ON THE WA­TER­FRONT

Kowloon’s har­bour front is awash with new de­vel­op­ments, re­ports Va­le­rian Ho

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

Kowloon is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an ex­cit­ing in­jec­tion of new in­vest­ment along its Vic­to­ria Har­bour shore­line

These days, find­ing space along­side Hong Kong’s Vic­to­ria Har­bour is not easy, with real es­tate in high de­mand. Yet de­vel­op­ment on the Kowloon side con­tin­ues, thanks to land recla­ma­tion, rein­ven­tions of prime sites, and in­no­va­tive re­use of ex­ist­ing ar­eas. One such ex­am­ple is the old Kai Tak air­port run­way, which af­ter be­ing de­mol­ished was left for years while var­i­ous plans were dis­cussed on how best to utilise the land that juts far out into Kowloon Bay like a long, thin fin­ger.

The an­swer seems ob­vi­ous now – a new cruise ter­mi­nal has taken shape that, in con­junc­tion with Ocean Ter­mi­nal at Har­bour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, is driv­ing more trav­ellers to visit Hong Kong through the lu­cra­tive cruise in­dus­try mar­ket.

The Kowloon har­bour re­gion is re­plete with op­por­tu­nity. Ex­ten­sions to Hong Kong’s Mass Tran­sit Rail­way (MTR) net­work make it more con­ve­nient to ac­cess and nav­i­gate, and the ho­tel sec­tor is tak­ing ad­van­tage as ma­jor new ho­tels open with dif­fer­ing USPs. In ad­di­tion, in­fra­struc­ture projects such as the West Kowloon Cul­tural District are put­ting the Kowloon wa­ter­front on the artis­tic and cul­tural map.

CRUISES AND CON­VEN­TIONS – THE KAI TAK DE­VEL­OP­MENT

Kai Tak In­ter­na­tional Air­port was closed and de­mol­ished in 1998, as Hong Kong moved its avi­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties to Chek Lap Kok on the far side of Lan­tau Is­land. The huge area of land that re­mained, span­ning 320 hectares, be­came the highly com­plex Kai Tak De­vel­op­ment project, rep­re­sent­ing the largest avail­able land space fronting Vic­to­ria Har­bour. It now com­prises gov­ern­ment, in­sti­tu­tional and com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties, as well as res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial ar­eas and ex­ten­sive open green spa­ces.

First of the ma­jor con­struc­tions to be com­pleted was the Kai Tak Cruise Ter­mi­nal, which launched in mid-2013 and is man­aged by World­wide Cruise Ter­mi­nals (WCT). Built on the for­mer air­port’s fa­mous old run­way, the ter­mi­nal has three storeys, in­clud­ing pas­sen­ger and ser­vice ar­eas, wait­ing halls and con­courses, and can ac­com­mo­date two mega cruise ships of up to 220,000 tons. Since open­ing, the ter­mi­nal has ac­com­mo­dated 730,000 cruise trav­ellers and wel­comed 18 cruises last year.

The ter­mi­nal has al­ready re­ceived ac­co­lades. Just three years af­ter open­ing, it be­came the first Asian fi­nal­ist for the Seatrade Cruise Awards 2016 Port of the Year Award. “This award is a great achieve­ment for the Kai Tak Cruise Ter­mi­nal,” said Jeff Bent, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of WCT, “and will help so­lid­ify the city’s sta­tus as a home port of choice for con­nect­ing to re­gional des­ti­na­tions such as main­land China, Tai­wan, Ja­pan, South Korea, the Philip­pines and be­yond.”

How­ever, the fa­cil­ity is more than just a cruise ter­mi­nal – its prime lo­ca­tion af­fords breath­tak­ing har­bour views that make it highly ap­peal­ing for MICE ac­tiv­i­ties. WCT pro­vides space for a range of events, and reg­u­larly hosts more than 20 cor­po­rate din­ners and wed­dings each month. It has four flex­i­ble in­door venues cov­er­ing in ex­cess of 3,000 sqm and cater­ing to up to 3,000 guests, while it can also make use of on­site F&B out­lets and green spa­ces such as the rooftop gar­den. Ma­jor events last year in­cluded an Aus­trian Air­lines launch, the In­ter­na­tional Tat­too Con­ven­tion, and events for Volk­swa­gen, Tesla and Aude­mars Piguet.

Vi­tal to driv­ing pas­sen­ger traf­fic and in­creas­ing busi­ness to this sec­tion of the Kowloon har­bour district is de­vel­op­ment of the MTR net­work. Last year an ex­ten­sion of the Kwun Tong Line opened from the ex­ist­ing Yau Ma Tei sta­tion to Ho Man Tin and Wham­poa. Since 2012 a link be­tween Shatin and Cen­tral on Hong Kong Is­land has been un­der con­struc­tion; the first phase of the 17km long rail­way project – set to open in mid-2019 – will con­nect Tai Wai with Hung Hom, pass­ing through new sta­tions in­clud­ing Kai Tak, Ma Tau Wai and Ho Man Tin. The re­main­ing Hung Hom to Ad­mi­ralty cross-har­bour sec­tion is tar­geted to start op­er­a­tion in 2021.

NEW HOS­PI­TAL­ITY PLAY­ERS

Kowloon’s crowded wa­ter­front over­flows with qual­ity ho­tels, but there’s al­ways room for more – and two brand-new prop­er­ties are set to shake up the mar­ket.

Open­ing very soon, Shangri-La’s Kerry Ho­tel – the first of this brand in Hong Kong – has taken ad­van­tage of the MTR’s new ex­ten­sion to Wham­poa, and is lo­cated away from the ho­tels of Tsim Sha Tsui East, right at the wa­ter’s edge next to the Hung Hom Star Ferry pier.

De­signed by An­dré Fu (known for his work at the Up­per House ho­tel and in Sin­ga­pore’s Fuller­ton Bay Ho­tel), more than 60 per cent of this 546-room ur­ban re­sort’s rooms will have a har­bour view, and sizes will range from the 42 sqm Deluxe City and Sea View rooms to the pala­tial 294 sqm Pres­i­den­tial suite.

Boast­ing the largest ho­tel meet­ing and event fa­cil­i­ties in the city, its Grand Ball­room cov­ers 1,756 sqm and is fur­nished with rock crys­tal chan­de­liers, a 15-metre LED video screen and an ex­ten­sive har­bour view foyer (there’s also the Hung Hom Ball­room at 1,125 sqm, and six other meet­ing rooms of vary­ing size).

Sharon Foo, the ho­tel’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, says that the prop­erty will be mar­keted for both busi­ness and leisure guests in equal mea­sure. “The Kerry brand of­fers an ex­pe­ri­ence of ‘re­laxed lux­ury’ for guests of all types. Next door we have the two new Whee­lock of­fice tow­ers, and the ter­race in front of our In­ter­na­tional Mar­ket Place will be open to the pub­lic… we want to be part of the Hung Hom com­mu­nity.”

You’d think that the Tsim Sha Tsui wa­ter­front would have no more room for any new ho­tels, but some­how Rose­wood has man­aged to find the space – and in a fan­tas­tic lo­ca­tion too. The new Rose­wood Hong Kong will be open in 2018, and will oc­cupy 27 up­per-level floors of a mixe­duse tower on Sal­is­bury Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, right be­side Vic­to­ria Har­bour on the site of the for­mer New World Cen­tre.

Rose­wood Hong Kong’s own­ing com­pany, New World De­vel­op­ment, has owned the site since the 1970s. When the Rose­wood Ho­tel Group was pre­sented with the op­por­tu­nity to man­age a ho­tel on the Kowloon wa­ter­front, nat­u­rally it saw great po­ten­tial for an “ul­tra-lux­ury” ho­tel in such a prime spot.

Of­fer­ing 398 rooms, it will fea­ture a to­tal of eight din­ing op­tions along with a fit­ness cen­tre, swim­ming pool and spa of­fer­ing the brand’s holis­tic well­ness con­cept – all no doubt with suit­ably im­pres­sive views. The top 19 floors of the tower will be de­voted to 199 lux­ury ex­tended-stay apart­ments with their own ded­i­cated lounge, in­door swim­ming pool and fit­ness cen­tre, along with out­door ter­races in some units.

“As one of the world’s great cities, with iconic char­ac­ter and land­scape, Hong Kong is a su­perla­tive lo­ca­tion to open a Rose­wood ho­tel and ex­press the brand’s ‘A Sense of Place’ phi­los­o­phy,” says So­nia Cheng, Rose­wood’s CEO. “We aim for this ho­tel to cap­ture Hong Kong’s grace and dy­namism, cul­ture and moder­nity, while de­but­ing Rose­wood’s en­gag­ing, in­tu­itive and re­fined ser­vice here in our home city.”

Com­pe­ti­tion is par­tic­u­larly fierce be­tween the ho­tels packed shoul­der to shoul­der along the Kowloon har­bour front, but Rose­wood has faith in the long-term re­silience of the Hong Kong mar­ket.

GO WEST FOR CUL­TURE

In the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury the Kowloon Penin­sula’s west­ern shore­line was so packed with build­ings and tower blocks har­bour­ing myr­iad busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, that the only way to cre­ate new pos­si­bil­i­ties was to re­claim the sea. That was duly done over the course of the 1990s, and soon a mass of architecture emerged in the new West Kowloon, most no­tably the ICC (In­ter­na­tional Com­merce Cen­tre), which houses a Ritz-Carl­ton, and the mas­sive El­e­ments Shop­ping Mall (next to which is W Hong Kong).

How­ever, a 40-hectare plot of land re­mained, and the gov­ern­ment de­cided to build one of the largest cul­tural projects in the world there, colour­ing the area with arts, green spa­ces, and ed­u­ca­tion and en­ter­tain­ment ar­eas. The West Kowloon Cul­tural District is a com­plex of the­atres and per­for­mance spa­ces that will pro­duce and host world-class ex­hi­bi­tions, per­for­mances and cul­tural events, as well as pro­vid­ing 23 hectares of pub­lic open space, in­clud­ing a two-kilo­me­tre wa­ter­front prom­e­nade.

Con­struc­tion of the West Kowloon Cul­tural District started in late 2013, and the head­land area and Nurs­ery Park have al­ready opened to the pub­lic, with events and fes­ti­vals tak­ing place through­out the year. Last Septem­ber the M+ Pav­il­ion opened, a new space for artists, de­sign­ers and or­gan­i­sa­tions to stage in­de­pen­dent small-scale ex­hi­bi­tions and events in the Art Park.

Next to M+ an­other large cul­tural de­vel­op­ment is planned: the Lyric The­atre Com­plex will con­sist of three the­atres, one with 1,450 seats, an­other seat­ing 600 and a studio the­atre hold­ing 250, as well as a Res­i­dent Com­pany Cen­tre and ex­ten­sive re­hearsal fa­cil­i­ties. It will serve as a hub for dance com­pa­nies and artists to ex­plore, de­velop and col­lab­o­rate in the per­form­ing arts, and is sched­uled for com­ple­tion in 2021.

Last year the West Kowloon Cul­tural District Au­thor­ity also an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bei­jing’s Palace Mu­seum to launch a new mu­seum here. Rocco De­sign Architects will de­sign the Hong Kong Palace Mu­seum – award-win­ning ar­chi­tect Rocco Yim is fa­mous for de­sign­ing the Yun­nan Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum and Guang­dong Mu­seum in China. Ex­pected to open in 2022, its per­ma­nent gal­leries will present 5,000 years of Chi­nese art from the im­pe­rial courts, shared from Bei­jing’s Unesco World Her­itage Palace Mu­seum.

From top: A view of the West Kowloon district; and an il­lus­tra­tion of Kerry Ho­tel as it will look once the neigh­bour­ing green spa­ces are in place

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