Queen's Pier can again serve its original purpose - of serving ships - if it is reassembled between ferry piers 9 and 10 now under construction in Central, according to one of four concept plans unveiled by the Planning Department Thursday.
Another version suggests Queen's Pier can be aligned with the rebuilt Star Ferry Clock Tower and serve as an entrance lobby to the pier complex, complete with cafe.
The submission came a day after a nonbinding Legislative Council motion to invite public views on how to relocate the Queen's Pier and the old Star Ferry Clock Tower was rejected.
"We respect the original function of the Queen's Pier, which, of course, has to be set in the waterfront," Deputy Director of Planning Ophelia Wong Yuen-sheung told reporters when asked why relocating the pier was an option.
She said the government is keeping an open mind on harborfront design.
"These plans only illustrate design concepts," Wong said.
"It's not about choosing one out of four. We welcome public participation and other ideas."
Only one of the plans involves rebuilding Queen's Pier at its original location, Wong said. That option would involve realignment of and construction delays to Road P2, a dual two-lane road providing access to the Central and Wan Chai reclamation areas.
It would also involve adjustments to other infrastructure including the Airport Railway Extended Overrun Tunnel and the extension of the stormwater drainage culvert at Man Yiu Street.
An alternative but similar plan puts the pier near its original site without affecting P2. The government said this option would be cheaper and construction time shorter.
None of the four concepts mention reassembling the Star Ferry Clock Tower at its original location, although Wong said the tower is part of the harborfront design and the government will keep its promise to "rebuild" the chimes of the clock, complete with the original clock faces and mechanism.
The Star Ferry pier's demolition in January provoked criticism of the government's heritage policies.
As to the possibility of reassembling Queen's Pier at its original location, Wong said if a majority of people preferred one particular concept, she believed the government would consider it.
But the pier had to be removed first to complete reclamation, she said.
The Antiquities Advisory Board will consider at a public hearing next Wednesday whether Queen's Pier should be declared a historic monument. Wong said the Planning Department will closely monitor the matter.
The government hopes public consultation will be completed by the end of this year, with the first stage of public discussion beginning Thursday and lasting until the end of June.
This will be followed by focus group workshops and community forums that will welcome professional, academic and public views.
Wong Kam-sing, chairman of the board of local affairs at the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said he did not have a final view on any of the four concept plans, but he believed preserving Queen's Pier should not be the overriding factor.
"Kom Tong Hall was used as a residential building. Now it serves as the Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum, so this doesn't mean the hall was not respected for its original function," he said.
The government decided to preserve the Edwardian building in 2004.
He also said the relationship between Edinburgh Place and the pier should not be overlooked.
Civic Party barrister-legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit, whose proposed motion was turned down, said the timing of the consultation indicated that the government was using it as a smokescreen instead of a real public consultation.
"The government is not committed to preserving historical heritage as P2 is still in the agenda," Leong said.
"Otherwise they could wait until they finish genuine research on how to preserve the pier in its context and move the construction works."
Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands Michael Suen Ming-yeung told legislators earlier that the government had ruled out preserving Queen's Pier at its present site due to technical difficulties.
The government said the aim of reclamation is to enhance a distinct and high-quality central business district image and to create a world-class waterfront that is vibrant, attractive and belongs to the public of Hong Kong.