Less commercial space, more public facilities and greenery, Hong Kong district councillor urges for Causeway Bay redevelopment site

A major redevelopment project near Hong Kong’s shopping hub of Causeway Bay should have at least a third of its commercial area slashed to make way for public facilities and greenery, a district councillor has said.

On Wednesday, Yolanda Ng Yuen-ting said: “The site on Caroline Hill Road is like a back garden of Causeway Bay, one of the most crowded and busiest districts in the city. We hope the redevelopment plan will take into account residents’ needs.”

Under a government plan, a 286,140 sq ft site currently occupied by the old headquarters of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department would be converted into two commercial blocks, with the District Court in Wan Chai relocated to the plot.

The move was in response to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s proposal to build a new court complex on Caroline Hill Road in 2017.

Earlier this year, the plan was rejected by the Wan Chai District Council, which requested that authorities include more public facilities.
Ng, a council member, came up with a blueprint with urban designer Francis Neoton Cheung. The design details had been submitted to the Town Planning Board, which closed a public consultation for the land use on Wednesday and would review zoning options.
Ng’s plan centred on cutting down the number of commercial buildings on the site to just one block, and doubling recreational space from the government’s proposal to 129,200 sq ft.

It also suggested increasing the area for community use on the site from the government’s 32,300 sq ft to 86,100 sq ft to house an elderly care centre, childcare centre, district health centre, youth activity centre and community hall.

Cheung said: “Efficiency is not just about the economy, it’s also about the community. The government needs to listen to citizens and understand what is owed to the people, giving this back to them when there is a chance.”

Unlike in the initial plan where the plot was cut into two separate areas for the District Court and commercial buildings, Ng’s proposal sought to connect the complexes with an open area for public activities and a shared underground car park. This would save costs from building two separate basements.

Cheung said: “The government used a very traditional method to cut a piece of land into four parts, making a cross from the centre like how one would cut a bean curd. This is a conservative mindset of the town planning officials.

“Our concept is to merge a relatively solemn facility with the lives of citizens.”

He cited examples overseas of modern designs in which court buildings had been incorporated into neighbourhoods, including Belgium’s Hasselt Court of Justice where courtrooms are linked to a student library and an office tower with a panoramic restaurant, as well as New York’s Bronx County Hall of Justice which has an open and engaging civic plaza.

Under Ng’s plan, there would also be a five-storey basement for a public transport interchange to improve the area’s traffic and make use of a hollow design to enhance air ventilation.

The commercial section of the site was valued at between HK$24.7 billion and HK$27.9 billion, according to previous estimates by the real estate industry.

Lau Chun-kong from the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors said reducing the commercial space might not affect market interests greatly.

“There are office buildings of [developer] Hysan and a good transport network near this site. It remains a very attractive plot,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Push for more public facilities at project

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