Looking at Hong Kong with a bird’s eye view, you’d be hard pressed to see how there’s even the tiniest space in this jam-packed corner of the earth to develop any further! “Find me a patch of land, any land!” They roar.
But that’s where you’re mistaken. You see I wake up (far too often for my liking) to the rather joyous sound of jack hammers jigging, bulldozers digging and cranes creaking — which leads me to suspect, the spot where we live amongst the madness will look well and truly different in about a decade’s time. Talk about a facelift!
This spot is on reclaimed land (yes! I’m officially walking on water). There’s a lot of that going on in Hong Kong (reclaiming land that is) in a bid to mitigate the limited supply of usable land. Since 1851 Hong Kong has seen more than 60 square kilometres of land reclaimed from the city’s waterways, that’s an area greater than Kowloon and nearly as large as Hong Kong Island.
The West Kowloon Reclamation was completed in 1995 and was the largest reclamation ever undertaken in the urban area — increasing the size of the Kowloon peninsula by one-third and extending the waterfront into the harbour by as much as one kilometre and today, well like I said, it is home to some fairly frenzied activity.
They call it the ‘Dark Side’…. this little slice of Hong Kong is still considered (and feared me thinks) by many as an unexplored entity, but let me, let YOU in on a little secret – it’s one train stop from Hong Kong Island (that’s ONE, you Hong Kongers). 😉
Back in the day, the Kowloon Peninsula served as one of the first destinations for escape during China’s dynastic times. (Why would you go anywhere else?) Apparently, the story goes: In 1287, the last emperor of the Song Dynasty, was fleeing from the mongol leader when he took refuge in a cave in the Kowloon peninsula. (Was that cave possibly WooBAR at the W?)
Nope, just a twinkle in Mr Starwood’s eye back then but today, the W Hotel stands tall and proud next to Ritz Carlton which occupies part of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre. As the 7th tallest building in the world, this whopping skyscraper boasts 118 stories (some of which have a tendency to disappear into the clouds on those, err ‘smoggy’ days) and is part of the Union Square project built on top of Kowloon Station.
Trivial ICC facts: It was meant to be even taller but the height was scaled back from earlier plans due to regulations that did not allow buildings to be taller than the surrounding mountains. The ICC is not without a dark past either and construction work was temporarily halted in September 2009 when an elevator shaft accident killed six workers.
Kowloon Station and all that decorates it is a ten minute cab ride from the buzzing shopping hub of Tsim Sha Tsui and not far from mighty Mongkok, the busiest spot in the world. If you don’t believe me…check this post out.
With five residential blocks (each block containing at least two high-rises above Kowloon Station housing over 5000 units, connecting to the city’s largest shopping centre, Elements (which includes an ice skating rink, the city’s biggest movie theatre complex and over 20 eateries) plus an alfresco dining area flanked with international restaurants, Kowloon is becoming a force to be reckoned with…and naturally real estate has skyrocketed! Kudos to the smart ones who bought an apartment here when it was all beginning – now valued at on average HK$16-million!!
And so now it expands…to the right of us West Kowloon Terminus is to blame for that constant thunder of construction – and I’m not just talking about a couple of cranes there and a digger here. There are actually 400 tunnel-boring machine operators carving out tunnel with an army of cranes and around 7000 workers on site….all this making up a constant
drone hum in my day, which mostly and thankfully, I don’t even notice anymore. (Panadol anyone!)
West Kowloon Terminus is the terminus of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link set on 25 acres. Featuring 15 platforms, it will be set up with Hong Kong customs and immigration facilities for passengers to avoid stops at the border into China.
The HK$66.9bn (£5.47bn) project will provide a 26 kilometre wholly underground link between the Kowloon terminus to Huanggang in Shenzhen, connecting in to the mainland’s rapidly growing high speed rail network.
It is expected that by 2016, the West Kowloon Terminus daily number of passengers carried will be about 99,000 feeding into at least 16 major destinations in mainland China. Also good news for those retail outlets in Elements currently sitting idly much of the time. It seems there is a method to their madness. You can read more about that here.
The terminal will extend into the underground area of the West Kowloon Cultural District (also under construction to the left) with extensive green garden and parklands stretching across the roof area of the station.
With the first phase to be completed by 2020, and the second expected to be completed by 2026, it’s hoped this new vibrant cultural quarter prominently located harbourside will strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international arts and cultural metropolis.
The largest art and cultural facility in Hong Kong, the park will include a 7,000m² area featuring a free space theatre, the music box, an outdoor stage, lawn, and art pavilions. The music box will have 150 to 300 seats and feature a bar and cafe with local live music. With seats integrated into the landscaped slopes of the park, the area will be capable of accommodating 6,000 to 10,000 people during events!
It will also boast an M+Museum inspired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which was built on the waterfront of the Victoria Harbour. The M+Museum is expected to be completed by 2017 . The Xiqu Centre will be a world-class arts venue specifically built for Xiqu (Chinese opera) performances, and it will also serve as a centre for the production, education and research of this unique art form.
The whole thing directly financed by the government with an upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion for construction and operation!
It seems there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel for the dark side.
See you there…