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Old May 9th, 2009, 08:22 PM   #701
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Pool complex to have limited impact on trees
9 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Six trees would be cut down to make way for a new swimming pool complex in Victoria Park, but 90 new trees would be planted to replace them, the government said.

The HK$790 million redevelopment comprises an indoor heated swimming pool complex with a main pool and multipurpose pool with adjustable platforms, space for 2,500 spectators and facilities to hold competitions. The project is estimated to cost HK$1.07 billion, covering the relocation of a handball court and two roller-skating rinks.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan, of the Civic Party, asked how the development would affect the park's trees at a legislative council meeting yesterday.

Celina Kwok Wong Si-ling, chief project manager of the Architectural Services Department, said a total of 87 trees would be affected - 72 of which would be protected, nine transplanted to other areas in the park and six cut down because they were in poor condition.

"Those six trees are in bad condition and their chance of survival after transplant is not high," Mrs Kwok said, adding that the department would plant 90 new trees to compensate for their loss.

The six trees are neither heritage trees nor of a rare species, a spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Kam Nai-wai also questioned the lack of a children's pool, saying it would discourage weekend family activities.

Paul Cheung Kwok-kee, the leisure department's assistant director, said it had decided to build an extra-large multipurpose pool - instead of a children's pool - because it could serve members of the public if the main pool was hosting a sports event.

The existing pool in Victoria Park can accommodate 1,700 spectators while the one in Kowloon Park, which will be used for the East Asian Games this year, holds 1,800 spectators.

The government will seek approval for the project from Legco's public works subcommittee by the end of this month.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 07:06 AM   #702
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Revitalisation strikes sour note with bands
5 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Struggling young band members are turning to old buildings in disused industrial estates as cheap places to set up studios, but are worried that urban renewal will displace them.

Darkness Pool, a band of five in their 20s, moved from a Mong Kok office tower to a Kwun Tong industrial building in search of cheaper rent.

They are keen to see the shabby area revitalised, but are afraid it may cause their rent to increase. They now pay HK$2,000 a month for a 180 sq ft room, which is big enough for them, their instruments, a sound mixer and a tiny sofa.

"Of course, we want more and nicer places for performance," said bass guitarist Matt Cheung. "But a better management and design could mean a higher rent. We might not be able to survive."

When they rented a studio in Mong Kok, they paid HK$100 an hour and had to stop at 11pm. At their current premises - where bands can be heard in 10 of the 20 rooms - they can stay as long as they like.

Companies organising gigs have also moved in and bands are regularly invited to a larger room in the building to perform.

Some 6.2 per cent of the city's industrial blocks are vacant, mostly in Kwun Tong, Kwai Tsing and Tsuen Wan. High land premiums and rigid building rules have made the process of changing land use difficult. Some owners modify the land use without a permit and rent their places to bands and artists, despite safety concerns.

Vincent Ng Wing-shun, of the steering committee on the renewal strategy review, said it should cover the revitalisation of industrial buildings. He said their accessibility could be improved and they could be marketed as an attraction.

Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen said making warehouses more productive was a win-win solution.
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Old May 10th, 2009, 07:23 AM   #703
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Old May 11th, 2009, 10:15 AM   #704
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Developers see home market bottoming out
9 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Two developers have injected a note of optimism into the city's residential market, saying that it has reached a bottom and is set to turn around.

Kerry Properties said the sales and leasing markets have shown signs of stabilising in the past month, while Henderson Land Development said the housing market would continue to improve, helped by low interest rates and improved market liquidity.

"New flat supply in Hong Kong is scarce, with 12,000 units this year and 16,000 next year," said Chu Ip-pui, an executive director of Kerry Real Estate Agency, a subsidiary of Kerry Properties. "This is against an annual take-up of about 20,000 units in the past decade." .

Many potential buyers have hesitated since last year because of the financial crisis, but the pent-up demand is now being released, Mr Chu said after the company's annual meeting. He said buyers were being lured by low mortgage rates, and the market was bottoming out.

Henderson Land vice-chairman Colin Lam Ko-yin said that with interest rates in global markets falling and liquidity improving, the worldwide economy had passed through the most difficult period. He expected the residential market to improve.

In a recent research report, CLSA said home prices could see a 10 per cent rise this year, thanks to the limited supply.

The residential property market has been experiencing a gradual recovery since early January, with average transaction prices in the secondary market rising 11.1 per cent year to date, according to the Centa-City Leading Index.

This follows a sharp 23 per cent decline in prices in last year's fourth quarter in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the global stock markets.

"In view of the stronger than expected performance of the residential property market, we will expect major developers to speed up the launching of their new projects for sale in the coming months," said a CCB International Securities research report.

"With the overhang of the threat from swine flu and potential sellers adopting a more aggressive pricing, we would expect secondary market transaction prices to move sideways in the second quarter of 2009, but transaction volumes in both the primary and secondary markets are expected to decline," it said.

Kerry Properties said it aimed to sell a 548-unit residential project in Kwok Shui Road, Tsuen Wan, in June. It would launch a 488-unit project located between First Street and Second Street in Mid-Levels West in the fourth quarter.

Henderson Land aims to sell 900 units this year, including the pre-sale of its Sheung Shui property in the second or third quarter.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 06:26 PM   #705
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Focus on finding space to make old areas more liveable
Recreation areas a pressing issue in To Kwa Wan

5 May 2009
South China Morning Post

In the second of a three-part series on the review of the urban renewal strategy, Olga Wong and Joyce Ng look at how old areas like To Kwa Wan and Kwun Tong can become more vibrant

For the elderly lingering outside the Cattle Depot Arts Village in To Kwa Wan, musical chairs is not so much a game as part of their daily routine. They watch and wait, hoping for one of the few public benches there to become free so they can sit down.

Urban renewal projects that have aimed to replace old buildings with high density high-rises have left the city with limited open space. However, the chance to change the current approach - formed in 2001 - may have arrived as the review of the renewal strategy will be opened to public discussion this month, government advisers said.

The government is already studying To Kwa Wan to see if industrial zones and old tenement buildings could become arts communities, a source close to the government said. But as in other old parts of the city, lack of open space remains a pressing issue, especially for the elderly.

The four seats outside the Cattle Depot Arts Village were the closest thing to open space residents had, 70-year-old resident Yeung Chi-kan said. He lives in "Thirteen Streets" - a dilapidated area in To Kwa Wan named for its 13 parallel streets.

The arts village, which opens at noon, is closed to its neighbours unless they are friends of artists or an exhibition is on. The nearest park, on Ma Tau Chung Road, is too far for most elderly people to walk, Mr Yeung said.

Disillusioned by the slow pace of the renewal process, Mr Yeung said the 83 buildings in Thirteen Streets were too shabby and small for the elderly. The ground floors are occupied by garages. Pavements are blocked by parked cars. Chemicals sprayed in the garages hang in the air.

The area does have a small waterfront with a few benches, but few people know they are there. "I've never gone near them, it's so messy here with the garages and the trucks going around," Mr Yeung said.

Dwarfed by new high-rises, To Kwa Wan is little more than a collection of rundown buildings and empty industrial structures. More than 2,300 residents are over 70 and close to a third of its population is already of retirement age.

Mr Yeung's neighbour, 78-year-old Wong Pak-yuen, said the high-rises had disrupted television and mobile phone receptions. Refurbishment of the old blocks is complicated due to a lack co-operation from the owners. Some residents are too old or too poor or do not have close contact with their neighbours.

Architect Ng Wing-shun, a member of the government steering committee reviewing the renewal strategy, said the current strategy - confined to a few buildings in a few streets for each project - was too small in scope to address the sort of problems endemic in To Kwa Wan.

"A larger site will allow more flexible designs. If we need a park, floor areas can be transferred to somewhere else in the same district," he said. "Then a project will still look financially sustainable."

Another steering committee member, Ho Hei-wah, said redevelopment projects had become less profitable because people favoured a less dense environment. "But we can't just refurbish old blocks. Social problems like urban poverty will still not disappear because a building gets a facelift," he said.

It was worth studying whether the Urban Renewal Authority could acquire the old blocks and rent them back to tenants after renovation, he said. "In that way, the overall living environment can be improved and will be maintained in the long run," he said.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 11:40 AM   #706
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Architects say standards too easy
12 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Architects and surveyors say the Urban Renewal Authority should not feel complacent about satisfying the present green building rating system, which is outdated and even approves of wall-like towers.

They say the present standards are easy to achieve and the authority should adopt new standards when they are updated at the end of the year.

The Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method (HK-Beam) scheme, now being reviewed, was drawn up in 1996 to enhance properties' value by giving them a green label. It gives credit to a new building if it fulfils criteria including savings in energy and water and use of recycled building materials.

But the scheme has rated some high-density bulky designs as "excellent". The microclimate factor, which considers how a new building blocks air circulation in the surroundings, accounts for just two of the 110 points.

Kenneth Chan Jor-kin, of the Institute of Surveyors, said it was not difficult to achieve platinum grade, the highest rating under the scheme. "Builders should now also pay attention to the impact on the neighbourhood, whether it will reduce air ventilation and overshadow the area," he said.

Institute of Architects vice-president Wong Kam-sing agreed, and added quasi-government organisations such as the authority should set a higher standard on energy savings as a role model. "The authority is in a good position to do so as redevelopment in the crowded city centre provides a chance to improve quality of life."

The authority's district development director, Stephen Lam Wai-nang, said it would require developers to make sure buildings in future projects achieved the highest standard under the HK-Beam scheme.

He said two past projects, Mount Davis 33 in Kennedy Town and Vision City in Tsuen Wan, had achieved platinum grade under the scheme.

The government said last week that all newly built government buildings with a floor area of more than 10,000 square metres would be certified under the green building rating system.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 07:33 PM   #707
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Renewals must follow green code, URA says
12 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Developers participating in renewal projects will be required to reduce carbon emissions by using environmentally friendly designs and measures that save energy, the Urban Renewal Authority said yesterday.

The authority was willing to bear the additional construction cost to set an example for developers to follow, the authority's chairman, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, said. He said he expected developers would offer lower tender prices because of the authority's green policy.

The policy, comprising six principles, asks developers to save energy and water, use environmentally friendly building materials, increase green areas, add facilities for collecting recyclable waste, and reduce construction waste and environmental nuisance.

The principles will be translated into specific measures, depending on the site's constraints, and written as tender conditions to ensure they will be adopted by developers.

The authority estimates the measures will add only 2 per cent to 3 per cent to construction costs.

"We will pay for the extra cost at the initial stage as developers might adjust their tender price for the increase in construction cost," Mr Cheung said.

The authority has adopted green initiatives in the past, but by turning the initiatives into an official policy with stricter standards it hopes to become a pioneer in the adoption of new, green technologies.

The green policy will come into effect for the next renewal project - Lee Tung Street, also known as Wedding Card Street, in Wan Chai.

The developer winning the tender will be required to use e-glass as a structural fabric, reflecting half the solar radiation hitting the building and reducing the need for air conditioning. Street lamps in open spaces will be equipped with small wind turbines and solar panels to provide renewable energy. Grey water will be treated and used for toilet flushing, irrigation and cleansing.

"The measures will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 23 per cent, which is an equivalent to planting 170,000 trees," Mr Cheung said, adding the authority would do more in the upcoming Kwun Tong project.

Henderson Sunlight Assets Management chairman Tony Tse Wai-chuen, who was formerly in charge of Henderson Land Development's sales department, said green buildings were a market trend.

"A few per cent rise in construction costs is not significant, and it will be offset by savings in electricity tariffs," he said.

"The properties will also benefit from a greener environment."

A spokeswoman for the developer said it would respond to the authority's call for greener redevelopment if requirements were clearly set out in tender documents.
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Old May 13th, 2009, 10:42 AM   #708
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Coupons fail to spark interest in URA poll
6 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who this year started its first study into the impact of redevelopment projects on residents, said an offer of supermarket coupons failed to encourage participation in the survey.

"The study tried to locate residents and identify the problems they were facing," Mr Cheung said.

But he said the pilot study, which included a survey of people who previously lived in old buildings in Sham Shui Po's Hai Tan, Kweilin and Pei Ho Streets, had encountered challenges.

Of the 784 households affected, only about 10 responded to the survey. Among those, some elderly residents complained that their living expenses had risen since they had moved out.

"A supermarket coupon was sent out to those who participated in the survey," Mr Cheung said. "Still, they showed little interest."

The authority is considering offering other incentives to residents.

"We will continue the study," he added. "The next one will be in Kwun Tong."

Ho Hei-wah, a member of the government's steering committee on urban renewal strategy, said tracking studies were important for improving the renewal process.

"The authority needs figures to prove whether it has done a good job or not," he said. "A tracking study will tell whether residents live a better life after going through the redevelopment process."

Wong Chun, a watch repairer affected by a Tai Kok Tsui redevelopment project, said business had fallen by 40 per cent since his shop was moved from a tenement building to a small shopping mall.

He said he hoped the authority would learn from his experience and improve the planning of future renewal projects.

"I used to give my wife HK$10,000 a month and still have savings for yum cha and betting on horses," he said. "Now I can only give her HK$6,000 and have no savings at all."

Mr Wong said he had lost his customers, who used to live in the tenement buildings but had now moved to other districts.

"In the old days, car owners would stop by and ask me to fix a watch for them because our shop was close to a road," he said.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 04:17 PM   #709
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Swire plans to focus on building homes in HK
15 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Swire Pacific said it would focus more on developing homes in Hong Kong over the next three years while building up a large investment portfolio on the mainland.

Group executive director Martin Cubbon said Swire planned to offer the residential project at Seymour Road for sale in two to three years.

"The residential market is where we want to expand in future. We will have more activity in the residential segment and have some potential [projects] going forward, but not everything is in place," he said.

"We have been expanding our portfolio [on the mainland], while we are still very interested in the Hong Kong market. The market has gone through quite a rocky period in the past five to six months, but we can see that it is picking up again."

Swire plans to increase its investment properties to 24 million square feet by 2013, of which 8 million sqft will be on the mainland and 16 million sqft in Hong Kong.

The company now owns 15 million sqft of office and retail properties in Hong Kong and 1 million sqft in Beijing.

Mr Cubbon said no formal decision had been made on the development plan for the Tai Sang Commercial Building in Wan Chai.

Swire's property unit acquired the building at an auction in December 2007 for HK$1.36 billion or HK$7,334 per square foot, extending the footprint of its Pacific Place in Admiralty.

Commenting on Swire's office rentals, Mr Cubbon said demand for office space remained strong.

"Rental is off its peak, which appeared in the middle of last year. The rate of decrease in rental is not as significant as what the market has been talking about," he said.

Chairman Christopher Pratt said the company had no immediate plan to seek a listing on the mainland stock market.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 05:29 PM   #710
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Old May 17th, 2009, 02:10 PM   #711
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Opportunity knocks at prestigious hotel
Up to 800 positions are available for people with a passion for the hospitality industry at new and luxurious Harbour Grand Hong Kong

16 May 2009
South China Morning Post

The new Harbour Grand Hong Kong hotel will offer exceptional accommodation, impeccable service and unsurpassed hospitality for business and leisure travellers when it opens in June.

Located at Fortress Hill, the 41-storey hotel will be a stunning addition to the skyline of Hong Kong Island, with an ingenious architectural design in all of its 828 guest rooms, including 86 luxury suites. The rooms also have unobstructed views of Victoria Harbour.

To provide guests with high levels of comfort and service, the hotel plans to hire up to 800 new employees. Two recruitment days were organised in February, and resulted in several key positions being filled.

However, the recruitment process will continue to identify good applicants for the remaining vacancies.

"We have found many candidates with high potential in the recruitment events already held," said Benedict Chow, general manager of the Harbour Grand Hong Kong. "Some of them may not have work experience in the hospitality sector, but this is not so important since comprehensive training will be provided."

Mr Chow emphasised that the hotel was interested in finding people who could show that they were passionate about the industry, and who were willing to learn, were ambitious and also service orientated. Graduates in any discipline and non-graduates will be considered, but a good standard of English is essential, especially for people applying for guest contact positions.

As a five-star establishment, the hotel will emphasise the need for service excellence at all times and in all areas to create an ambience of luxury, comfort and quiet efficiency. For that reason, frontline staff would be known as "ambassadors" to highlight their role as representatives of the whole organisation.

"We believe that will help to upgrade our service standards," Mr Chow said. "It is important to let our colleagues understand that everything they do should be with guests in mind, and that we treasure all of their contributions."

New recruits will receive a period of intensive training. This will include an orientation programme, on-the-job training, and classes to become familiar with the in-house computer system. Where appropriate, the basic method used will be to "train the trainer" first, making it possible to pass on skills and practical knowledge quickly and effectively in different areas.

"We will identify suitable staff from each department to receive the training. After the course, they will design a programme which fits their departments' needs. Once they get approval from senior management, they can then train colleagues, while passing on the benefit of their experience and general advice at the same time."

Employees will have the chance to study specific job-related courses to improve their specialist skills and acquire new proficiencies. As an example, there will be regular language courses in English, Putonghua and Japanese, while the hotel will also encourage staff to learn other languages, such as Korean, French and Spanish, to enhance their overall versatility.

Looking further ahead, the Harbour Grand Hong Kong intends to promote from within wherever possible. There should also be additional opportunities for long-term career development among the nine hotels of the Harbour Plaza Hotels & Resorts group, and also with the respective parent companies, Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong.

"Employees will be able to work with the other hotels and, of course, colleagues can expect to be part of the job rotation programme that will let them gain experience in other departments," Mr Chow said. "There is great potential for exciting careers. That is why candidates have to prepare themselves and have the right approach, otherwise they risk missing out on this opportunity."

Close to Fortress Hill MTR station, the Harbour Grand Hong Kong is only 10 minutes from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and offers convenient transport connections to the AsiaWorld-Expo via the airport express. For business travellers and convention participants, the hotel also offers a full complement of facilities and services for meetings, events and conferences.

"The function facilities occupy more than 12,600 sqft, and the ballroom can accommodate up to 45 tables. This is certainly one of our big advantages," Mr Chow said.

In terms of leisure and dining, the hotel will feature a 27-metre swimming pool facing the harbour, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and five outstanding restaurants offering diverse cuisine. Spectacular views will be offered from the top-floor restaurant and lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling windows.
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Old May 18th, 2009, 04:41 PM   #712
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Home buyers slow action
18 May 2009
Hong Kong Standard
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Copyright 2009 The Standard Newspapers Publishing Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Real estate buyers have turned cautious oncontinuing worries about the economy and a rise in property prices.

Due to a lack of new projects, only about 40 deals were recorded in the primary residential market over the weekend - or 60 less than the previous weekend's sales, according to agents.

Most of those sales were at three locations. Twelve homes were sold at Jadewater in Aberdeen, about 10 at Emerald Green in Yuen Long and eight at Harbour Place in Hung Hom.

There were 59 deals in the 10 largest housing estates over the weekend, down 11 percent from 66 sales the previous weekend, according to Midland Realty.

Centaline Property Agency said 59 units were sold in the 10 largest housing estates over the weekend, slightly up 1.7 percent from the previous weekend.

``Prospective buyers are taking a wait-and-see approach because of the human swine flu scare and gloomy economic data,'' said Ricacorp Properties managing director Willy Liu Wai-keung.

Hong Kong's economy shrank 7.8 percent year on year in the first quarter.

There would be cause for optimism if prices and transactions remain stable in the second half, said Pan Asian Mortgage Advisory economist Alvin Ho.

But agents also said that flat-owners are looking to raise prices as they are expecting an economic recovery within this year. Some estates have seen prices returning to levels that prevailed before the financial crisis hit last September.

According to Centaline, the average selling price of City One in Sha Tin during May was up 6.5 percent on last September to HK$4,023 per square foot, while Tai Koo Shing rose 2.7 percent over September to HK$6,821 psf.

New World Development (0017), meanwhile, is ready to move along from Emerald Green to launch its Hanoi Road project in Tsim Sha Tsui, a third block of Harbour Place and Belcher's Street in Sai Wan.

Henderson Land (0012) intends to launch Royal Green in Sheung Shui this week, with three-bedroom units priced above HK$3 million each on average.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 03:54 PM   #713
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Old May 20th, 2009, 03:23 PM   #714
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Water Cube wrapper on HK pool project
Hong Kong Standard
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hong Kong is to have its own take on the "Water Cube" - the unique National Aquatics Center built for the Beijing Olympics. But only in terms of the material used to build it, not its shape.

The substance used in the construction of Beijing's Olympic pool building, a plastic film called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, will be used to reconstruct the Kennedy Town public swimming pool into a leisure center with jacuzzis for the elderly and children, according to the MTR Corp.

The streamlined swimming center is part of the local community enhancement program along the Island West line extension and is located at a car park near the Belcher Bay Park on Shing Sai Road.

The MTRC's senior design management architect, Abdul Rahim, said the film is an energy-saving, cost-effective construction material because it maximizes natural lighting and minimizes heat.

It is also highly transparent and low in reflectivity to reduce disturbance to the neighborhood.

Lighter than metal cladding, concrete and glass, it also saves construction time and materials.

There are two other projects that used the plastic - the English Schools Foundation Discovery College in Discovery Bay and Hong Kong International Airport's Terminal One.

Work on the outdoor swimming pool will start mid-year and it will be open to the public by April 2011. The indoor phase will be completed by 2015.

The project is under the management of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and tenders are still being sought.

The new look for the Kennedy Town facility integrates environment-friendly lines with the makings of family enjoyment, according to project liaison manager Tang Pak-tung.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 12:42 AM   #715
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URA urged to adopt green approach
22 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Urban Renewal Authority developments should be set further back from the road to increase air flow and reduce the "heat island" effect, an architectural group has proposed.

And at least 30 per cent of a redevelopment should be devoted to greenery to additionally bring down temperatures in urban areas, it said.

"Wider streets facilitate better ventilation, which will help mitigate the heat island effect," said Wong Kam-sing, chairman of the Professional Green Building Council, a grouping of architects and surveyors. The heat island effect refers to localised "hot spots" created by building density.

Setting buildings further back from the street should be a standard design policy for all authority projects in the future, Mr Wong said, and he would make that suggestion at the authority's seminar on green architecture today.

A study commissioned by the Buildings Department, which has not yet been released, has found that buildings on opposite sides of a road should be at least 15 metres apart to allow for better air ventilation and reduce roadside pollution.

"Both Tokyo and Hong Kong are facing intensive heat island effects, but Tokyo has already drawn up a master plan offering mitigation measures," Mr Wong said.

One suggestion is increasing vegetation around buildings. In Guangzhou, developers must devote 30 per cent of the ground level to greenery. In Japan, both the rooftop and ground level must have 30 per cent greening. In Singapore, schools are given funding for maintaining green areas.

"Hong Kong can be less stringent at the initial stage," he said, "greening on podiums and sky gardens can also be counted towards the 30 per cent green coverage".

The council, separate from the official Hong Kong Green Building Council, to be established later this year, advocates a four Cs principle for choosing a green home: compactness, carbon advantage, connectivity, and comfort and health. "A smaller flat with cross ventilation is better than a larger flat with little airflow," he said.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 08:15 AM   #716
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 06:31 PM   #717
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Impressed by Hong Kong? Not yet, says Gehry
23 May 2009
South China Morning Post

There was nothing in Hong Kong's architecture that caught the eye of one of the world's leading architects, who insisted yesterday that he would be sensitive to local culture in designing his first residential project in the city, also his first in Asia.

That was what Frank Gehry, winner of 1989 Pritzker Architecture Prize and the architect behind many iconic buildings like the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, told a crowd of more than 100 yesterday.

Mr Gehry was in the city for the opening of Louis Vuitton: Passion for Creation, an exhibition presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation as part of Le French May Art Festival.

A model of Mr Gehry's design for the foundation's building in Paris was also exhibited alongside works by renowned artists, from Gilbert & George and Richard Prince to Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami.

Speaking at the Museum of Art, Mr Gehry shared his work experience and charmed the audience. Asked if he had a favourite piece of architecture, Mr Gehry immediately responded: "Not yet."

That drew a round of applause, but Mr Gehry quickly added that there must be hidden gems in the city that he had not seen. "Surely some of the historical buildings here are quite beautiful," he said.

Mr Gehry, who has been commissioned by Swire Properties to develop his first residential project in Asia at 53 Stubbs Road, revealed that he would respond to local cultural elements in the work.

Compared to the concert halls and museums that he has built, Mr Gehry said that residential buildings offered less opportunity and less reason to be iconic.

The Stubbs Road project is expected to be a 12-storey building to be completed in 2011 with the help of Hong Kong-born architect Edwin Chan. But Mr Gehry declined to disclose details, saying: "You will know when the building is done."

Mr Gehry also expressed an interest in designing museums for Hong Kong, but he did not elaborate.

He pointed out the importance of architecture and the arts, citing his own experience with the Walt Disney Concert Hall. "Financial return could be significant with successful architectural projects," he said.

Mr Gehry said that despite criticism, he paid attention to green issues. "We just don't talk about it. I wouldn't be allowed to build buildings if I don't do that," he said.

The exhibition ends on August 9.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 11:21 AM   #718
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Old May 30th, 2009, 12:40 PM   #719
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Project offers a return to an earlier era
Grosvenor The Westminster Terrace above Castle Peak Road will boast large balconies and a host of residents' facilities

29 May 2009
South China Morning Post

Luxury home hunters will have another development in their sights later this year when property giant Grosvenor plans to place its latest Hong Kong project on the market.

Grosvenor, the 300-year-old institution owned by one of England's richest men, the Duke of Westminster, aims to replicate the success of its Grosvenor Place project in Repulse Bay. This time it will bear another grand English title.

Finishing touches are being put to The Westminster Terrace, above Castle Peak Road, with show flats at the 39-storey building due to open around the time of the market launch of the luxury duplexes in the autumn.

The tower, overlooking the Rambler and Ma Wan channels with views of the Tsing Ma and Ting Kau bridges, will feature 56 units of 3,000-plus sqft. There will also be two 4,000-plus sqft panoramic units and a 6,000-plus sqft penthouse, which will be placed on the market at a later date.

"The project is still under construction and we are yet to announce the prices of our units. Once completed, and based on the market situation of that time, we will decide the most suitable pricing," Nicholas Loup, Grosvenor's managing director for Asia, said.

"A lot of thought has gone into the finishing of the exterior, internal layouts and the best use of available materials [for The Westminster Terrace]. Units this size should be quite attractive now. It's a decent building [that will be marketed at] reasonable prices."

Two prominent designers - London architect Paul Davis and Tokyo's interior specialist Koichiro Ikebuchi - were commissioned for the project after their success with projects in Japan and elsewhere in Grosvenor's portfolio.

Another top name in interiors, leading British designer Tara Bernerd, of Target Living, will steer the penthouse project.

The Westminster Terrace will also have more than 60,000 sqft of landscape and facilities, including a clubhouse, tennis court, swimming pool and putting green. Top landscape specialist Urbis is working with Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design on the outdoors.

But a prime selling point, according to Grosvenor's Hong Kong team, is the substantial balcony sizes.

"It's a person-based and very practical approach to design with quite interesting departures which we hope will be a little different from the competition," Mr Loup said.

"One feature of the units is the large balconies - of about 250 to 270sqft of usable space - which is enough for barbecues and which we hope will appeal to families and set the units apart from others.

"The commissioning of two designers, plus a third for the penthouse, should give homebuyers a choice of designs, which will be seen with the opening of the show flats," he said.

"The idea is that property designs are made individually - we believe that will be a new look for Hong Kong. The aim is to give each duplex a practical and personal design touch."

Mr Loup was buoyant about sales prospects for The Westminster Terrace and said the philosophy of investing for decades - or in the case of Grosvenor, over centuries - meant established investors were resilient, despite local property market uncertainties and the bruising dealt to the profits of international developers, including Grosvenor, over the past year.

"We're cautiously optimistic about the outlook as there seems to be a growing consensus on the market that maybe we are past the worst now. There has been a flurry of transactions especially when sales rest on quality of product," Mr Loup said.

He added that there was substantial market feedback, ranging from property agents seeking to raise cash for purchases, to mainland Chinese and local people waiting for the right time to upgrade, particularly to high-end apartments.

Mr Loup was also able to shrug off the "industrial Kowloon versus fashionable Hong Kong" argument as he looked across from his seat in the Grosvenor Asia boardroom in Central to the International Commerce Centre (ICC) across the harbour.

A combination of business owners with strong links to the mainland, international banks taking up floors in the ICC for their regional headquarters and the fact that Hong Kong Island lacks space and is losing that all-important value-for-money factor indicate why many corporates are looking north for luxury accommodation.

The upwardly mobile and Hong Kong's army of business owners with factories across the border were among target market for The Westminster Terrace, Mr Loup said. And, compared with Hong Kong Island, that elevation above Castle Peak Road meant shorter journeys to the boundary crossing and airport, and easy access to the ICC and the island through the MTR or Western Harbour Crossing.

"If you pinpoint Tsuen Wan on the map, it's basically about the centre of Hong Kong and about 20 minutes from the airport, 20 minutes from China and within reach of Central and the ICC," Mr Loup said.

"If you look at the history of the [Tsuen Wan] area, it was formerly a resort for Hong Kong's wealthier families who wanted nice sea views. Now it's like a return to such an era."

The Westminster Terrace is in the lap of luxury as far as developments around Castle Peak Road are concerned. A host of elegant residential brand names including Dynasty Court, Hanley, Belvedere and Primrose Hill are nearby.

The Westminster Terrace is seen as occupying pride of place alongside other developments named after the firm in its Asia portfolio, including The Grosvenor Place that has views overlooking Yoyogi Park in the centre of Tokyo. After the Repulse Bay project, Grosvenor is strengthening its position in East Asia with projects in Shanghai.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 07:58 AM   #720
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