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Old May 5th, 2008, 05:00 AM   #81
Jim856796
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That's it. Because of all the controversy surrounding this project, I don't want the Hopewell Mega Tower Hotel built anymore. It needs to be cancelled.
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Old May 22nd, 2008, 07:40 AM   #82
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Council opposes Mega Tower roadworks
21 May 2008
South China Morning Post

Wan Chai District Council has urged the government to reassess the affect on traffic of Hopewell Holdings' controversial planned Mega Tower.

The council yesterday passed a motion opposing planned roadworks designed to relieve predicted traffic pressure after completion of the 93-storey hotel tower until it has been given details of the work and its traffic concerns have been allayed.

Citing a traffic impact assessment report by Hopewell, Transport Department chief traffic engineer Cheng Hung-leung said an extra 500 small vehicles would pass along Kennedy Road each hour when the building was finished, bringing the total to 1,100 an hour.

But councillors challenged the neutrality of the developer's assessment.

"Why didn't the Transport Department conduct its own assessment? It would be much more credible. Will the department do it?" councillor Anna Tang King-yung asked.

But Mr Cheng defended Hopewell's report. "We made our proposals after seeing that Hopewell's estimates of pedestrian and vehicle flows were reasonable," he said.

The government last month proposed a series of traffic improvement works to the council's development, planning and transport committee based on the developer's report.

The proposals included widening a section of Kennedy Road near the entrance to the tower, roadwork on Spring Garden Lane and shortening green-light times on some traffic lights. But councillors were not convinced of their effectiveness.

Deputy Secretary for Development Susan Mak Lok Suet-ling said the proposed works were scheduled to be gazetted next month and the public could submit views within a 60-day consultation period.

More than 20 neighbourhood residents who attended yesterday's meeting displayed protest banners in the council meeting room and booed officials.

Kennedy Road Concern Group convenor Sally Ho Emmerton said she was very disappointed with the government's responses. The group has filed a complaint with the Legislative Council complaints division.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 11:30 AM   #83
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MegaTower case raises basic issues
11 June 2008
South China Morning Post

The role of the Town Planning Board, according to the Town Planning Ordinance, is "to promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community by making provision for the systematic preparation and approval of plans for the layout of areas of Hong Kong as well as for the buildings suitable for erection therein, and for the preparation and approval of plans for areas within which permission is required for development".

The question now being asked, however, is whether the ordinance is capable of delivering this objective. If my understanding of the sequence of events linked to the proposed MegaTower Hotel on Kennedy Road is correct, the answer is "no".

In April 1985, the planning board accepted a development plan for a hotel with a gross floor area of 1,142,650 square feet on a 76,175 sq ft site on Kennedy Road which would lie alongside a public park of 63,290 sq ft. In June of the same year, the area was zoned OU(CRA), or comprehensive redevelopment area.

This zoning "is intended primarily to encourage the redevelopment of this area into commercial uses with the provision of public open space and other supporting facilities.

"The zoning is to facilitate appropriate planning control over the development mix, scale, design and layout of development, taking account of various environmental, traffic, infrastructure and other constraints," according to the notes attached to the outline zoning plan.

Because of the road layout and the sloping nature of the terrain, the development of the CRA not only affects its neighbours on Kennedy Road itself but also on Queens Road East and Wan Chai District, as the site is immediately adjacent to Hopewell Centre.

In January 1994, the planning board approved an application made under Section 16 of the planning ordinance to develop a 93-storey hotel (MegaTower Hotel) with 1.77 million sq ft of gross floor area on a 111,030 sq ft site flanked by a public park of only 21,850 sq ft. In addition to more than 2,000 hotels rooms, the development provided 440,000 sq ft of retail space and 270 car parks. The plot ratio was 15.91.

Following this Section 16 approval, the developer applied for general building plan approval, which it received in May 1994. Part of the approved development was to take place on government land the developer needed to acquire, but no acquisition took place.

In November 2003, however, the developer made a presentation to the Wan Chai District Council and it was noted in the minutes that the 1994 Section 16 approval had lapsed.

In April 2004, a fresh application under Section 16 was submitted to the planning board for a hotel comprising two blocks of 60 storeys each, but this was rejected on grounds the scale of the development was not compatible with the medium-density environment on Kennedy Road and concerns regarding the increased volume of traffic it would generate on Kennedy Road and Queens Road East.

The developer then submitted a Section 17 review application to the board in February 2005 and proposed that the plot ratio should be reduced to 14.5 and both blocks should be 58 storeys in height.

The board again rejected this proposal, saying the scale of development was excessive, there would be significant visual impact on the neighbourhood, there would be adverse traffic impact on Kennedy Road, and that the development would require excessive tree felling.

In the meantime, despite the controversial nature of the development, in June 2004, a member of the Planning Department agreed to a minor amendment to the 1994 scheme on the basis that the approval of the May 1994 plan constituted a commencement of development and subsequently the building plan was also amended to reflect the Section 16 amendment.

At the same time, the planning board rezoned several smaller sites along Queen's Road East as open space, as it was considered that this part of Wan Chai was becoming too densely developed.

In June 2005, the developer appealed the rejection of the Section 17 review but withdrew this appeal recently. It also announced an intention to proceed with the still extant 1994 approved scheme and to enter into negotiations to acquire the government-owned land required for its construction.

So much therefore for the history of the case, but it does raise several fundamental questions about the operation of our planning system in Hong Kong.

Specifically, one has to ask why officials within both the Planning and Buildings departments permit plans to be amended so as to reactivate earlier approvals.

What has changed since the board refused development in April 2004 on the grounds of excessive scale and traffic concerns?

Nothing, except that the sites zoned as open space and which made up part of the 1994 scheme have now been developed (despite still being zoned as open space), and traffic along both Kennedy Road and Queen's Road East has continued to worsen since 2004.

Other questions that beg for answers are: why is the government planning to sell to a private developer the government-owned land that is required to undertake this controversial scheme, when such scheme has failed to attract public support and contravenes the government's own guidelines? And what attention has been given to the problems of increased traffic?

No independent traffic assessment has been undertaken and this is the minimum that should be done before gazetting the proposed flyover/tunnel for vehicle access to and from Kennedy Road by MegaTower visitors or any sale of government land that would enable the hotel project to go forward.

Furthermore, the road works required to enable access to and from the development will be extremely disruptive.

The Wan Chai District Council has also urged government to reassess the effect of traffic generated by the MegaTower Hotel on the area. It adopted a motion on May 20 opposing planned Transport Department road works designed to relieve traffic pressures after completion of the hotel until it had received details of the work and its traffic concerns had been allayed.

The further loss of open space in the area will affect air quality and visual appeal and a preferable alternative to selling to a private developer to the detriment of the local community would be for the government to retain the site's existing state - undeveloped and zoned as a green belt.

The government claims that, because of the 1994 Section 16 approval, the Lands Department is now under an obligation to exchange land with the developer to facilitate the development of the project.

The basis for this claim is not clear. All Section 16 decisions include a section stating: "This approval by the board under Section 16 of Town Planning Ordinance should not be taken to indicate that any other government approval which may be needed in connection with the development will be given."

My understanding based on other cases with which I have been involved is that the planning board is an independent statutory body and cannot bind government departments.

Clearly, the history of the MegaTower project raises concern that the systems for approving development projects in Hong Kong do not function as intended.

How can schemes approved some 14 years ago be developed despite significant changes in the neighbourhood in the interim?

Why does the government claim that it is "obliged" to sell land to a developer in the face of public opposition? Where is the demonstration of the government's commitment not just to engage the community but, more particularly, to listen?

Are there no inherent dangers in a system that allows lapsed plans suddenly to become reactivated? If the open space has now been developed, albeit still zoned as open space, does this not change the parameters to such an extent that the original zoning objectives can no longer be fulfilled?

Nicholas Brooke is the chairman of Planning Alliance, an association formed at the end of last year comprising a group of professionals, the majority of whom are actively involved in planning issues in Hong Kong. He also runs his company, Professional Property Services Group.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 08:05 PM   #84
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IMO, we have a long way to go in learning and forming a good or a even more structured permitting process. MegaTower is really a wake up point to review the process, but unfortunately, we don't have enough expert at this point of time. sigh....
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Old June 11th, 2008, 08:38 PM   #85
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I love the design.
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Old June 11th, 2008, 08:44 PM   #86
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i wonder if i can see the real thing before my funeral.
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Old June 12th, 2008, 07:45 PM   #87
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I don't think it's a common thing for so much time to pass between approval and shovelling. Part of the fault goes to the developers for sitting on things for so long while the rest of the world changed.
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Old June 20th, 2008, 09:04 PM   #88
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Mega Tower project controversy reflects badly on government
28 May 2008
South China Morning Post

Our government often talks about the need for an open, fair and transparent administration.

Yet what fundamental rights does the ordinary citizen have?

The recent revival of the Mega Tower Hotel project exposes the contradictions within the administration and shows the government's lack of consideration for the well-being of Kennedy Road and Wan Chai residents.

This is a government that continues to kowtow to large developers.

Without public consultation, the Lands Department resumed negotiations with Hopewell Holdings on the outdated Mega Tower Hotel project and presented a consultation to Wan Chai District Council.

Instead of including the many negative impacts of the project to Kennedy Road and Wan Chai at large, it focused on proposed road "improvement" work on Kennedy Road, comprising a large flyover and a tunnel.

These so-called improvements would be directly in front of two residential blocks on Kennedy Road, and part of a slope would be removed as would several trees on that slope.

In essence, what we are talking about is a large hotel, based on outdated plans, which will cause disruption to available open space and lead to worse traffic conditions.

What further outraged residents is that the government will sell public land to Hopewell Holdings so it can go ahead with its project and it will amount to 51 per cent of the final project area.

This raises concerns of favouritism on the part of the government. After several letters and phone calls made by residents, the chairman of Wan Chai District Council finally confirmed that he objected to the hotel proposal.

Yet, he would not give details of what action he would take, nor has he publicly notified Kennedy Road residents about his objection.

Given what has happened over this project, I leave it to readers to decide if they really think our administration is trying to be open, fair and transparent.
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Old July 31st, 2008, 06:59 PM   #89
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Rejecting Mega plan risky: minister Official defends land swaps for developers
19 July 2008
South China Morning Post

The government could face a legal challenge if it rejected the long-approved Mega Tower project in Wan Chai, the development minister said yesterday as she defended the practice of land swaps to allow development.

But Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised to make more transparent the process by which the government gives developers land they need to complete projects in return for sites the developers own elsewhere.

In the case of the 93-storey hotel project in Wan Chai, developer Hopewell Holdings owns less than half the 10,313-metre site of the proposed development, with the government holding the rest - most of it wooded slopes.

Doubts have been cast on the land exchange system, with critics saying it favours developers and harms the public interest.

Government officials were called to a special meeting of the Legislative Council's development panel yesterday to explain problems with the land exchanges that developers had requested for the Mega Tower project, a park on Ma Wan Island and the Cheung Kong Center in Central.

The Town Planning Board approved construction of the Mega Tower on a site between Queen's Road East and Kennedy Road in 1994.

Residents, supported by lawmakers and district councillors, say the plan is unacceptable because it would reduce air flow and worsen traffic congestion.

They have urged the government not to proceed with the land swap. But Mrs Lam told lawmakers yesterday: "We possibly face a big risk if we reverse the decision to approve the project. The government could be taken to court."

Still, she said the government had the final say over the land exchange and the developer had to produce updated projections of the project's impact on traffic that satisfy the district council and the Transport Department.

She admitted the land exchange policy could be more transparent.

She hopes the transparency with which the Development Bureau handled a land exchange involving the King Yin Lei mansion will become standard practice.

After the unidentified owner of the iconic 1930s Chinese-style mansion in Stubbs Road, Mid-Levels, hired contractors who stripped its roof and defaced many of its decorative features, the government agreed to swap the site for 4,705 square metres of public land in green belt nearby on which the owner intends to build five houses for sale.

Mrs Lam said the exchange policy should not be scrapped because it provided opportunities to develop abandoned farmland and old industrial areas and allowed the preservation of historic buildings such as King Yin Lei.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan suspected the policy had undermined Legco's monitoring of public spending.

In the case of the Ma Wan Park, the government did not have to seek Legco's approval for funding, he said.

"By deducting the construction cost from the land premium required for the land swap, the government actually paid Sun Hung Kai Properties a billion dollars to build a public park," he said.

Sun Hung Kai gained permission for its Park Island development on Ma Wan on condition it build the park. It should have been finished two years ago but is still incomplete.
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Old August 3rd, 2008, 06:23 AM   #90
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Opinion : Minister must take back control of city from major developers
26 July 2008
South China Morning Post

The Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has now acknowledged for the first time that the government has the final decision on issuing any land exchange in the Mega Tower project, but then hints at a possible "risk" if the developer's demand for the land is refused ("Rejecting Mega plan risky: minister", July 19).

The facts are simple. The Mega Tower developer originally proposed a 5,880 square metre public park on land which it was purchasing in exchange for the right to locate its 106,000 square metre hotel on the already zoned open space on public land.

The Town Planning Board in 1985 accepted this proposal and honoured the arrangement by a rezoning to facilitate this public park and adjoining hotel concept.

Over many years, the developer confused the Town Planning Board and government planners by submitting numerous alternative schemes in an attempt to move the goalposts.

By 1994, the developer had reduced the area of the public park to 2,030 square metres and increased the size of the hotel to its present excessive dimensions of 164,000 square metres. Planning department staff failed to exercise planning controls and on two occasions acted outside statutory procedures.

It is up to Mrs Lam to protect the public interest by refusing a land exchange unless the developer reverts to the original public park and hotel size.

Mrs Lam should also arrange an independent inquiry to identify the loopholes which allowed the planning system to be exploited. And the system must be strengthened to avoid similar future abuse. This is essential as a means of protecting the public interest.

The minister has complete authority and justification for adopting this solution and should now be standing on the side of the public and not kowtowing to commercial or developer pressures.

It is time to stop the defects in the planning system from being used to monopolise public land reserved for open space or other community services. It is time for the minister to take back control of the city from major developers.

Fan Waugh Fu, Mid-Levels
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Old August 14th, 2008, 06:05 AM   #91
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Opinion : What do you think of the revised plan for the Mega Tower?
14 August 2008
South China Morning Post

What do you think of the revised plan for the Mega Tower?

The developer of the Mega Tower project in Wan Chai will unveil a new proposal soon after taking into consideration the public's views, with the aim of pushing forward with the project as soon as possible ("Hopewell to unveil new tower proposal", August 9).

The key issues concerning the Mega Tower project are the scale of development and the impact on local traffic it will bring about.

It aims to be the largest hotel in our city, with 2,000 rooms and 93 storeys. But an early indication from the developer is that the new plan will cut the density by about 5 per cent.

However, 5 per cent is nothing considering the mammoth scale of the project. Even before the revised plan is unveiled, we can be quite sure it will not gain public support. So why is the developer continuing with the project?

Wan Chai has been transformed quite dramatically, with many projects under way under the direction of the Urban Renewal Authority. It has managed to inject some new life into the district.

I can see that the Mega Tower proposal could help to connect some of the scattered areas and provide a better link from Kennedy Road to the heart of Wan Chai. However, the developer really does need to show it cares about the future of Wan Chai.

The mammoth scale of development it proposes and the intention to reduce density by a mere 5 per cent does not show a strong desire to make Wan Chai a better place. It seems more to do with creating an individual landmark for the district, like the Nina Tower for Tsuen Wan.

If that is its intention, then I think it is doomed to fail.

H.C. Bee, Kowloon Tong
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Old August 14th, 2008, 06:49 PM   #92
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93 storeys now?!
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Old August 16th, 2008, 02:41 AM   #93
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hey hkskyline, is there any way we can support this tower? like, are they gonna do another round of public consultation or something?
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Old August 16th, 2008, 06:12 AM   #94
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Wrong thread, but are those two rather tall towers in TST (New World Hotel + another one) going to go ahead? And when?
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Old August 16th, 2008, 09:02 AM   #95
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I don't know what to think about this project.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 08:50 AM   #96
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spicytimothy View Post
hey hkskyline, is there any way we can support this tower? like, are they gonna do another round of public consultation or something?
I don't even think it's going bac kto the public consultation phase again. This should just be about whether the government will let them build something they approved years ago which may not sit well in light of today's socio-economic environment.

I wonder if these approvals lapse if they don't get actioned upon after a certain period of time?
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 08:24 AM   #97
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Opinion : Change of heart needed from officials over Mega Tower
20 August 2008
South China Morning Post

It seems to me that with the proposed Mega Tower in Wan Chai, the government is trying to bend the rules and failing to adhere to its own standards to meet the needs of a specific developer at the expense of other property owners in the area.

The long-established policy has been that commercial activities of the district are bordered on Queen's Road East. Any commercial development north of there must have access on to Queen's Road East. I know of no commercial building that does not have such access. Most people and cars access Hopewell Holdings' Hopewell Centre via this road, even if there is car-park access via Kennedy Road. A commercial development without access on to Queen's Road East is in violation of the government's own policy.

Hopewell Holdings' proposed Mega Tower has no access on to Queen's Road East. Any development north of the road and with no such access, is deemed non-commercial and mostly residential. Without that necessary access, Kennedy Road will have to bear the brunt of the traffic the new building generates. Given that it will be a hotel, there will be a particular kind of traffic specifically large buses. But Kennedy Road is not designed to handle this kind of traffic on a regular basis. It already has too many buses serving schools and Hong Kong Park. I am concerned that with so many oversized vehicles the problem that already exists will be exacerbated and I fear that if a bus crosses over into the oncoming traffic lane, we could see a head-on collision. There is at least one point on Kennedy Road where a large bus could not negotiate the bend without having to cross over and face oncoming traffic.

As the Mega Tower is such a massive building the government is trying to restrict other property owners' development plans in the Kennedy Road area, by limiting their development ratio and height, even though such projects would have far less impact than the Mega Tower when it comes to traffic, height and views.

Officials sometimes make incorrect rulings. However, there is still time to reverse the decisions that have been made over the Mega Tower.

A. Chow, Central
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 09:24 AM   #98
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Hong Kong is really the city of life!!!
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 09:32 AM   #99
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hong Kong has changes so much over the years - must be huge!
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Old September 19th, 2008, 05:21 AM   #100
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Hopewell heir true to his father's vision Thomas Wu driven by HK$7b Wan Chai tower plan
19 September 2008
South China Morning Post

Thomas Jefferson Wu is a young tycoon who dislikes following the crowd, whether at play or work. While other corporate warriors are taking a stroll around the golf course, the 36-year-old managing director of Hopewell Holdings prefers to play a rigorous game of ice hockey.

Mr Wu is such a fan of the sport that he founded an amateur ice hockey association to promote it in Hong Kong, where it never snows even in the coldest winter.

But it is not only on the playing field that he likes playing the maverick. In his role as one of the city's top property kings, he has focused on an area not always considered an upmarket location - Wan Chai.

He now has the tough job of negotiating with opponents in the district in a bid to push his plan to revamp an area his high-profile family has called home for many years.

"I was born in Wan Chai, lived in Wan Chai and studied in Wan Chai," Mr Wu said in an interview from his 64th floor office in the Hopewell Centre. "Wan Chai is the root of our family and our business.

"We want to contribute to redeveloping the district to show our commitment to the area."

When his father Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung co-founded the forerunner of Hopewell Holdings in 1963 it quickly expanded into one of the largest local developers in Hong Kong. Its success was sealed in 1980 with the completion of the 66-storey Hopewell Centre. The iconic building kept the title as the city's tallest building for 10 years.

The junior Wu joined Hopewell in 1999 after graduating with a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University, where his father studied.

He took the current post in July last year as his father stepped down as managing director but remained as chairman of the company - a move that many analysts saw as a step in preparing Thomas to take the helm from his father.

Since joining Hopewell, Mr Wu has been the mastermind behind the company's HK$600 million renovation of its property portfolio, including the Hopewell Centre, Hong Kong International Trade and Exhibition Centre in Kowloon Bay and Panda Place in Tsuen Wan.

All this appears to be only a warm-up for the young entrepreneur as he prepares for one his toughest challenges - a plan to spend an estimated HK$7 billion to build a 90-plus-floor Hopewell Centre II.

The project, formerly dubbed Mega Tower, has stirred controversy since his father floated the idea 20 years ago. Nearby residents worry the giant building, which will provide 2,000 hotel rooms, will create traffic and visibility problems.

Mr Wu said he was prepared to listen to residents' concerns but vowed not to abandon the project.

"If I gave up a multibillion-dollar project, it would send a negative message that Hopewell had given a vote of no confidence to Hong Kong."

The push to complete the contentious project marks the return of Hopewell as a serious player in the local property market after Sir Gordon's earlier shift to infrastructure and transport projects in China and Asia.

After announcing last week that the company had made a profit of HK$5.9 billion in the year to June, Mr Wu is now refocused on pushing the Hopewell Centre II project.

What are the priorities and focus of the company under your leadership?

I will continue to develop the core business of the company in property and infrastructure. I want to achieve higher profit for the benefit of shareholders, enhance the financial performance of the company and improve our service quality, competitiveness and market perceptions.

Your father remains chairman of Hopewell. How do you share duties with him and do you argue if you have different views?

My father as chairman sets the direction for the company while I and the management team execute and handle the daily operations. Whenever we have different opinions, we can always discuss and negotiate to find a solution.

What are the biggest lessons you learned from your father? Do you share similar management styles?

There are many lessons I learned from my father from how to do business to the way to develop my own personality. We went to the same university but we have different management styles. This is because society has changed a lot since the 1960s when my father founded Hopewell. We have to adjust our management style and business operations with time.

What is your next step in the Hong Kong property market?

Our next step is to develop Hopewell Centre II. We have been involved in town planning in Wan Chai for about 40 years. The first phase of the Wan Chai renovation scheme has begun in recent years and we want to extend the core business district [of the city] into Wan Chai.

Why don't you make your lives easier by bidding for new development sites rather than older sites?

We will consider buying new development sites, but we will be selective. If it is on Hong Kong Island, we will focus on Wan Chai only.

How much money do you plan to invest in Hopewell Centre II?

The project has been dragging on for 20 years. We estimate the price of the land premium and construction fees will total about HK$7 billion, more than double the HK$3 billion we estimated in 1994. We will use the 93-storey single block hotel scheme approved by the Town Planning Board in 1994 which is still valid.

The project has many critics who fear it will create traffic and visibility problems.

I think it is good to hear such criticism as it shows that people in Hong Kong have developed civic participation skills and voice their concerns. But I would like to insist that any discussion or negotiations must be fair and based on accurate information.

Should we just abandon the project because some people voice their opposition loudly?

From our consultancy survey and other comments, we know there are a lot of supporters of our plan and we should consider these comments.

But how do you address the major concerns of the public about the heavy traffic and blocking of views by the new project?

We have measures for the traffic and the government has professionally assessed our plan. Some people have said that all traffic would be concentrated in Kennedy Road - this is not true as we believe 30 per cent of the traffic from the project will use Queen's Road East.

Regarding visibility, we will design the hotel as a single block and one-third of the building will be below Kennedy Road.

What is your view of Hong Kong's office and retail market?

There is no doubt that Hong Kong's economy will be affected by the downturn in the global economy. The markets may not as rosy as the last few years. But I don't think there will be a big slump in the markets.
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