 sq ft) is listed for rent at HK$300,000 per month. Originally, Abraham says, it was mostly bankers who lived there, but now the tenant mix has diversified to include Western professionals from various sectors, as well as wealthy mainland Chinese.

Apartments of two or three bedrooms range in size from 1,816 sq ft to 3,815 sq ft with all the luxury appointments one would expect, including panoramic sea views, kitchen with top quality appliances, spacious bedrooms, domestic helper’s quarters and car parking. The residence also features an indoor pool, a fully equipped gym, children’s playrooms, planting garden and outdoor barbecue area. The beach is just across the road, and local shops, restaurants and supermarket within walking distance. A free shuttle whisks residents into the city.

According to Abraham, one of the biggest myths surrounding The Lily is that it’s not family-friendly. This couldn’t be further from the truth, she says.

“It’s true that you don’t see children running around – but that’s because of the discreet lifestyle this property offers,” she says. Events for children are held throughout the year, she adds.

“A lot goes on behind the scenes to maintain the luxury lifestyle and keep The Lily as the iconic building of the south.”