THE Urban Planning Committee's approval last Friday of the Hilton
redevelopment along with surrounding government property, marked the
latest step towards starting what originally appeared to be an
When Cheung Kong (Holdings), managing the project on behalf of its
subsidiary Hutchison Whampoa, originally proposed the project early
last year, it seemed it was unlikely to go ahead.
In a rising property market, it was doubted the government would cut a
"sweetheart deal" by giving a private company two of its most
valuable sites in Central without competition.
While Beaconsfield House in Queen's Road Central and the Hilton
carpark, which faces Garden Road, clearly under-used their sites,
other government buildings nearby are also too small for their sites
but do not face immediate sale or redevelopment.
The central government offices complex, a cluster of 1950s and 1960s
buildings running up the hill between Queen's Road, Central, and Lower
Albert Road, is a prime example of this.
A private consultant's study in the late 1980s recommended the site be
redeveloped, given that a parcel of ramshackle and unglamorous low
rises should not be the centre of government for a high-rise territory
with one of the world's largest economies.
However, redevelopment of the site, most likely in some sort of joint
venture with the private sector, was put off for what was most likely
political reasons. One source close to the government suggested that,
given the perpetual mistrust of mainland authorities, Beijing might
have been angered by the development, suspecting some underhanded plan
to get Hong Kong government funds back to Britain.
"The scheme is probably not permanently dead but it will be up to the
Special Administrative Region government to undertake the project,"
the source said.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) occupies another
prime site in Central, the top two floors of the Murray Road carpark,
just east of Chater Garden, which, if sold, would fetch more than $1
The government has found a potential site for the anti-corruption
watchdog to put up its own purpose-built headquarters in North Point,
but work will most probably not start until next year at the earliest.
Cheung Kong and Hutchison were either lucky or far-sighted to have
acquired Beaconsfield House, which, because of its small size, has
proven much easier to empty and sell.
One major user of the building, the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The
Volunteers), which had its officers' and NCOs' mess in the building,
no longer exists.
The Information Services Department, the main remaining tenant, is
almost certain to move into space in the Murray Building vacated by
the Lands Department, which is moving to the Pioneer Centre in Mong
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