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Old March 30th, 2006, 05:13 PM   #161
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Year of mass appeal - Market recovery and better salaries make 20,000 new units an attractive prospect
29 March 2006
South China Morning Post

Hong Kong's property market has regained much of its growth momentum, following its strong recovery from the 2003 trough, and several new residential projects are springing up all over the city.

More than 20,000 new flats may come on stream this year for sale, subject to developers' marketing strategies and market sentiment, according to industry estimates.

Alnwick Chan, executive director of Chesterton Petty, says more than half of the new projects coming up for sale are in the New Territories, with Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan accounting for the largest share of supply.

In Kowloon, To Kwa Wan, Lai Chi Kok and Hunghom will be the main sources of new supply, with Henderson Land Development's 1,782-unit Grand Waterfront and Sun Hung Kai Properties' (SHKP) 1,136-unit Manhattan Hill as the key projects.

The largest project sales on Hong Kong Island are expected to be the Urban Renewal Authority's two redevelopment projects in Tai Yuen Street and Johnston Road in Wan Chai, providing a total of 1,033 units.

On the luxury side, SHKP's Severn Road project on The Peak is likely to attract interest because of its exclusive location.

Mr Chan says this year's new supply comprises 13 large-scale projects, each providing more than 1,000 units, meaning that housing estate projects in general involving small to medium-sized units will be the focus of market attention.

Andrew Pang, executive director of the residential department at Knight Frank, predicts that developers will market about 25,000 new residential units this year.

"We expect mass residential sales, both in the primary and secondary markets, to be the focus of activity. This is due to several factors, such as a healthy economy, rising income, a pervasive sense of optimism as well as expectations of interest rates peaking in the middle of the year," he says.

"We doubt developers will offer many incentives or sweeteners to new flat purchasers this year because of the robust economy and expectations of strong demand."

Most of the upcoming projects scheduled for sale are still being constructed.

Local buyers favour purchasing homes off-plan, while government rules allow developers to sell a residential project 20 months before its scheduled completion.

Joseph Tsang, international director of Jones Lang LaSalle, says the primary sales market will be dominated by mass residential projects such as SHKP's Park Island Phase V on Ma Wan, Sino Land's urban renewal development in Tsuen Wan, and The Apex in Kwai Chung and Metro Town phase 2 in Tseung Kwan O, both developed by Cheung Kong (Holdings).

"The outlook of the residential sales market is positive on the back of robust economic fundamentals and improving employment prospects," Mr Pang says.

The movement of interest rates will be a key factor to watch.

Mr Tsang says the interest rate increases have deterred homebuyers, but there is a general consensus that the rate uptrend will peak in the first half of this year.

The government's extension on home loan interest salaries tax will result in tax savings and stimulate real estate market activity, he adds.

"While investors were dominating the sales market in 2005, end users will take the lead this year. Developers will also turn their attention to offering tailor-made preferential packages to attract end users while competitive mortgage payment plans will become increasingly popular," Mr Tsang says.

"Overall, we are optimistic about the outlook for the residential market. Prices for mass and luxury residential properties may increase 5 per cent this year."

Cheung Kong, one of Hong Kong's biggest developers, expects to release about 4,000 flats for sale this year. The company's executive director Justin Chiu says it intends to sell half of them in the first half of the year and the other half in the second.

The first project to hit the market will be The Apex, followed by Central Park Towers in Tin Shui Wai. The other two developments scheduled for sale are Metro Town phase 2 and a project in Ma On Shan.

Mr Chiu says properties in the middle-range price bracket - $3 million to $5 million each - will outperform and dominate the sales market. Sales were concentrated on higher-value flats last year, meaning that there has been strong pent-up demand for units in the mid-price range or in the size range of 600 sqft to 900 sqft.

Property giant Henderson Land has eight new projects, comprising a total of 4,200 units, that may go on sale this year.

Tony Tse, general manager of the group's sales department, says these will include 2,000 units in Kowloon, 2,000 units in the New Territories and 200 units on Hong Kong Island.

The focus of marketing will be three major projects: the Grand Waterfront in To Kwa Wan, The Sherwood in Lam Tei, Tuen Mun, and The Beverly Hills in Tai Po.

"Grand Waterfront, providing nearly 1,800 units, is in a district of great potential where the old Kai Tak airport site and southeast Kowloon development will present plenty of opportunities, making it the focal point in Kowloon," Mr Tse says.

The Sherwood comprises about 1,600 units with a prospective selling price of between $1 million and $2 million each, catering for buyers with a smaller budget.

At the other end of the scale, The Beverly Hills, being developed in two phases, will provide more than 500 luxury houses measuring from 3,000 sqft to 10,000 sqft.

Mr Tse sees the property market remaining stable because of the stronger economy and improved employment conditions, but adds that sales activity in the primary residential market this year will not be as brisk as last year because it is being led by end users.

He says property quality and marketing campaigns are key to the success of project sales because of the intense competition.

Henderson Land also has about 500 units in the Grand Promenade in Sai Wan Ho available for sale.

Sino Land is developing about 1,500 units in its urban renewal project, which involves the redevelopment of old buildings in seven streets in Tsuen Wan. The project will be ready for sale this year.

Mark Hahn, general manager of sales and marketing of the group, says the economic fundamentals and better employment environment bode well for the property market.

"There is sustained confidence among homebuyers, especially when many people have seen their salaries rise this year. Banks are also aggressively extending mortgages and continue to offer competitive loan packages," Mr Hahn says.

Sino Land is building about 200 units in two small-scale projects in Shamshuipo. The Ho Tung Lau site redevelopment is under way in Sha Tin. It will provide about 1,300 units. The group has also secured the contract from the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation for a large-scale residential development at Wu Kai Sha station on the Ma On Shan line. The first phase will comprise about 1,000 units.

Mr Chan of Chesterton Petty says developers will not flood the market with new supply, but will instead strategically release their projects in phases to test the response of buyers.

"This kind of marketing strategy is an important mechanism to control the supply level to achieve a reasonable profit margin and stimulate the market momentum," he says.

He also says the government appears to be reverting to the high land price policy, fuelling market fears of a potential shortage in residential flat supply in the next few years due to difficulties and delays in land disposal.

"We envisage [that] under the current system of government land sale by application, developers will limit their sales launch to maintain a steady supply of new projects in the coming years."

The potential increase in the number of marriages in this auspicious year of the Lunar calendar and a rise in the birth rate amid an improving economy is also expected to drive housing demand.

An expected rise in luxury residential rentals will lure investors back to this market as interest rates peak in the first half of the year. Mr Chan says residential prices, supported by a positive market outlook, will probably increase about 10 per cent this year.

Simon Lo, director of research and consultancy at Colliers International, says there will be a limited supply of luxury residential projects in the next two years, so sales activity with new flats in this sector will be less exciting. The total supply of luxury flats in Mid-Levels, Island South and The Peak will be just 341 units for this year and the next.

After the substantial rally in the past two years, Mr Lo expects the growth rate of luxury home prices to slow to 5 per cent this year.
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Old March 31st, 2006, 06:26 PM   #162
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Kowloon Development plans $2b housing project
Raymond Wang
31 March 2006
Hong Kong Standard

Kowloon Development, a mid-size developer which more than doubled its underlying profit last year, plans to spend more than HK$2 billion to build a large-scale housing project in Ngau Chi Wan.

Kowloon Development's shares gained nearly 5 percent Thursday to close at a 52-week high of HK$13.40, after the company revealed 2005 profits and an increase in dividends payment during the afternoon trading break.

Higher property revenue lifted its underlying profit to HK$638 million for the year to December, compared with HK$303 million a year ago. It proposed to pay a final dividend of 35 HK cents per share, bringing full-year dividend to 45 HK cents, up 41 percent from 32 cents a year earlier.

Chairman Or Wai-sheun expects a robust earnings growth in 2006 and 2007, with profit drivers primarily to come from Hong Kong and Macau property developments and investments.

Or said the planned Ngau Chi Wan residential-commercial project is undergoing site formation works and land premium negotiations.

Executive director Dickson Lai estimated construction costs of the Kowloon project at more than HK$1,000 per square foot, or more than HK$2 billion.

The project will generate a gross floor area of more than 2 million sq ft, including residential areas of more than 1.5 million sq ft plus a 500,000 sq ft shopping mall, which is expected to be completed in 2008.

Analysts expect the developer to receive a land premium offer from the government as soon as this year after making an application to re-zone the site from government, institution or community uses to residential and commercial. Developers have been keen to buy residential sites in urban areas where supply is limited. Sun Hung Kai Properties, for instance, bought a residential lot in Ngau Chi Wan for HK$4.23 billion at a government land auction last year.

Kowloon Development said it earned HK$1.06 billion last year after a revaluation on investment properties, up 105 percent from HK$516 million a year earlier. Turnover jumped 71 percent to HK$1.32 billion from HK$773 million a year previously.

Property sales climbed 80 percent to HK$531 million year on year, mainly from a Macau residential project and a Prince Edward housing project in Hong Kong .

The company expects a sales revenue of more than HK$500 million this year from the launch of a housing project on Ka Wai Man Road in Western district, which is jointly developed with the Urban Renewal Authority.
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Old April 3rd, 2006, 02:41 AM   #163
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土瓜灣13街居民盼落實重建


■尹才榜與十多名土瓜灣十三街居民到市建局請願,希望盡快落實重建。本報記者 劉國權 攝

【本報訊】昨日是一年一度的愚人節,土瓜灣十三街居民趁這天到市建局請願,指政府7年前「放風」說會重建十三街但其後又遲遲未展開,導致業主不敢賣樓、不轉租、不維修,區內生活環境及樓宇質素愈來愈惡劣,令居民感覺被愚弄,要求市建局盡快將十三街列入重建範圍。

土發放風 業主苦等七年

民建聯九龍城民選議員尹才榜昨日聯同10多個土瓜灣十三街的居民代表到市建局請願。尹才榜表示,前土發公司1998年曾宣布將重建土瓜灣道至九龍城道之間的13條街劃為重建區,不過至今遲遲未能落實。他說:「不知政府是因為呢區貼近東南九龍,還是因為第日沙中線會路過,所以一直等,令到居民感覺好像被愚弄。」

由於土瓜灣區內多數是40年左右的舊樓,許多業主一心等收購便不再花錢進行樓宇維修。但1998年至今7年多,舊樓日久失修令居民住屋及衛生環境越來越差,部分靠收租維持生計的長者更因為怕出租的收購價低,多年來不敢出租單位,損失慘重。

住在鳳儀街15號8樓的業主江叔表示,現時區內多數都是長者,經常需要救護服務,但13街的樓宇多數樓梯狹窄,消防員或救護員使用擔架時往往難以轉身,再加上個個等重建,不少樓宇都有石屎剝落的情況,但通常在收到屋宇署修葺令後才修補。「我自己對面的單位都空置了兩年,為等收購,業主都不再租出去。」他希望,市建局能盡快進行收購及重建,改善居民生活。

市建局澄清 未列重建項目

不過,市建局發言人則表示,前土發公司1998年宣布的25個重建項目都被市建局列為5年優先項目,不過該25個項目並不包括土瓜灣十三街。

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Old April 10th, 2006, 12:53 AM   #164
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Ritz-Carlton in line for offices facelift
Lee Yuk-kei
Hong Kong Standard
Monday, April 10, 2006



Lai Sun Development may redevelop the Ritz-Carlton as a hotel plus offices project to capitalize on surging office rentals in Central.

"We are studying the possible redevelopment of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong site," said chairman Peter Lam in the company's interim result statement Friday.

"Given the strong demand for prime office premises and the dearth of new supply in Central, prime office rentals in Central are likely to remain firm and could increase further," he added.

Lam cited the adjacent AIG Tower, which has achieved rents above HK$90 per square foot a month in tenancies signed up last year. Lai Sun has a 10 percent interest in the tower.

Lai Sun Development expects the current Ritz-Carlton site of about 15,000 square feet to provide not less than 225,000 sq ft of office space under current building regulations, which will not require paying any land premium or modifying the land lease with the government.

Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, which is 65 percent owned by Lai Sun Development, has achieved an occupancy rate of 93 percent with rising room rates during the six months ending January 31, 2006.

Lai Sun swung back to a profit of HK$231 million for the six months ending 31 January 2006 from a loss of HK$1.17 billion in a year ago, thanks to the HK$178 million gain from revaluation of investment properties.

Rents for top-grade office space leaped 45 percent to the current average of HK$460 per sq ft per month from 2004, and very little new space is expecte
d to come on to the market in the medium term.

As a result, rents for prime office space in the central business district are expected to jump a further 20 percent this year, according to real estate consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

The present average vacancy rate at such properties is at a rock-bottom 4.8 percent, said CB Richard Ellis.

Kenny Tang, associate director at Tung Tai Securities, said: "The site [of Ritz-Carlton] has great redevelopment value as the market estimates the supply of grade A office [space] in the near future will be scarce, and demand for grade A offices will climb due to the buoyant economy.

"The proposed office-hotel complex will be a very valuable asset that may be separately listed in the form of a REIT [Real Estate Investment Trust]. That will help boost Lai Sun's share price."

Lai Sun Development had once accumulated debts amounting to HK$10 billion after paying a record HK$6.8 billion for a 65 percent stake in the former Furama Hotel - which was later developed into AIG Tower - before the Asian financial crisis and the subsequent Hong Kong property market crash of 1997. But a turnaround in rentals has helped the company reverse its fortunes and its shares have so far surged almost 140 percent this year, closing at HK$0.385 Friday.

The Ritz-Carlton first signed a yearly management contract with Lai Sun to operate the Central property in 1993. It is up for renewal in the second half of the year.

Sources in the local property market do not expect the lease to be renewed this year.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 07:09 AM   #165
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Character never out of style in city
Architects warn that town planners might be getting carried away and endangering what remains of the old Hong Kong
19 April 2006
South China Morning Post

Urban development and redevelopment is growing apace as Hong Kong shapes up for the future.

The city that keeps reinventing itself assumes, like the sophisticated lady it is, a stylish new look for every season.

But some industry players say that this urban transformation comes at a price. They claim that Hong Kong is losing too many of its precious old features for the sake of modernisation and development. Gentrification, or the process of redeveloping a low-rent neighbourhood into a high-rent one, is one example of this worrying trend.

Local and international urban designers and architects have expressed concern about the way old streets, buildings and neighbourhoods are being erased from the map to make way for typically uniform-looking high-rise towers built on sprawling shopping podiums.

Paul Noritaka Tange, president of architects Tange Associates, said the objective of town planning was to create a "communication space" for the community and give a city character.

"In Italy, the communication space is the church," Mr Tange said. "In Hong Kong and other Asian cities, the street is the communication space. It is the street activity that gives Hong Kong and Japan their dynamic character."

Mr Tange, whose company's credits include the Fuji-Sankei Communications Group headquarters building in Tokyo and the Beijing Olympic Village, cited Tsim Sha Tsui as a good example of a district that was losing its character to redevelopment projects.

"Hong Kong people are not aware that streets in Hong Kong like Nathan Road are disappearing as new developments come up," Mr Tange said.

The 39-year-old Tung Ying Building and the 36-year-old Hyatt Regency Hong Kong on Nathan Road, for example, are being demolished to make way for two retail and commercial complexes. Both projects are scheduled for completion in 2009.

And to further accelerate urban redevelopment, the government has proposed lowering the ownership threshold in an old building to 80 per cent from 90 per cent to enforce the compulsory sale of the property.

Peter Cookson Smith, founder of planning and design consultancy Urbis, said that old buildings had a role to play in the life of a city.

"The old buildings in Hong Kong serve social and community purposes," he said. "The tenant mix in the old buildings is changing all the time, and this is very positive. It is part of Hong Kong's dynamism.

"I am not against redevelopment. We should have redevelopment, but I think comprehensive development is bad. Hong Kong is a wonderful city; it is dynamic and dramatic. The problem is that much of the current planning does not sustain this character, and is in fact doing the opposite."

He cited Western, one of Hong Kong's old districts, as an example.

"If you go to Western district, you will find that Queen's Road West is a very active street, but if you go a little farther you will see three large-scale urban renewal areas. There is no street any more."

So what is the answer?

Mr Tange suggested that an attempt should be made to integrate new development projects with old structures. The architect, who has made a study of the town planning of the new town Tsuen Wan, said: "We should have a green area on the Tsuen Wan waterfront.

"To integrate the new development with the old district, I suggest creating a different street scene or theme every 200 or 300 metres. This would stimulate street activity and help to preserve the character of Tsuen Wan. I believe Tsuen Wan has the potential to be developed into an integrated society."

Mr Smith said those entrusted with the task of planning a city like Hong Kong should be "very flexible and sensitive".

He said the city was still operating on a "very old-fashioned planning system". He warned that the failure to review Hong Kong's town planning system could result in the loss of the city's character.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 08:38 AM   #166
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Agreed. Most of the Victorian buildings were demolished...
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Old April 21st, 2006, 04:56 AM   #167
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agreed ... the balance between demolition and preservation is hard to maintain ... decision should be made according to circumstances
however the planning department isn't making any effort to make the
it any better but instead they took the easy way out ...
lower the ownership threshold ... hence complete regeneration
without much guidance ...

Last edited by InitialD18; April 21st, 2006 at 05:04 AM.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 04:40 AM   #168
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So Uk Estate is slated to be demolished and redeveloped. By GK9398 from a Hong Kong transport forum :









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Old April 27th, 2006, 05:31 PM   #169
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Faculty seeks private centre to train doctors
Chinese University hopes Hospital Authority will include space for it in redevelopment

18 April 2006
South China Morning Post

The Chinese University medical school wants to set up a private centre to make its training of doctors more independent from the Hospital Authority and generate revenue for research.

The dean of medicine, Fok Tai-fai, said the faculty had started a feasibility study on establishing such a facility.

The faculty's private medical services are open to patients in public and private hospitals.

The faculty also provides private outpatient consultations. Most private patients are treated at the Prince of Wales Hospital, the university's teaching hospital and the Union Hospital, a private hospital in Sha Tin.

Professor Fok said the faculty wanted to expand its private medical services to provide more options for Hong Kong's people and to generate more revenue for research.

He said it was a good time to consider such a plan, to coincide with the redevelopment of the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Under the development scheme endorsed by the Hospital Authority earlier this month, the first phase of the project would be completed by 2010, adding an 800-bed block to the hospital.

The faculty hopes its private medical centre can be included in the building.

"We are not talking about building a big new block for a private hospital, perhaps we can start from having a ... centre occupying two to three floors in the hospital," Professor Fok said. "We will be happy if the Hospital Authority agrees to it."

He said private medical services would be provided not only by the faculty's teaching staff, who are busy in teaching and providing services to the Hospital Authority.

"We hope that we can hire private doctors from outside, while the private centre could be run by a private investor. There are many ways to do it and we are looking into different options," he said.

"First of all, we need a policy blessing from the government and the Hospital Authority," he said.

The redevelopment of the Prince of Wales Hospital will also provide the faculty with an opportunity to improve its teaching environment, Professor Fok said.

"At present, the hospital is just too packed, teaching is difficult and infection control facilities are also insufficient," he said.

"When we have a state-of-the-art hospital in five years, it means there would be more facilities for medical students to learn such [techniques] as microsurgery, robotic surgery and day care for patients."

The faculty is celebrating its silver jubilee this year. At present, it has more than 200 teaching staff.

Professor Fok said he was proud that the faculty had trained more than 3,000 doctors over the past 25 years and many were outstanding members of the profession.

The faculty will make more resources available in biomedical sciences and public health.

"Our focus will be more on preventive medicine. We will do more research on how to deal with infectious and chronic diseases," he said.

The curriculum will also include training on doctors' communication skills and life-long learning.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 07:40 AM   #170
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Bank's old HQ attracts developers
27 April 2006
Hong Kong Standard

Hong Kong's largest developers including Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Sun Hung Kai Properties have submitted bids to buy the HK$2 billion former headquarters of Hang Seng Bank in Central, market sources said.

Other bidders include New World Development, Henderson Land Development, two unidentified local investors and a foreign fund, the sources said.

The tender for the 22-story office- retail complex at 77 Des Voeux Road, which has a gross floor area of 264,400 square feet, closed Wednesday.

The highest bid of more than HK$2 billion, or nearly HK$8,000 per sq ft, was received from a local developer, the sources said without revealing the name. Jones Lang LaSalle, which is handling the tender, declined comment.

Hang Seng Bank said it planned to sell the 43-year-old Hang Seng Building because of rising maintenance costs. The bank uses about 40 percent of the building itself and leases out the rest. Hang Seng said it may lease back the office space if the property is sold.

Analysts said the property has redevelopment potential amid robust demand for office space and a dearth of new property coming on stream.

The only imminent supply of new Grade A offices in Central is Hongkong Land's 114,000 sqft Landmark Extension, expected to be ready late this year.

Two deals for office property in Central were made last month for a total of more than HK$3.2 billion. Both involved overseas buyers.

Macquarie Global Property Advisors paid more than HK$2.6 billion for Vicwood Plaza, while Morgan Stanley and Pamfleet Asset Management jointly purchased an office building at 139 Queen's Road in Central from DBS Group Holdings for nearly HK$660 million through a tender.

The sources said the former Hang Seng Bank headquarters drew a lukewarm response from overseas investors because they prefer buying properties as a long-term investment.
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Old May 1st, 2006, 02:49 PM   #171
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Any news about Tung Ying Building and Hyatt Regency (both on Nathan Road) redelopment projects? As far as I know, they were both supposed to be demolished and turned into retail and office complexes. Any chance for two new 200m+ scrapers?
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 05:45 PM   #172
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duopolis
Any news about Tung Ying Building and Hyatt Regency (both on Nathan Road) redelopment projects? As far as I know, they were both supposed to be demolished and turned into retail and office complexes. Any chance for two new 200m+ scrapers?
Tung Ying joins the demolition queue
Quirky landmark to be torn down and replaced by glitzy mall

1 June 2005
South China Morning Post

After standing sentinel at one of Tsim Sha Tsui's busiest intersections for 39 years, the Tung Ying Building at Nathan Road is set to be bulldozed for a flashy new shopping centre.

A source at Chinese Estates Holdings, which bought the 17-storey property from the Hotung family in 2002, said the decision to demolish the building was prompted by the consumer spending boom and the revival of the retail property market.

"In such a keenly competitive retail market, renovation is not enough," the source said. "The entire building is likely to be redeveloped, with retail space taking up a much higher proportion of gross floor area."

The planned demolition will be the latest in a series of key redevelopments that, combined with massive transport infrastructure enhancements, will radically change the architectural landscape of Hong Kong's premier shopping district.

Market observers have been speculating over the future of the ageing shopping centre since Chinese Estates bought the building for $1.1 billion, or $2,956 per square foot, just months before the Sars epidemic decimated the retail economy.

The company shelved plans to demolish and redevelop the property during the height of the epidemic in 2003, when the building was identified by public health officials as a site of infection.

According to the source, existing tenants would be given six months' notice under a break clause in the lease.

Surveyors said soaring retail property prices and rents had made redeveloping the project an imperative.

"When the premises were bought a few years ago, the redevelopment value was quite low as the office space in Tung Ying was generating stable rents comparable to newer office buildings in the district," one surveyor said.

"With retail rents surging by more than 50 per cent in a year, redeveloping {hellip} became the obvious option."

The upper two floors of the three-storey shopping podium - which stretches along Granville Road between Nathan Road and Carnarvon Road - are occupied with laboratories and medical clinics, some of which have been there since the building opened in 1966. The ground floor is a quirky collection of shops selling wigs, used cameras and curios.

The surveyor estimated development costs for Chinese Estates could exceed $1 billion, or $3,000 per square foot. But he estimated the valuation of a new building could easily reach $3 billion.

The Hyatt Regency hotel site on Nathan Road will be redeveloped into a building to consist mainly of retail space, according to Colliers International.

The hotel and retail operations in the building will cease on January 1 next year. The new building is expected to be completed in 2009.
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Old May 22nd, 2006, 03:11 PM   #173
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Renewal authority may sue over 'faked' newsletter
2 May 2006
South China Morning Post

The Urban Renewal Authority is considering legal action against an independent publisher after allegations that false information was published in the authority's newsletter on a Kwun Tong redevelopment.

The authority said yesterday it seemed street interviews, supposedly quoting Kwun Tong residents, had been "based on incorrect information". Doubts are understood to have been expressed whether eight people whose quotes and pictures appeared in the first issue of the newsletter in April were in fact Kwun Tong residents or workers as they were claimed to be.

The authority refused to identify the publication house, which it said was responsible for interviews, write-ups, photography, design, printing and distribution of the bulletin in the once-seedy factory district now undergoing a facelift.

Two interviewees, a Miss Poon and a Miss Hung, refused to say where they lived when contacted by the South China Morning Post, but Miss Poon said she is a journalism student at Tsuen Wan's Chu Hai College of Higher Education.

A newspaper vendor quoted in the article, who was alleged to have a business in Tsuen Wan, not Kwun Tong, could not be reached.

"We are very concerned about this allegation and are now conducting a full investigation," the authority said in a statement. "We {hellip} would not allow any misleading and incorrect information to be published in the bulletin."

But it refused to release more information, such as the tendering process, the contract and the name of the publishing company on the ground of pending legal action.

Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit said the incident and the authority's reaction were "unacceptable". He demanded the authority release all relevant information. "Everything carried by a newsletter must be genuine," he said. "No one should fake any information. It is totally unacceptable. The authority must explain what happened and what went wrong." He said he was doing a study on Kwun Tong's future. "I have had no difficulty getting Kwun Tong residents and business people talking to me. I don't understand how the blunder happened," he said.

The authority plans to issue the bulletin every two to three months to keep residents informed of the authority's moves on the redevelopment. It printed 30,000 copies of the first issue.

The eight interviewees were described as living or working in Kwun Tong. Six expressed impatience with the district's run-down condition, hoping the redevelopment would improve living conditions and business opportunities.

A newspaper vendor worried it might affect his business and another hoped the government would consult sufficiently.

The Kwun Tong renewal is the city's biggest redevelopment project. The authority estimates it will cost $25 billion and take 10 years. It will affect 23 buildings and 1,635 property rights.
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Old May 22nd, 2006, 03:14 PM   #174
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Business brisk at Vision City
Speculators were noticeably absent during the weekend sales in Tsuen Wan

3 May 2006
South China Morning Post

Brisk sales in the past few days at Sino Land's Vision City residential project in Tsuen Wan have put the primary property market in a positive light, but analysts wonder how long the optimistic mood will last.

"It's a good start, but I'm not sure the positive feeling will spread to the entire housing market," said Shih Wing-ching, chairman of Centaline (Holdings), which controls Centaline Property Agency, one of Hong Kong's two biggest property agents.

He said he understood that most of the Vision City buyers were end users. The noticeable absence of speculators and investors meant there would be no dramatic shifts in market activity.

More than 300 Vision City units, about a fifth of the project's total, were snapped up over the long weekend. The show flats were seen by about 80,000 people.

Vision City is on Tai Ho Road and Yeung Uk Road, in Tsuen Wan.

The redevelopment is a joint venture by the Tsuen Wan Town Centre and the Urban Renewal Authority.

It is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of next year, and will comprise 1,466 flats across five 65-storey towers. There will be a total of 500,000 square feet of space. Prices range from $4,488 per sq ft to $7,122 per sq ft (an average of $5,400 per sq ft). The price represents a 10 per cent premium over comparable projects in Tsuen Wan.

Vision City is the largest residential project to be launched in Hong Kong so far this year.

Mr Shih said most of the end-user buyers were Tsuen Wan residents who had been living in the area for decades.

"But there's no guarantee the next developers coming on the scene will get as good a response when they start launching projects," he said.

Mr Shih said part of the reason there were no speculators around was because many had stocked up on flats last year and had not yet offloaded these accumulated assets.

Pricing was another reason. Vision City figures were not low enough to attract speculators.

"Sales of first-hand flats have been slow since the fourth quarter of last year. This is because developers have overpriced their products. The fact that new flats will be in short supply over the next two years has been factored into these prices," Mr Shih said.

The Rating and Valuation Department forecasts the supply of private domestic units will be 17,200 this year and 16,400 next year, compared with an annual average of 24,853 from 1996 to last year.

Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai said developers were likely to tempt buyers with a variety of incentives.

"Because most of the buyers are end users, developers will be expected to come up with preferential mortgage packages or free-furniture incentives, such as $1 for a plasma television," Mr Lau said.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 06:33 PM   #175
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Housing body avoids millions in taxes on property purchases
10 May 2006
South China Morning Post

The Urban Renewal Authority is avoiding tens of millions of dollars in taxes by registering only part of what it pays for old flats.

At issue is the term "open market value". The authority admits that in filings for property purchases, only part - sometimes as little as a quarter - of the total paid is booked with the land registry, or what it defines as the open market rate. It classifies the remainder as ex-gratia allowances that are not part of the real value of the property.

By booking a lower price for a flat, the authority pays a lower rate of stamp duty, which can often be the difference between $100 and $15,000. The authority says it has filed this way since 2003.

A spokesman said the practice was proper, adding that open market value was assessed by two independent surveyors.

"Ex-gratia payments are offered to help people improve their living conditions and thus does not form any part of the open market value. The open market value is the market price," the spokesman said.

But Ada Wong Ying-kay, chairman of the Wan Chai District Council and a lawyer, said the practice equated to tax avoidance.

In the five years since it was created, the authority has launched 35 redevelopment projects, and bought about 17,600 old flats. The projects include the controversial scheme to pull down and redevelop Wan Chai's Lee Tung Street, nicknamed Wedding Card Street.

A land search reveals most of the Wedding Card Street properties were sold to the authority for between $500,000 and $800,000 each. But the authority paid nearly $2 million to one landlord.

Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung, chairman of Hopewell Holdings which bought several properties in nearby Ship Street for redevelopment, said the company booked the full price.

"A few of the flats were worth over $10,000 per square foot and we just registered that amount for stamp duty," he said.

A spokesman for the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau said it was aware of the authority's practice, adding that as a statutory body it could formulate its own policy.

Cheung Tat-tong, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, said the authority practice was strange.

"It sounds odd to me," he said. "The authority should explain the meaning of open market value."
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Old May 26th, 2006, 06:36 PM   #176
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Renewal authority's role comes under fire
16 May 2006
South China Morning Post

The urban renewal strategy is not satisfying affected property owners and residents and should be improved, lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit says.

He said the Urban Renewal Authority should consider acting as a middleman that only approves submissions, not as an investor.

A senior official should oversee the renewal policy and its implementation to cut down on excessive delays and time-consuming procedures, he said.

Mr Leong, a member of the planning, lands and works panel, presented a motion to review the strategy at the Legislative Council yesterday. The motion will be debated tomorrow.

He said the strategy's self-financing principle made it hard for the authority to offer better compensation to the people affected.

"This provision creates huge problems for the authority," he said.

As the authority is not allowed to incur deficits, it is bound to take a conservative approach in calculating the amount of compensation for affected tenants - which often fails to consider the development potential of the site, he said.

Another problem was the delay in land resumption, which usually came after a renewal plan had been officially unveiled.

"The practice is very much contrary to what should normally be done," he said.

"You can imagine how the prices of the nearby flats go up after the plan is revealed.

"It ends up that some residents cannot afford flats of a similar size in the district and have to relocate to faraway areas.

"If the government continues to play the role of an investor, it will be difficult to juggle between making money and factors like sustainable development and keeping residents' social networks intact.

"But if it plays the role of facilitator and only looks at various plans and approves them according to plausibility, its duty will be much simpler."

He added that such a revamp could also encourage local participation in initiating renewal plans.

"It is almost impossible for a few interested individuals to initiate plans to renew their building or cluster of buildings. But the government can consider making such local participation possible in the strategy review."
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Old May 28th, 2006, 06:22 PM   #177
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A bold design 40 years ago, now too costly to keep
27 May 2006
South China Morning Post

When it was built 46 years ago, So Uk Estate was the envy of public housing tenants in the city.

Government architects, dissatisfied with generic, soulless housing designs, experimented with a more user-friendly style to integrate the Shamshuipo estate into its natural environment.

The 16 blocks were designed to carefully blend with nearby hills. Terraces, built against the slopes, have become favourite spots for morning exercise and leisurely walks. More than 300 trees were planted on the hillside, and along roads running through the estate. The greenery protects people from the heat, prevents landslips and creates areas where people can practise tai chi, dance or talk throughout the afternoon in the shade.

Many of the 13,400 residents have lived at the estate for more than 20 years. However, the estate will soon be consigned to history.

The government announced plans in March to demolish and redevelop the estate because renovation and maintenance costs, estimated at about $245 million, for the ageing buildings did not make economic sense. The buildings would require extensive upkeep, creating a continual nuisance to residents, it said.

Demolition, in two phases, will begin in 2008 and finish by 2011. Some residents will be relocated to public flats outside the district due to limited supply in Shamshuipo.

While the government promises to preserve most of the trees, botanists, and residents are concerned about the greenery which has become the estate's signature. The government has yet to decide what to do with the site. Residents have mixed feelings about the demolition. Some are excited about moving out of their dilapidated homes but are reluctant to leave one of the city's defining urban landscapes.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 07:51 PM   #178
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
So Uk Estate is slated to be demolished and redeveloped. By GK9398 from a Hong Kong transport forum :



They look fine to me!
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Old May 29th, 2006, 01:58 AM   #179
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A fresh coat of painting can hide a lot of stuff happening inside.
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Old May 29th, 2006, 12:35 PM   #180
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
A fresh coat of painting can hide a lot of stuff happening inside.
so the crime will stop if they build a scraper?
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