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Old August 25th, 2009, 11:35 AM   #861
hkskyline
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Centralise care of drains, jury says
Seven departments look after drainage holes

20 August 2009
South China Morning Post

The government should centralise the management of drainage holes on footpaths - currently looked after by seven departments - and promptly place covers on open holes, a Coroner's Court jury recommended yesterday.

The jury concluded that the death of Chan She-yim, a 68-year-old retiree who died after falling into a drainage hole in Ho Man Tin on August 18 last year, was an accident.

A Civil Engineering and Development Department spokeswoman said that management of the drainage holes, known as catchpits, fell under seven government departments responsible for maintaining slopes.

They are the Highways Department, Lands Department, Architectural Services Department, Water Supplies Department, Drainage Services Department, Housing Department, and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

After the August accident, the Civil Engineering and Development Department advised the other departments to fit covers on catchpits.

The guidelines, revised in March, say catchpits on or next to a footpath should be fitted with steel gratings, concrete covers or railings. But the guidelines do not shed light on what factors should be taken into consideration when deciding whether covers are needed.

Outside court, Chan's daughter Chan Suk-man said she was grateful for the recommendations and hoped the departments would adopt them as soon as possible.

A government spokesman said it would carefully study the jury's recommendations.

Catchpits are holes that remove sediment and redirect water from hillsides to lower areas.

A spokesman for the Architectural Services Department said it maintained 1,005 catchpits that were accessible to the public and all were covered.

The Water Supplies Department said 411 of the 813 catchpits it managed had been fitted with covers since last year. Temporary wooden structures had been placed on the rest and they would be fitted with covers by the end of the year.

The Drainage Services Department said it had covered or fenced off 73 catchpits it regarded as easily accessible by the public and had no plans to cover the rest.

The Highways Department said it covered catchpits that were less than a metre tall but none of the catchpits it managed were on pavements.

The court heard earlier that Chan had been walking backwards uphill in Sheung Lok Street at about 7.20am when he stumbled, hit his head on the edge of a catchpit, and fell into the hole. He died three days later.

Yung Siu-lun, an engineer with the Architectural Services Department, told the court that the catchpit was one of five along that part of the pavement, and it was one metre wide and 1.5 metres deep.

He said it had not been covered since the department began maintenance and repair work in 2003, and no one had complained. Mr Yung said a temporary wooden structure had been put on top of the catchpit after the accident and concrete covers had been fitted to it and another one nearby eight days later.

A South China Morning Post inspection found that all the catchpits on Sheung Lok Street have been covered, but one just around the corner, on a slope near the Ho Man Tin Hill Road Rest Garden, remained open.

Unlike the holes on Sheung Lok Street, it bore no plate stating which department was responsible for its maintenance.

This confused one 71-year-old pedestrian. "Even if I want to lodge a complaint, I have no idea which department I should report to," he said.

Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu said walking backwards was a dangerous act and called on those who practised it to do so in a safe place.
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Old August 27th, 2009, 01:08 AM   #862
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Old August 29th, 2009, 05:36 PM   #863
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Old August 30th, 2009, 07:03 AM   #864
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Paul Y aims for HK$8b of major city projects
29 August 2009
South China Morning Post

Paul YEngineering, an engineering and property firm, expects orders to substantially rise owing to 10 major infrastructure projects announced by Hong Kong, the territory's counterpart to the mainland's four trillion yuan (HK$4.54 trillion) stimulus.

The company estimates its new contracts this financial year will total HK$6 billion to HK$8 billion, a significant increase from the HK$4.15 billion gained in the year to March.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in October last year announced the acceleration of the 10 projects, which are expected to involve a total spending of HK$250 billion.

"As of now, we already have HK$3.52 billion of new projects secured. For this year, we plan to have HK$6 billion of new contracts," said Paul Y Engineering chief executive Stanley Wong Kam-cheong.

It was possible the amount of new orders Paul Y would win this financial year could reach HK$8 billion, he added.

"In the coming year, we'll have a higher emphasis on infrastructure.

"In the second half, we will be busy submitting new tenders [for some of the 10 projects]."

Within the next four months, PaulY hoped to tender for contracts involving the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail, one of the 10 projects, he said.

So far, it has won two contracts totalling HK$380 million out of six awarded for the MTR West Island Line, also one of the 10 projects.

The boost from the infrastructure projects will not be felt in Paul Y's top line and bottom line this year, "but definitely for the coming years, there will be a boost to revenue and profit, definitely next year".

The projects, because of their high demand for engineering and construction services, would offer higher profit margins, which would strengthen Paul Y's profitability, Mr Wong added.

In the year to March, Paul Y's net profit fell 66.3 per cent to HK$40.22 million, while turnover dropped 10 per cent to HK$4.43 billion.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 05:35 AM   #865
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Flood of accusations over burst water main
The Standard
Tuesday, September 01, 2009













Lack of coordination between government departments was blamed for the burst Gloucester Road water main.
Legislator Kam Nai-wai of the Democratic Party has called a meeting with officials from the water supplies, transport, highway and the environmental protection departments for today to discuss repair plans for mains. He said the incident could have been prevented if various departments were better coordinated and had acted faster.

"We had approved the budget for the second stage of the [Replacement and Rehabilitation Programme of Water Mains], which includes the fixing of this particular pipe since 2007," Kam said.

"If the Water Supplies Department had coordinated earlier with the Transport Department, the accident would not have happened."

Kam said one section of the pipe had been slated for repair in April but because of a lack of agreement between the two departments, the work was stopped.

"I urge the WSD to review their progress on the pipes, as there are eight water pipes along Gloucester Road."

The lawmaker urged the government to produce a schedule for the systematic replacement of the pipes.

Kam said water pipes in Hong Kong, due to lack of space, had to run under the pavement and roads and be subject to heavy traffic. They were also less accessible for monitoring and inspection.

Developed countries tend to dedicate special tunnels and sections for water pipes and cables and Kam believes Hong Kong should look into doing the same.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said Hong Kong should have a comprehensive maintenance program to ensure water pipes are properly cared for, and said responsibility should be shouldered in part by the Water Supplies Department.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Institution of Engineers immediate past president Peter Wong Yiu-sun said that the material used in Hong Kong mains, iron, is an international standard for water mains and that it is an appropriate material to use.

He said it was very difficult for the Transport Department to arrange road closures with the Water Supplies Department for mains repair work as the public would inadvertently be affected and frustrated with long-term closures.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 05:51 PM   #866
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Developer digs up only road in NT village
1 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Villagers in Sai Kung fear they won't be able to get to or from their homes after a developer started digging foundations in the middle of the village's only usable road.

Since work began 10 days ago, three deep holes have been dug beside and in the middle of the road - the latest of them yesterday. Each time police have ordered them filled in. But villagers say they have no way of knowing when work may start again.

The work in Ho Chung New Village has been ordered by a developer, who says the owner of the site - now living in Britain - wants to build on it and has the right to do so. Villagers have relied on the road since another one was blocked by containers and construction debris. Two hundred drivers use the route daily.

"The first hole they dug was huge on the side of the road and there was no fencing round it. When it rained it was like a swimming pool and about six feet deep," Loy D'Souza said. "There's children around, maids walking the dogs and there's no lighting at night. It was very dangerous."

D'Souza, 59, has lived in the village of 2,000 since May last year.

Around 80 villagers turned out for an open-air meeting last night, at which Sai Kung district councilor Hiew Moo-siew - who has been liaising between villagers, government and developer - announced the developer would provide a temporary access road for four months until the government builds a road from Ho Chung Old Village.

Hiew said the government had been planning to build an access road for 15 years.

"In 1994, it was confirmed that there would be road access. I have the original documents detailing that plan. This was confirmed by the transport, lands and highways departments, but they neglected this particular plan and nothing has materialised," he said.

Neither the developer, Wong Choi-ping, nor the owner could be reached for comment last night.

Sai Kung police assistant divisional commander Mike Sharp said the Home Affairs Bureau had told Wong that if he wanted to build on the land he must first clear the alternative access road about 20 metres away.

A response from the Home Affairs Bureau was still awaited last night.

Banker Ken Lo Ka-kuen, who lives in the village, said: "You move here because you're promised a garden, car parking and an access road. We're looking for peace and quiet, not all this fuss."
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Old September 1st, 2009, 08:16 PM   #867
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So who put the containers and construction debris on the other access road??
If that's also on private property, let see how fast the government can put down a new road in the village.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 04:24 AM   #868
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`Sorry' water chief insists pipes are safe
The Standard
Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Water supplies chief Ma Lee-tak says he is sorry for the inconvenience caused by a water-main burst that wreaked traffic havoc across the city on Monday.

But he insists Hong Kong's system for checking pipes is effective, despite the 23-year-old one that ruptured on Gloucester Road being judged "safe" by a ultrasonic test just 15 days ago.

After the Water Supplies Department chief said the ultrasonic checking system was fine, he announced he was sending a team of engineers to the United States to look at "more advanced technology."

Ma said: "We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the bursting of the water main."

He said pipe-replacement work beneath 10-lane Gloucester Road - one of Hong Kong's busiest and most important thoroughfares - will be speeded up.

Gloucester Road reopened to traffic at around 4.30am yesterday after emergency crews worked through the night to finish repairs in time for the morning rush hour.

The 45-centimeter diameter pipe was the fourth in the area to rupture since 2008.

Replacement work on all eight sets of pipes that run beneath the main artery will take about six months, officials said.

Ma said work will be carried out overnight - between 10pm and 6am - and in phases to minimize traffic disruption and inconvenience to the public.

He said new technology used in the United States, which they will look at, costs about HK$200 per meter for each inspection.

Polytechnic University's civil and structural engineering department associate professor Cheng Yung-ming also believes the accuracy of ultrasonic tests is acceptable.

But he said it was possible the pipe only just passed the test a fortnight ago.

Ma admitted handling of the incident could have been better but dodged questions on why the department hadn't replaced the pipes earlier.

The pipe burst at around 7am on Monday, forcing the closure of the entire eastbound carriageway for most of the day.

As a result, traffic from Western to Wan Chai came to a standstill for 20 hours, leaving people on their way to work stranded and forcing hundreds to complete their journey on foot.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 04:55 AM   #869
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Unfortunately, much of rural NT is plagued with container yards, so there goes the peace and quiet!
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:42 PM   #870
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Kowloon pips Island in luxury flats
Residential blocks near station break Mid-Levels' dominance of top-priced segment

2 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Kowloon has displaced Hong Kong Island as the housing district with the highest number of top-priced apartment blocks in the city.

Sales data monitored by Ricacorp Properties' research department show that five of the 10 top-priced units sold in the city in the last three months were in Kowloon apartment blocks, namely the Harbourside, the Cullinan, the Arch, Mount Beacon, and Harbourfront Landmark.

In 2005, just three Kowloon apartment blocks featured in the top-10 price list, while three out of the 10 buildings were in Mid-Levels.

This year, however, Clovelly Court is the only Mid-Levels block to feature on the top-10 list.

The data underlines a trend that has been under way since the peak for property prices in 1997, when the Mid-Levels reigned supreme in the luxury housing market, being home to six of the top 10 apartment blocks by sales' prices, while all 10 of the blocks were on Hong Kong Island.

Apartments in Mid-Levels were formerly the most expensive in Hong Kong as the district was close to Central, the political and business centre of the city, and offered views of Victoria Harbour.

While the Peak remains the most expensive area for houses, the historical dominance of the Mid-Levels in the apartment sector has been broken by new luxury project developments in Kowloon, particularly those built above Kowloon Station.

"The luxury apartment landscape has changed since the influx of mainland buyers in 2005," said Patrick Chow Moon-kit, the head of research at Ricacorp Properties.

Fuelled by demand from local and mainland buyers, the average prices of units near Kowloon Station are now much higher than prices fetched by units in the Mid-Levels, noted Chow.

"Property prices in Mid-Levels couldn't catch up with the rising prices of flats at Kowloon Station, as the housing estates in the area are old and lack facilities," he said.

"For example, the average price of the 15-year-old Robinson Place, a popular estate in Mid-Levels, is still less than HK$10,000 per square foot compared with the minimum price of HK$10,956 per square foot for Sorrento at Kowloon Station."

Patrick Fung, a sales director at Midland Realty, believes the new projects at Kowloon Station appeal particularly to mainlanders.

"They like to buy into new Hong Kong projects as they do in the mainland, where the primary market is more active than the secondary," Fung said.

New projects at Kowloon Station were also among a limited number of options in the market, since only a few new residential projects had been developed in the traditional luxury districts in the last few years, Fung said.

Louis Chan, an executive director of Centaline Property Agency, agreed. He said most of the luxury residential buildings in the Mid-Levels were now more than 10 years old.

"The facilities of new projects in Kowloon are better than the buildings in Mid-Levels. For example, the Arch offers residents the use of a large clubhouse with many sporting and entertainment facilities. The apartment blocks in the Mid-Levels cannot compare with such features," he said.

The Cullinan at Kowloon Station has proved to be one of the new projects particularly attractive to mainland buyers. According to property agents, about 10 per cent of buyers at the project held Chinese passports, while a further 20 per cent held Hong Kong identity cards with Putonghua phonetic transcriptions when the development was launched in February.

Also, views of the harbour and the high-rise buildings on the waterfront are attractive to mainland buyers. "They think the Kowloon side has a better view than on Hong Kong Island," Fung said.

"You must also give credit to the marketing of the developers," said Ricky Poon, an executive director of Colliers International.

"The West Kowloon reclamation area has been packaged as a new landmark and the extension of the core business district and this has proved attractive to newcomers."

But Hong Kong Island would continue to appeal to buyers in the luxury segment, said Richard Tong, a veteran investor and the chairman of Coda Properties.

"Location does matter. I would only buy luxury residential properties in Island South, the Peak and Mid-Levels. I don't have any residential properties in Kowloon," he said, adding that only newcomers, who are unfamiliar with the Hong Kong property market, were willing to pay aggressive prices for flats in Kowloon.

However, Ricacorp's Chow said investors seeking capital gains were best advised to follow the market trend.

"The upside potential of the residential property market will depend greatly on how popular particular locations are to the mainland buyers. If you plan to buy a flat for investment and cannot afford to buy at Kowloon Station, you should buy in Taikoo Shing rather than in the Mid-Levels because Taikoo Shing is also well known to the mainlanders."

Chow said the upside potential of flats in the Mid-Levels was now lower than units at Kowloon Station.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 05:54 PM   #871
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Old September 8th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #872
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Opinion : There is more to progress than meaningless construction projects
6 September 2009
SCMP

I would like to support the comments made by Gordon Andreassend concerning the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge ("Future generations will be saddled with consequences of absurd bridge", August 30).

It is unfortunate that our government equates progress with the spending of large sums of money on road-building projects that destroy our environment.

This bridge is completely unnecessary and will be a huge white elephant. The government should be working to save money, not spend more of it.

Another meaningless road the Hong Kong taxpayer will be saddled with is the new Central-Wan Chai bypass, which will further impinge on our harbour.

With the recent building of the International Commercial Centre in Kowloon, the amount of traffic to Central will be reduced, not increased, so the perceived need for the bypass is flawed.

Instead of building roads, the government should look at ways of allowing people to walk along the harbourfront, as other great cities have done.

No other city would even contemplate building a highway along its waterfront. A long walkway with cafes and bars would be a much better way of spending the money that has been earmarked for the bypass. This could be done on Kowloon side too with a walkway with facilities such as cycle paths running from Tsim Sha Tsui towards Tsuen Wan.

Finally I feel for the inhabitants of Lamma, which has been targeted by a developer for a resort.

One of the best things about travelling to Yung Shue Wan is the fact that it is relatively undeveloped and has a character of its own.

I do hope the government will put a stop to this monstrous scheme. At the same time it should kill the idea of the piazza planned for the site of the Tsim Sha Tsui bus terminus at the Star Ferry. Do we really need more shops?

The government needs to focus on taking care of what little culture, heritage and history remains in Hong Kong, instead of keeping the construction industry busy with meaningless projects and giving developers the freedom to destroy the environment.

Martin Reynolds, Tai Kok Tsui
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Old September 10th, 2009, 05:51 PM   #873
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Underlying profits rise at Sino Land
The Standard
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Full-year underlying profit at Sino Land (0083) jumped 6.7 percent on rising property sales.

After deducting a revaluation surplus of HK$129.9 million on investment properties, underlying profit for the 12 months to June rose to HK$3.6 billion from HK$3.37 billion.

The developer's net profit, which includes changes in the value of investment properties, was HK$3.73 billion, down 51.7 percent from HK$7.72 billion the previous year.

Revenue rose 55 percent to HK$9.69 billion from HK$6.81 billion, as Sino Land sold over 80 percent of the units in three residential projects - The Palazzo, The Dynasty and Vista.

Property sales soared to HK$6.81 billion from HK$3.63 billion, while revenue from property investment rose to HK$1.78 billion from HK$1.44 billion.

Chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong said the developer obtained the joint redevelopment rights for a site in Lee Tung Street in June and started selling a residential project named Park Place in Xiamen in August.

The group expects to complete four projects with an attributable gross floor area of over 2.5 million square feet in the coming fiscal year. At the end of June, it had a land bank of about 43.5 million sq ft, of which 67 percent is for residential use and 22 percent commercial.

"The group will continue to selectively replenish its land bank," Ng said.

Shareholders can choose between new shares and a final dividend of 30 HK cents. With a 10 cent interim dividend, the total dividend of 40 HK cents is unchanged from last year.

Tsim Sha Tsui Properties (0247), a subsidiary of Sino Land, said its underlying profit, excluding a revaluation surplus on investment properties of HK$67.7 million, dropped 29.4 percent to HK$1.75 billion.

Another unit, Sino Hotels (1221), said full- year net profit fell 25.6 percent to HK$77.4 million from HK$104 million.
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Old September 11th, 2009, 09:28 AM   #874
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Green roofs help to cool things down
9 September 2009
SCMP

The green roof movement is slowly taking root in Hong Kong. A green roof, as opposed to the collection of potted plants typically found on Hong Kong rooftops, refers to a continuous layer of soil and vegetation that covers the surface of a roof. Think of it as a lawn on the roof that you can play, relax, lie on and walk on.

Green roofs are environmentally friendly. They combat the urban heat island effect of higher temperatures in metropolitan areas created by too many buildings packed too closely together.

They keep rooftops cooler, which reduces the need for air conditioning, especially on top floors which absorb more heat than lower floors during Hong Kong's sweltering summers.

Less air conditioning means lower electric bills, thus less energy usage. "It would not be difficult to get energy savings in the order of 20-50 per cent in the summer," said Professor Jim Chi-yung, chair professor of geography at the University of Hong Kong, who is conducting research on green roofs.

They also absorb rainwater, are a source of oxygen, provide insulation and help protect the roof from the damaging effects of sunlight, which breaks down a roof's waterproofing layer.

He added that well-designed and maintained green roofs do not attract mosquitoes or other insects.

A green roof consists of several layers of materials which together can have a thickness of as little as 10cm or less and a saturated weight of only 120kg per square metre.

The top layer is turf that rests on soil (3.5cm). The middle layer (4cm) of rockwool (silica fibre compressed into a board) retains water and holds air. The bottom layer (2.5cm) consists of lightweight plastic drainage.

Jim estimated the cost of a green roof, including workmanship, labour and good quality materials, at about HK$800-HK$1,000 per square metre.

It's important to have experienced authorised contractors install a green roof. "If you use fine quality materials and have good workmanship, it can last for 30 years," he added.

Grass or flowers can be grown on the green roof. Like any lawn or garden, a green roof needs to be mowed and weeded.

He cautions against transplanting certain kinds of potted plants onto a green roof. "Some plants may require a thick layer of soil, which will increase the weight of the green roof," he said.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 07:01 AM   #875
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Nine bids tendered for Happy Valley blocks
12 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Nine companies yesterday submitted bids for two government luxury residential blocks in Happy Valley, underscoring the demand for development projects in urban areas.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong (Holdings), Sino Land, New World Development, Nan Fung Development, KWah International, Chinese Estates Holdings and investment company Lucky Group submitted bids for the blocks. No details were available on the ninth bidder.

A government spokesman said the results of the tender would be announced by October 23.

The Government Property Agency invited bids for Blocks A and B of Winfield Building at 1-5 Ventris Road, near St Paul's Primary Catholic School.

The building comprises three residential towers, but only Blocks A and B are owned by the government. The two blocks were previously used for staff quarters but have been leased to the public in recent years. The units at Block C have been sold to individual flat owners.

Blocks A and B provide 84 units with a saleable area of 1,519 or 1,953 square feet each, while the gross area of each unit is 1,940 or 2,311 sqft.

As the three blocks are on a common three-storey podium, the winning bidder cannot redevelop them unless it owns Block C.

Surveyors expect the developers to sell the units at Blocks A and B separately after renovating them.

Alnwick Chan Chi-hing, an executive director at Knight Frank, said the developers and investors were attracted by the project because of the limited supply of urban development sites.

"The project has views of the Happy Valley racecourse and is in a traditional luxury residential area. It helps the developers generate higher selling prices," he said.

He expects the prices of the units to reach at least HK$12,000 per square foot after renovation. The units in the two towers would command a 20 to 30 per cent premium to those in Block C. Property agents said asking prices for Block C units ranged between HK$11,600 and HK$14,900 per square foot.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 10:36 AM   #876
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That's where I used to live (block A), when my father was working for the Royal Hong Kong Police! So what does it look like they'll be doing... is the tender for renovation only or to completely pull the whole lot down and put up new blocks which obviously, Hong Kong developers being HK developers... will maximise the plot ratio usage?

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Nine bids tendered for Happy Valley blocks
12 September 2009
South China Morning Post

Nine companies yesterday submitted bids for two government luxury residential blocks in Happy Valley, underscoring the demand for development projects in urban areas.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong (Holdings), Sino Land, New World Development, Nan Fung Development, KWah International, Chinese Estates Holdings and investment company Lucky Group submitted bids for the blocks. No details were available on the ninth bidder.

A government spokesman said the results of the tender would be announced by October 23.

The Government Property Agency invited bids for Blocks A and B of Winfield Building at 1-5 Ventris Road, near St Paul's Primary Catholic School.

The building comprises three residential towers, but only Blocks A and B are owned by the government. The two blocks were previously used for staff quarters but have been leased to the public in recent years. The units at Block C have been sold to individual flat owners.

Blocks A and B provide 84 units with a saleable area of 1,519 or 1,953 square feet each, while the gross area of each unit is 1,940 or 2,311 sqft.

As the three blocks are on a common three-storey podium, the winning bidder cannot redevelop them unless it owns Block C.

Surveyors expect the developers to sell the units at Blocks A and B separately after renovating them.

Alnwick Chan Chi-hing, an executive director at Knight Frank, said the developers and investors were attracted by the project because of the limited supply of urban development sites.

"The project has views of the Happy Valley racecourse and is in a traditional luxury residential area. It helps the developers generate higher selling prices," he said.

He expects the prices of the units to reach at least HK$12,000 per square foot after renovation. The units in the two towers would command a 20 to 30 per cent premium to those in Block C. Property agents said asking prices for Block C units ranged between HK$11,600 and HK$14,900 per square foot.
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Old September 13th, 2009, 06:58 PM   #877
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It's also very beautiful!
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Old September 14th, 2009, 01:14 PM   #878
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StanleyJ View Post
That's where I used to live (block A), when my father was working for the Royal Hong Kong Police! So what does it look like they'll be doing... is the tender for renovation only or to completely pull the whole lot down and put up new blocks which obviously, Hong Kong developers being HK developers... will maximise the plot ratio usage?
Likely. I doubt they'll pull down and build something a few stories taller only.
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Old September 15th, 2009, 08:19 PM   #879
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恆基廣東道590-600號
By bextra from skyscrapers.cn :

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Old September 15th, 2009, 08:57 PM   #880
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Times Square piazza a real people's forum
13 September 2009
South China Morning Post

The piazza of Times Square shopping centre in Causeway Bay has emerged as one of the most popular venues for street performers, politicians and activists seeking publicity since it was revealed to be public space in a row last year.

But while activists have embraced the piazza, the mall management says it faces a dilemma.

It says it is difficult to maintain order with so many activities taking place without prior warning.

The most frequent visitor is an acrobat displaying a piece of cloth with the slogan "Times Square pays back the money" while doing his show. Seventy-five singing, dancing, magic and drama shows have been among the colourful events held in the square.

Political and activist groups have used the space for 23 activities - protesting, electioneering, publicity seeking and fund-raising.

Yesterday, Slow Development Hong Kong organised 12 performing groups for a concert against the construction of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou Express Rail Link.

With the Lane Crawford department store in the background, farmers from Choi Yuen Tsuen sang out in a plea to preserve their homes.

The protest included passers-by showing their support by placing vegetables on a mock-up of village farmland.

"There's no conflict between a mall and demonstrations," said Rob Kloosterman, a 29-year-old tourist from the Netherlands, after putting celery on the soil.

Curious onlookers took photos and wondered what it was all about. Slow Development spokeswoman Wincy So Wing-sze said Times Square, with its fast-moving pace, was a good setting for people to consider whether society should slow down.

Student Frederick Fan Cheung-fung joined a hunger protest over the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in the piazza in June.

"A lot of people pass by there when going to and from work, so the effect was even better than we expected," he said. "Many stopped and joined us, with some observing silence for those who died and some putting flowers on the site. We collaborated with other groups that held activities there at the same time. We didn't obstruct anyone."

Pressure group Local Action, which advocates the free use of open space, has also held several protests.

"The mall is a commercial place. It is a good place for activist groups to convey their messages to consumers," member Chu Hoi-dick said.

Meanwhile, the management says it is hard to deal with so many unplanned events.

"We are in a difficult situation. We want some order at Times Square and we also want to balance the interests of different parties," Times Square general manager Leng Yen Thean said.

A business executive close to The Wharf (Holdings), the owner of Times Square, said the company had called police to report a nuisance but had been told they would not intervene because it was private property. He is worried there could be strife when groups with different political views meet.

The prospect of clashes is high as the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China plans a demonstration in the piazza on National Day, while some Beijing-loyal groups are also considering having celebrations there.

"Police won't intervene unless hawking activities or crime actually happens," he said. "We don't think there is anything we can do. We have been very tolerant and patient. On some occasions we even offered these people water and electricity. We also clean up after, as they always leave a lot of rubbish behind."

Both Fan and Chu said civil groups and the public should be allowed to use the piazza, as agreed in a deed between the government and The Wharf. The deed was signed in 1992 but the public did not know until last year that the piazza was for public use. The government has sued Times Square, alleging the company profited by charging exorbitant rents to users. In a High Court writ it said that for 15 years the company had been charging up to HK$124,000 a day.

But the business executive said the situation would not change, whatever the court decided. "It is about money rather than the ownership or management of the piazza."

A police spokesman said the force would send officers if there was a complaint, regardless of whether the venue was private or public.

"We take action whenever we find anyone committing an offence."
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