The first project to be built in the West Kowloon cultural hub will cost HK$2.7 billion - more than double the original estimate of HK$1.3 billion - due to soaring construction costs, the chief secretary revealed yesterday.
This could have wide financial implications for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which has received HK$21.6 billion from the government. That amount has grown to HK$23.5 billion following investments.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chairman of the WKCDA, revealed the cost overrun when announcing that the Xiqu Centre will be designed by Hong Kong-born Canadian architect Thom Bing-wing and Ronald Lu Yuen-cheung from Hong Kong.
"In the past six years, from 2006 to today, the construction cost according to government indicators has increased by 100 percent," Lam said.
Adding to the costs are the construction of a 2,000-square- foot educational facility and a large public space with dining facilities, which were not included in the original plan.
"I have requested the WKCDA, under the premise of not affecting the quality of construction, to keep costs within HK$2.7 billion," Lam said.
"We estimate that the other facilities for the WKCDA will also be higher than forecast before."
Chief executive Michael Lynch said: "The chief secretary made it absolutely clear to us that in addition to the HK$23.5 billion, we have to go out and start looking at ways to be able to innovate and look at alternative financing and issues such as sponsorship and naming rights to make sure we are able to deal with the ultimate budget outcome."
Emily Lau Wai-hing, deputy chairwoman of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee, said Hong Kong people are worried about the rising budget. "But they have also been waiting for 10 years for the cultural district," she added. "If the government wants to seek more funding for the projects, they should come to Legco to explain at the earliest."
The construction for the Xiqu Centre will start at the end of next year and it is expected to finish in 2016.
"The building resembles the shape of a lantern with a soft glow whereas the structure combines the five Chinese elements - metal, wood, water, fire and earth," Thom said.
The biggest project is Museum Plus, or M+, a world-class museum originally estimated to cost HK$4.8 billion in 2006. It is expected to be finished in 2017.
Six candidates were selected to compete for the M+ design, of which two are formed by Hong Kong and overseas architects. The short list includes candidates who have designed a famous museum of contemporary arts, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the expansion of London's Tate Museum.