The Invigorating Island South initiative proposed in the latest Policy Address of the Chief Executive is inspired by the successful experience drawn from the Energizing Kowloon East (EKE) initiative. After nearly a decade of implementation, the EKE initiative has been successful in gradually transforming the old industrial areas and the former airport site in Kowloon East (KE) into an energetic, vibrant and distinctive new core business district (CBD). I have specially invited the former Head of the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO), Ms Brenda AU, to share with us the experience and achievements in taking forward such a large-scale old district revitalisation project.
Commercial floor area soaring 70 percent
The EKE project was an innovative district development concept proposed by the Government in the 2011 Policy Address. In June, 2012, the Development Bureau (DEVB) set up a multi-disciplinary team to inaugurate the EKEO to co-ordinate the initiative, maintain active dialogues with the community and play the role of a facilitator. It has successfully transformed KE (comprising the Kai Tai Development Area, and the Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay Business Areas) into Hong Kong's second CBD. In 2017, the EKE initiative was extended to San Po Kong. Ms Brenda AU says that as compared with 2012, the commercial floor area in KE has increased by 70 percent to about 2.9 million square metres at present, and is expected to further increase to 3.5 million square metres in two years, making it comparable in scale to the CBD in Central.
Unleashing development potential
The EKEO has been taking forward various measures and projects to unleash the development potential of land, raise the efficiency of land utilisation, improve local environment, enhance accessibility and walkability, as well as improve and optimise the use of public spaces. It takes time for a number of measures and projects to take shape from preparation to implementation. In particular, in order to accelerate the release of the development potential, the Government has explored the feasibility of rationalising the existing government facilities in the two action areas of KE, including relocating the Vehicle Examination Centre in the Kowloon Bay Action Area and redeveloping the Vehicular Ferry Pier in the Kwun Tong Action Area. Ms Brenda AU says, the planning and engineering studies on the two action areas have been completed and the relocation and rationalisation of some of the existing government facilities have commenced. In the future, the areas will be developed mainly for commercial use with other elements such as entertainment and leisure to bring more vibrancy and attraction to the harbourfront.
Development based on the principle of “single site, multiple uses”
Besides, to make optimal use of land, the Government will follow the principle of “single site, multiple uses” in redeveloping some ageing facilities in the district. Ms Brenda AU, quoting an example, says that the Government plans to provide a public car park underneath the public open space at Sze Mei Street, San Po Kong in order to alleviate the demand for car parking spaces in the district. In the future, the Government will also follow the principle of “single site, multiple uses” to study the overall planning and long-term use for the redevelopment of the Choi Hung Road Playground and Sports Centre (including Choi Hung Road Market), seeking to improve the recreational and sports facilities, and at the same time incorporate other uses to meet the needs of the community.
Improving the local environment of KE
Apart from land use reviews, EKEO has also adopted a place-making approach in improving the environment through quality urban design and streetscape enhancement. Among there is the Kwun Tong Promenade which has been fully open since 2015. The improvement works for Tsun Yip Street Playground (now renamed InPARK) and Tsui Ping River Garden have also been completed and both are now open to the public. EKEO will continue to improve the environment of KE, and the revitalisation of Tsui Ping River and the improvement of Lam Wah Street Playground that have just commenced are two of the examples.
There is no shortage of creative projects under the EKE initiative. For example, the "Fly the Flyover Operation" utilises three unused sites beneath the Kwun Tong Bypass for creative, arts and cultural uses. Besides, KE is the pilot area for the implementation of various smart city initiatives.
Formulating the pedestrian environment improvement framework
Furthermore, EKEO has formulated an overall pedestrian environment improvement framework under the concept of "Walkable Kowloon East" for Kwun Tong, Kowloon Bay and San Po Kong Business Areas, which includes the addition and enhancement of pedestrian facilities, integration of open spaces and other works projects to enhance connectivity, addition of footbridges, as well as expansion of subway networks. As for traffic, most of the short-term traffic improvement schemes which are conducive to improving the road conditions have been completed, such as the provision of kerbside loading and unloading bays and enhancement of road junction layouts. Relevant government departments are also actively implementing a number of major transport infrastructure projects which will help improve the traffic circulation in the district.
Actively promoting public participation
The efforts of EKEO over the years have begun to show results. The entire KE is undergoing a transformation. Not only is it turning into an ideal place for living and working but also a place with leisure, diversity and inclusiveness. All such transformation has been achieved thanks to the efforts of the EKEO and co-operation of the general public. As Ms Brenda AU says, it is complicated to transform developed districts with involvement of many different stakeholders. Therefore, EKEO has always encouraged the public and various stakeholders to participate in the formulation, planning and implementation of policies, hoping to incorporate their views and visions so that the office can do a better job.
Setting up the Invigorating Island South Office
From the successful experience of the EKE initiative, it is obvious that efforts in facilitation, co-ordination and execution are of utmost importance. Based on this experience, an office staffed by a multi-disciplinary team will also be set up under the DEVB to take forward the Invigorating Island South initiative. In co-operation with relevant policy bureaux and departments, the office will interact and collaborate with stakeholders to co-ordinate and implement various projects.
13 December, 2020Back