$17.5b sought to finish basement at W Kowloon

Local | Amy Nip and Phoenix Un 11 Jan 2019

An additional HK$17.5 billion will be needed to finish a giant basement underneath the West Kowloon Cultural District, according to documents submitted to lawmakers.

The Legislative Council's Finance Committee previously approved HK$6 billion for three stages of the integrated basement's construction.

But the Home Affairs Bureau told lawmakers yesterday that more funding is required.

The part of the basement in question is the section in between the Xiqu Centre to the east, and Lyric Theatre Complex to the west. On top of the basement are arts and cultural facilities, including the Music Centre, Music Theatre, Great Theatre, Medium Theatre I, and hotel, office and residential developments.

The basement enables traffic to be put underground, to free up the site above ground for cultural facilities. It also makes the district more pedestrian friendly.

The new funding will be used for drawing up designs, a site investigation of the basement's structure, construction of its foundation work, essential structures, and an underground road spanning about 800 meters.

Footpaths, a car drop-off area, water supply and other facilities will also be built.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will commence drawing detailed designs of the basement in the second half of this year.

The construction process should be completed by about 2027. The hotel and residential projects will be completed in phases from 2025. It is estimated the Music Centre, including a concert hall, will open by around 2027/28.

Legislator Tanya Chan, the chairwoman of the joint subcommittee to monitor the implementation of the West Kowloon project, said that at least part of the HK$17.5 billion should be paid for by the cultural district authority or developers, since the hotels, offices and residential buildings will be above the basement.

"The authority has the land, but still asks the government for money to build the basement for them," Chan said.

Using the analogy of cooking a chicken pot, she said the situation at West Kowloon is that citizens have to pay for the chicken, soy sauce, pot, and gas for the authority and developers.

The government should also explain whether it will make any more funding requests in connection with West Kowloon in future, Chan said.

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