Energizing Kowloon East – Hong Kong’s Second CBD!
Perhaps this new initiative should be named “RE-energizing Kowloon East” as the area once was in fact a vibrant and growing district of business. Kowloon East (KE) is an area which encompasses Kai Tak, Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay. However, ever since the relocation of the airport from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok in 1998, the business district gradually slowed down momentum and took a back seat to Central. In saying this, the area is currently still home to thousands of companies employing over 200,000 people as an essential business district. The government recognises the importance of Kowloon East as a central business district and thus a new vision was born to transform the area into an even greater hub of business and connectivity: Energizing Kowloon East.
The Energizing Kowloon East Plan
Currently, the redevelopment of KE is still in master-planning stage. 4 key words have been identified to drive the initiative: Connectivity, Branding, Design and Diversity. These parameters aim to successfully develop the area so that KE is:
- integrated seamlessly into the neighbouring districts
- offers a pedestrianised urban streetscape to attract members of the public
- creates a public space that can host cultural activities such as art exhibits which will invigorate the area not only as a business centre, but a cultural one too
- becomes enhanced as a premier CBD which will equal the prevalence of Central, Hong Kong Island
The idea of connectivity stems from the fact that the area is essentially an industrial zone with little pedestrian routing (or rather, little ATTRACTIVE pedestrian routing). The area is accessed a lot by high grade vehicles and personal transport. Studies are now being conducted on pedestrian connectivity to provide options on enhancing the foot traffic experience between the nearby Kowloon Bay and Ngau Tau Kok MTR stations, i.e. widening footpaths, improvement of pedestrian crossing facilities and modification of traffic signals.
A major development for KE will be a proposed Environmentally Friendly Linkage System (EFLS) for the Kai Tak Development (KTD) which will link up with Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay. This is essentially a monorail system that has key advantages for the region to improve intra-district connectivity. The EFLS aims to be a reliable and safe service that can hopefully keep the low level roads from congestion as well as provide an easy interchange to the nearby MTR stations. Furthermore, the EFLS will also gain tourism appeal similar to the Taipei Automatic People Mover and the Dubai Monorail.
Again, this is perhaps more appropriate to be called “RE-branding”. Right now the area certainly has an industrial quality, with old textile companies, manufacturing plants and low grade offices dispersed here and there. The Branding initiative will aim to change the public view of the district through new streetscape design and restructuring land uses to involve new activities such as cultural exhibits.
A design concept that is increasingly more prominent in Hong Kong (and worldwide) is green design. This is a major driving factor for KE. Environmental engineers and professionals skilled in sustainability can certainly lend their expertise to KE as improvements are made to the greenery and the physical appearance of the neighbourhood. There are industrial heritage buildings also that are no longer in use, therefore conservation architects can be of use to provide innovative ideas of adaptive reuse of these buildings to further enhance KE’s revived image.
The urban landscape will become a setting for the public to not only work, but also as a destination to visit and for recreation. This is where place-making strategies are implemented such as inputting landmark features, signage and street furniture. This will encourage the public to utilise KE as a place, not just a thoroughfare.
Although the Energizing Kowloon East primary plan is to provide another CBD for Hong Kong, the result will also yield a centre for tourism, sports and leisure activities. This will bring in a wide range of employment and business opportunities with little boundary – anything from corporate business opportunities, exhibition halls, hotels or serviced apartments to sports stadiums, retail outlets and restaurants.
This will be a bright opportunity for building professionals who may have previously viewed Hong Kong as a civil engineering dominated construction market. However, this is a master project which will involve the whole spectrum of construction workers to successfully achieve the goal of creating a new Central Business District to further put Hong Kong on the map as a Global City.
Hong Kong & Asia Region