The Planning Department has rolled out a major reworking of its plans for the old Kai Tak airport site, consolidating a block of luxury hotels near the runway's two planned cruise terminals and drawing up plans for an eight-station monorail linking the tourist hub with neighboring Kwun Tong.
Officials also introduced plans for a 200-meter high public "viewing tower" near the tip of the runway, comparing the proposal to the observation deck that sat on top of New York City's old World Trade Center.
The changes could stir up more controversy, however, with plans to build a new bridge likely to involve further reclamation of Victoria Harbour.
The new Kai Tak blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, will come up before the Town Planning Board before being presented to the Legislative Council next Tuesday. Government officials say that, if all goes well, the administration could seek funding to proceed with the effort by next year.
A government official described the reworking of Kai Tak plans as a basket of small measures designed to answer a bevy of concerns raised by the public.
The last blueprint issued by the government in June scattered hotels throughout the 328-hectare site and proposed flats to house 86,000 new residents. The government official said the total amount of housing and hotel space would not change under the new plans, while the plot ratios - a measure of building density - would also be restricted to the same levels as before.
Total commercial space on the site will also remain about the same, while the government has retained plans for a giant stadium and a "central park" to provide much-needed greenery to tightly-packed east Kowloon.
But the differences between this plan and the last one are striking.
The hotel spaces, which had been scattered throughout the Kai Tak site, have all been centralized near the end of the runway, where the two cruise terminals will be. A third terminal could be added at the foot of the hotel cluster if the need arises, the official added.
All the hotels will face out into the harbor towards Central, while a second row of luxury residential spaces will face Kwun Tong. But these residences will be placed on a terrace so the top floors will presumably retain a view of the harbor.
Next door, the top floor of a 200-meter high tower will provide views of the harbor. The complex, which would be about seven storys, will be filled with hotel rooms or tourist- related space below.
Meanwhile, a new proposed monorail system would loop through the new district from Kwun Tong towards Kowloon City.
The official cautioned, however, that the monorail plans are "only in the preliminary stages of research."
A potential source of controversy could come with a new bridge the government says it is considering at the end of the runway, joining the hotel district with Kwun Tong. That bridge, if built in a 40-meter high arch, would allow large boats to pass underneath while avoiding any further harbor reclamation. But that plan, the official said, was unfeasible because of concerns about the impact a steep arch bridge would have on trains going over it, as well as on pedestrians and aesthetics.
More practical, the official said, would be a 20-meter high bridge that was more level. The problem with this plan, however, is that it would almost surely require reclamation, a touchy issue in Hong Kong.
Under the Protection of the Harbour Ordinance, no harbor reclamation can take place unless there's an "overriding public need" for it - a difficult case that would have to be made in a courtroom.
But officials stressed they were still only in the preliminary stages of considering such a bridge.
The revised blueprint will also extend several "green corridors" that shoot off the main central park into the surrounding neighborhoods of Kowloon City, Kowloon Bay and Ma Tau Kok.
There will also be underground commercial walkways that officials promise will make it easy for nearby residents to visit the park. Both of these changes came in response to public complaints that the Kai Tak site would be sealed off from the aging communities that surrounds it.