Planners think big for Kowloon East
New central business district's main draws include a railway system and huge office spaces, but it will need to shed its image as drab and hard to reach
A HK$12 billion monorail system and the rebranding of a "dull and remote" district are key elements in plans to turn Kowloon East into the city's second central business district (CBD2), double the size of Central, officials said yesterday.
The area which includes Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay and the old Kai Tak airport site will be home to offices - including 11 government departments - spanning 5.8 million square metres of total floor space, or double the area provided in Central, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told a news conference yesterday.
But the area will not rival Central for the most prestigious, prime office sites, officials said.
The new site will become the best choice for grade-A office space for companies that do not need a base in the traditional but overcrowded business districts like Central and Wan Chai.
"This is not Central the second. The most important business district will remain in Central," Lam said.
"From the perspective of positioning, it is essential for most financial institutions to stay in Central. For one thing, the West Wing of the government headquarters will be turned into offices of the Securities and Futures Commission, which will be a nominated tenant in the lease. That will keep many institutions close to it," she said.
In his policy address on Wednesday, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said increasing the supply of office space was vital to maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness, but Central lacked room for expansion. Rising demand pushed up rents and lowered the vacancy rate last year.
Another key attraction for the new district, renamed Kowloon East, will be its nine-kilometre, emission-free monorail system with 12 stops connecting Kowloon Bay and Kwun Tong MTR Station via Kai Tak.
Officials said the rail system would cost about HK$12 billion to build. Subject to public consultation and detailed design, the system - operating at an interval of two minutes with expected daily passenger traffic of about 200,000 - could start operating by 2023.
Lam said a footbridge system, to be financed by five private developers, would link major business towers in Kowloon Bay. The government will consider other pedestrian connections there and in Kwun Tong.
Lam said rebranding was also key to the planned CBD2's success because the former industrial area had a reputation for being dull and remote.
"The first thing we have to do is to remove a road sign outside the [Eastern Harbour Tunnel] that tells motorists they are heading to Kwun Tong industrial district," she said.
Architecture, street art and green projects will also play a role in helping the area evolve into a quality business district, the secretary added.
David Tse Kin-wah, from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said he supported the scheme, adding that the monorail was the "most crucial" element for success.
Kowloon East, he said, was likely to attract architectural firms, construction companies, bank back-up services, information technology outfits and logistics operators who favoured larger floor spaces, which would be in ample supply in the district's renovated industrial buildings.