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Hong Kong tower face-lift
Overhaul at the Peak gives a nod to tourists from mainland

Keith Bradsher
7 April 2005
International Herald Tribune



Hong Kong's most-visited tourist destination is starting to shut down in stages for a yearlong overhaul aimed at making it more fashionable and more Chinese, the latest nod by the former British colony to its growing dependence on mainland Chinese tourists.

Opened five weeks before the British returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, the Peak Tower is the upper terminus of the Peak Tram, a funicular that has been hauling passengers from near the harbor up steep grades to Victoria Peak, which is more than 550 meters, or 1,800 feet, high, since 1888.

Not yet eight years old, the building already shows its age with a faintly British colonial air of indifference to its remarkable location, overlooking one of Asia's most beautiful cities. The tower has no Chinese restaurants and is laced by long, nearly windowless corridors lined by glass-walled stores, giving it the look of a shopping mall in some U.S. Midwestern or Canadian city so flat and snowy that no one really wants to look outside.

The building's owner, Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, is loath to say the original, much-criticized design was a mistake, but now it plans a complete overhaul.

"Have we rethought this? Yes," said Martyn Sawyer, the company's group general manager for properties and clubs. "Have things evolved? Yes. There's no question the market has changed." Hong Kong has been flooded with mainland Chinese tourists as Beijing has liberalized visa rules for trips here over the past three years, part of what is turning into a surge of mainland Chinese tourism all over the world.

Mainlanders accounted for slightly more than half of the territory's 21.8 million visitors last year and spent almost as much per person per day as visitors from Europe and the Americas, Hong Kong Tourism Board statistics show. In 2001, mainlanders represented less than a third of the territory's 13.7 million visitors.

The Peak Tower renovations will expand and transform the building. A large Chinese restaurant and two small, expensive restaurants will replace a Western buffet restaurant and a motion simulator ride at the top of the tower. A shopping plaza in the bottom of the tower will be designed to resemble some of Hong Kong's more traditional Chinese market streets.

The floors will be earth-toned granite, and stores will resemble traditional street stalls with canopies. But the tower will avoid red lanterns and other cliched Chinese symbols.

"We're not trying to do a kitsch Temple Street at all," Sawyer said, referring to another tourist attraction here.

"I've always been absolutely stunned there isn't any Chinese food on the Peak," he added, saying that the redesign was intended to appeal to visitors from many countries, not just mainland China, who might savor a site with more Hong Kong accents.

For views over the city, visitors currently head for the middle of the tower, atop the rectangular base and below the bowl-shaped top of the building. The renovations will enclose much of this area, making space for two restaurants. Sightseers will have a new open- air observation area 30 meters higher, on the roof of the entire building.

Putting the viewing platform on the roof will provide a much better view of islands to the south of Hong Kong Island, in the opposite direction from Victoria Harbour, which the tower faces. Elevator and ventilation equipment currently clutter the roof and will be rearranged and consolidated to make room for tourists.

One of the most frequent complaints about the Peak Tower is that the lower floors only have a single men's bathroom and a single women's bathroom. Both of these are in a remote corner of the bottom level of the tower, moreover, and the two bathrooms are managed by the government as public toilets for the nearby park. The renovation plan includes adding bathrooms.

A favorite hangout for Hong Kong residents and their guests is Pacific Coffee, a shop on the fourth floor of the Peak Tower, directly over the cable-car tracks. A little less than $4 buys not only a huge latte or cappuccino but also one of the most breathtaking views of the city below.

The shop and a Madame Tussauds wax museum underneath will be the last to close for the renovation, staying open until the end of August. Sawyer said both would reopen along with the rest of the tower early next summer.

The top two floors of the tower have already closed and workers are already clearing them of restaurant tables, the motion simulator ride and other equipment.

The Peak Tram itself will remain in operation throughout the renovations, with passengers debarking onto the government-owned plaza in front of the tower.

Visitors will then have two options for viewing the city: walking less than 100 meters to a small Chinese pavilion that is already overcrowded on weekend afternoons or walking a short distance in the opposite direction on Lugard Road.

Lugard Road forms a fairly flat loop around Victoria Peak with Harlech Road and remains the best way to see the city and nearby islands on clear days.

While the Peak Tower may be completely closed by September, the number of tourists coming to the city is likely to rise that month because of the opening then of another big attraction: Hong Kong Disneyland.
 

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Good to see that tower finally changing. I was hoping that they build a new one and demolish this unconventional tower...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Peak Tower takes art to new heights
5 November 2005
South China Morning Post

Little Charlotte Wan Ching-yi giggled and covered her mouth when she admitted she had never been to Hong Kong's favourite attraction, The Peak. Maybe one day the six-year-old will get married there.

Martin Sawyer, general manager of The Peak Tower, which is undergoing an extensive refit, said an art gallery on the top of the structure would be available for weddings, parties and charity galas.

"To have a wedding ceremony with that sort of backdrop would be fantastic. We think there will be tremendous demand," he said.

"We are going to have to be pretty selective."

And that means that even in a city renowned for fantastic views, those from this new glass-bordered observation deck will not come cheap.

But Charlotte's passion at the moment is painting, and she admitted nothing would be as thrilling as one day seeing her work displayed in the gallery on the top of the tower.

"My painting lets me show how I'm feeling," she said as she marvelled at a scale model at the launch of the gallery yesterday.

"It's so high up there, and looking down on everyone, it would be great."

Renovations are proceeding apace, with the tower set to reopen in June. The gallery's first show will be of the best artworks from children from 115 schools who have entered a competition.

Mr Sawyer was tight-lipped on the rents and names of restaurants and stores which will feature in the new building.

"There will be one Chinese restaurant, an American seafood restaurant, a small Japanese restaurant, and an international cuisine restaurant - casual during the day and very chic at night."
 

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I'm happy that Marche is finally going away... it's a horrible restaurant, but with a super-ultra-fantastic view. Such a waste. >_<

I'm all for the renovation as long as it doesn't take too long.. The article says "yearlong" and I'm a bit concerned about that.

Oh.. and please update Madame Tussaud!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hong Kong tourist draw gears up for revamp

HONG KONG, July 5, 2006 (AFP) - One of Hong Kong's main tourist attractions, the Peak Tower, is gearing up to reopen after a year-long refurbishment of the facility overlooking the city's impressive skyline, operators said Wednesday.

The space-age building atop leafy Victoria Peak, refitted at a cost of 100 million Hong Kong dollars (12.8 million US), is expected to draw more than five million visitors annually when it reopens in the autumn, a statement by Peak Tower Ltd, a unit of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group, said.

Among the anvil-shaped tower's key new features will be the conversion of the flat rooftop into a huge 686-square-metre viewing gallery, allowing 360-degree views of the city and harbour below, and several new restaurants.

Opened in 1997, the tower is one of Hong Kong's premier tourist attractions. Its renovation was part of a broader government-backed effort to provide more facilities for visitors, whose numbers swelled to a record 21 million in 2005.
 

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I was so disappointed last year when I went back to HK to find the tower had been closed for renovations. I did get great views from the pavillion though. Does anyone know whether the views from Ludguard road are any good for taking photos etc?
 

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Is this gonna affect the Peak tram?Will it Close?..I hope not..
 
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