Another construction site banging near you soon

If you live anywhere along Queens Road East, you may be suffering from the development of Hopewell Center 2. The constant jack hammering (they hit a big rock and it has to go, somehow) has forced tenants who are affected by noise and vibration to locate their business elsewhere.

The dusty and dirty business of construction drives out all but the most persistent of shops and stores as foot traffic drops. The rent had better be damn good to make them stay.

I noticed the vacancies on Anton Street for a long time and I should have guessed that it was the long awaited extension of the Swire empire in Wanchai. 28 Hennessy, that white swanky building next to the Ozo hotel is going to become a massive commercial property with another larger tower beside it. Thanks to the Designing Hong Kong blog, I was able to see what the plans are.

The extension is for two basement underground car park floors (only 32 cars so not even 1 car park lot per floor of each building), a few pop up shops on the ground level (1 basement retail-what could this be?!), presumably swanky chain coffee shops from the Swire group, two levels (in pink) for some varied purpose and a green space that doubles up as a refuge zone in the event of an emergency.

This is all very well from an architectural viewpoint. But Designing Hong Kong makes the case that it is destroying the vibrant street life that existed there before.

I’m not against redevelopment, in fact I think careful redevelopment brings certain advantages to the neighbourhood. For example bigger sidewalks due to mandatory setbacks, more shade from the sun or rain for pedestrians, the renewal of pipes and electrical wires that pose a hazard in old buildings attempting to support the demands of new technology. It could also bring about a better selection of goods and services….

So I took a closer inspection of what the redevelopment plans are all about.

You can see that the plot for redevelopment is about 60% of the block, affecting three streets, Anton, Landale and Queens Road East. Anton street has no street life anymore since Swire acquired the buildings, and Ozo dominates the opposite block. Landale Street is the F&B heart of the area with ever changing local food choices serving lunch to office workers.

Check out the ground floor. There’s some allocation for retail or pop-up stores, an interactive art wall, a bit of green here and there for visual impact (ie nothing that you can picnic on).

What really bothers me is the lack of public accessible seating or areas to rest. I think that the authority granting redevelopment licenses should demand more of this from every developer. You’ve deprived the area of convenient and accessible street-level amenities like restaurants, laundry, printing shops at street level (not to mention other businesses that used to operate above) and replacing it with an office tower full of financial firms and big name institutions. You could at least make some demands on catering to public interest.

Is this all part of the payback for the connection between Admiralty and Wanchai…. the bridge and tunnel domination of the Swire group as an extension of Pacific Place and PP3.

This plan shows the 2nd floor. Okay nice podium garden, landscape garden… is it open to the public? I’ve walked past 28 Hennessy many times and it’s cold and stark lobby area does not encourage anyone to ascend the escalator to the lobby. That pink area designated for office/Exhibition/education.. what is that? Will it be a tuition center or a Wework type office?

Here’s the side view. You can see that the gardens are inaccessible, they are all above the first floor.

The picture above from Designing Hong Kong shows the “entrance” to 28 Hennessy, all concrete, no seating areas, just a stark flat area (albeit with a few token sculptures) beside the escalator. It’s sayonara to the pink building with the curved exterior that (among other things) had a yoga studio, a local shirt tailor, a little snack shop selling the traditional Hong Kong egg waffles and fruit juice. Now we have large cement trucks, cranes and piling machines to look forward to.

As developers go, Swire sets one of the highest standards in the industry. Swire, please find a way to include many more redeeming factors in this particular development. I’d like to see a great connector between Johnston and Queens Road East where people can pass through, take a break, people-watch, shade from the sun and rain.

It used to be that office staff from Central would head over one or two stops on the tram to a bustling local neighbourhood to get a cheap and filling lunch quickly and all sorts of office or personal errands done.

Now, it seems those 2 stops aren’t far enough.

…………………

Make your comment* about this development to the Town Planning Board here. It closes tomorrow (7Aug) so do it quickly.

Thanks to Designing Hong Kong for letting us know about this!

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