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