Apart from pursuing for economic excellence, the Hong Kong community nowadays places equal emphasis on the strive for better quality of life and making our city more liveable than ever. The Central Harbourfront is climbing up the chart of top leisure destinations for both the public and visitors recently, with different activities taking place one after another, turning our harbourfront into a lively place. With the harbourfront areas on both sides of Victoria harbour gradually released for public enjoyment, we are looking forward to exploring the infinite possibilities to co-create more and more public space with our boundless creativity. With this aspiration in mind, I have invited Mr NG Wing-shun, Vincent, the Chairperson of the Harbourfront Commission (HC), for a stroll along the harbourfront and talk about the public views and visions on the strategies of harbourfront enhancement.
Implementing key harbourfront enhancement projects
The waterfront of Victoria Harbour is currently about 73 km long in total. Among them is some 35 km comprising natural shoreline, private land and container terminal sites and could therefore not be linked-up as promenade. That said, the remaining 38 km have all been designated for promenade development.
In his latest Budget, the Financial Secretary earmarked a funding of $6 billion for development of new promenade and open space at the harbourfront. The funding will be used for implementing nine key harbourfront enhancement projects, which are located in Wan Chai, the Eastern District, Kai Tak, Cha Kwo Ling and Tsuen Wan respectively. These projects will provide 35 hectares of new open space in total, almost twice the size of the Victoria Park. Together with other projects, we plan to deliver to the public some 90 percent of the planned harbourfront promenades of Victoria Harbour in ten years, extending the total length of the harbourfront to 34 km. This commitment exemplifies the Government’s determination and sincerity in realising its vision on harbourfront enhancement.
Building a more connected, accessible and vibrant harbourfront
The HC and its predecessor, the Harbour-front Enhancement Committee, have all along been a close partner of the Government on harbourfront enhancement. Vincent has been actively engaging in the work of both committees for over 14 years, witnessing how the current 21-km harbourfront promenades have become connected section by section.
At the Central Harbourfront that day, we saw many Hong Kong people and tourists sitting at leisure on the large green lawn of Tamar Park. With a large contemporary art exhibition taking place at the Central Harbourfront Event Space and the colossal inflatable artwork “Companion” by the US artist KAWS floating on its back on the adjacent Victoria Harbour, flocks of people were attracted to “check-in” at the harbourfront. Vincent and I also blended in and took selfies. Vincent was glad to witness that this section of the harbourfront had been gradually transformed into an attractive, enjoyable, accessible and sustainable place in accordance with HC’s aspiration. We also noted that the construction works for a new promenade stretching from Tamar Park to the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre were in full swing. Part of the promenade will open within this year to provide new open space for public enjoyment.
Introducing water-friendly elements into Wan Chai North
We also took the chance to visit the breakwater next to the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter to learn more about the planning details of the several key enhancement projects that stretch from Wan Chai North to North Point. The “Urban Design Study for the Wan Chai North and North Point Harbourfront Areas” being conducted by the Planning Department (PlanD) carried a vision of “reconnecting people to the water” for this urban harbourfront area. The five character precincts proposed, namely the “Celebration Precinct”, “Pierside Precinct”, “Water Sports & Recreation Precinct”, “Revitalised Typhoon Shelter Precinct” and “East Coast Park Precinct” (see photos), have received widespread support in the two stages of public engagement.
Vincent opined that each of the five character precincts was unique in its own way, offering the public a great variety of activities and potentials to introduce innovative designs. The engaging water sports and water-friendly elements, as recommended by the study, would help to attract more people to the harbourfront. From then on, swimming in Victoria Harbour may no longer be a far-fetched idea.
Linking up harbourfront promenades progressively
It is never an easy task to link up our harbourfront. As Vincent put it, it was like solving a jigsaw puzzle where you have to overcome various problems to piece together different sections one by one. Taking the proposed Boardwalk underneath the Island Eastern Corridor (IEC) as an example, the shoreline from Causeway Bay to Quarry Bay itself has been fully occupied by private lots such as large scale private housing developments. It would be a huge challenge to link them all up. The latest proposal is to utilise the bridge columns of the IEC. By paving a boardwalk underneath the IEC, there would be the additional advantage of having a good shading from the IEC structure.
Of the nine key enhancement projects, the Boardwalk underneath the IEC is currently ahead of others in terms of progress. With a general width of 10 m, the Boardwalk will provide sufficient space to cater for the needs of different users while complying with the requirements of the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance. The project has been endorsed by the HC and the relevant District Council, and is expected to commence construction in 2021 for completion in 2025. We even hope to further compress the timeline to complete and open the Boardwalk as soon as possible for early public enjoyment.
Public-private partnerships to promote flexibility and diversity
As society strives to have a more diversified harbourfront for different activities, a unitary management model may face certain limitations. I agree with Vincent’s point that the New Central Harbourfront is something of a testing ground for new management models. The Central Harbourfront Event Space and the Hong Kong Observation Wheel are the two cases in point. Since the sites were let out to private operators under short-term tenancies, a wide range of large-scale activities have taken place in the area, including the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, cultural & arts expos, music galas, world-class motorsports events, carnivals and sports events, to name a few, all of which were very popular among local citizens and tourists alike. The road of trying out new initiatives may be bumpy, but the popularity of the two sites among the public is beyond doubt.
On planning the use of the harbourfront areas, non-official HC members have been acting as active proponents and help setting development goals by building a community consensus through public engagement exercises. On the other hand, the participation by private operators in the development and management of the harbourfront would help to tap fully into the creativity, wisdom and experience of the community and market for bringing about excellenti results. In future, under a fair, open and impartial model and tripartite collaboration among the Government, the private sector and the community, we will continue to explore partnership opportunities with operators with relevant experience, thereby injecting greater flexibility, diversity and vibrancy in harbourfront development.
Victoria Harbour is a natural asset for all people of Hong Kong. Its world-renowned skyline has witnessed the accomplishments from the effort of one generation after another. With our harbourfront enhancement effort, we look forward to providing the public with a broader, more diversified and quality space for them to slow down and relax with the spectacular view of Victoria Harbour in the backdrop; and not only to “check-in” or take selfies but also to enjoy life and the great variety of happenings to the fullest.
7 April, 2019Back