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Site 3: A city on the cusp | Part 1 liveability

Liveability for Site 3 means public space

As real estate professionals and citizens of Hong Kong SAR, we find ourselves in a significant moment – one that has the potential to bolster Hong Kong’s position as a global and local destination. It is, of course, centred around the announcement of the winning land sale submission for Site 3. 

On Wednesday, the Development Bureau announced that Pacific Gate Development, a subsidiary of Henderson Land, had been awarded the tender for Site 3 of the New Central Harbourfront on a 50-year land grant. 

The Government set the bar high, outlining its core vision, which includes making Site 3 Hong Kong’s new landmark with a people-centric design. The two-envelope approach put pressure on developers to devise a plan that fits the vision of Hong Kong’s future. Henderson’s HK$50.8 billion successful bid became the most expensive plot of land ever sold in a Government tender and the second most expensive land transaction globally.

In the first instalment of a three-part series, we speak to Dr Anne Kerr, Mott MacDonald’s Managing Director for Greater China and Global Head – Cities, about what she would like to see from Site 3 to boost its liveability. Site 3: A city on the cusp examines the recent land sale through the lens of commercial viability, liveability, connectivity and smart cities. 

An iconic design that puts citizens first

The malleable term "liveability" means a variety of things to people, right from the essential criteria – sufficient fresh water and shelter for residents to survive – to the more sophisticated ideas of free space in which to relax or a system that connects buildings and transport hubs allowing residents to move around with ease. In Hong Kong’s case, residents have numerous advantages – drinkable water, sustainable transport, high-speed internet – but some areas could improve. 

When we look at Site 3 through the lens of liveability, it’s clear that all stakeholders are of the notion that it must be for all to enjoy. It impacts so many aspects of the city in a holistic, sweeping outlook that brings stability, wellness, culture, environmental improvements, economic value and education to the forefront.


"Henderson’s commitment [to sustainability] is an excellent start for this project. In partnership with the Government and the public, it is sure to develop the best outcome for Site 3."


Anne is very clear and optimistic that Henderson’s vision should reinvigorate the harbour and open Hong Kong’s thriving waterfront as a destination for business, citizens and visitors – ticking many of the critical boxes of liveability. Concrete details are thin on the ground now, but Henderson’s design appears to check all of those boxes, with its three-tier approach offering a sky-garden on the uppermost level, which will provide the public with unimpeded views of the harbour.

Most agree the development needs to be dramatic in terms of improving liveability. “It requires being iconic and instantly recognisable rather like Sydney Opera House in terms of identity,” says Anne. “It should be the single iconic feature that people will come to see and will talk about.”

Business sustainability 

First and foremost, to ensure the design boosts liveability, there is a need to reinforce the idea that Site 3 must be sustainable in terms of business. Stakeholders must be given a platform that works and enables them to thrive. When fighting the corner for the end-user and those in the value chain, we must remember that Hong Kong makes its money on real estate, and it’s one of the fundamental revenue-generating pillars, so there are already grounding principles to learn from. 


"The importance of the two-envelope approach, putting design on par with the financial consideration."


Henderson’s commitment is an excellent start for this project. In partnership with the Government and the public, it is sure to develop the best outcome for Site 3. Anne believes the flexible delivery model and plan will ensure the project is developed with care and attention.

To this end, the development needs to be vibrant. Anne explains, “We’ve seen a loss of excitement in some prime areas during the pandemic, albeit this could be a moment in time. The site should attract footfall, occupants, and above all be resilient.” 

This comes down to design, construction, and the way in which the site is operated, which all rely on good planning. This point is critical and the first indication of the importance of the two-envelope approach, putting design on par with the financial consideration. The strategy should inherently embed resilience and secure a thriving business environment. 


"One of the Government's parameters on the essential list is the Public Open Spaces."


“Hong Kong is one of those places you think you know,” Anne says, “but as we have found out, especially in the past year or so, we can still be surprised and find things that we don’t know existed. Hopefully, Site 3 will give us this in abundance, with features that draw people to move through it, with the possibility of surprises and discoveries leading them on.”

The need for quality open space 

One of the Government's parameters on the essential list is the Public Open Spaces, only 5% of which are available for commercial features, like kiosks or al fresco dining. Henderson has factored in the continuous open deck over Lung Wo Road and Yiu Sing Street, adding more green space with its tiered design. 

We need this public space to be open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and free of charge. Anne points out that while Hong Kong has many little parks and promenades, there is a lack of  “random free spaces” where residents can do as they please. Looking at WKCD’s open spaces success of people holding picnics and birthday parties, along with a host of experiential events, there is a hope Site 3 can emulate this vibe. 

We won’t deny there is a desire to do this, but developers must ensure people can use the site with free and easy access to the waterfront. And this doesn’t just mean connectivity for tenants and office workers, but for people from all corners of Hong Kong who want to unwind in a world-class setting.

Leading by example

It’s no secret that buildings are Hong Kong’s biggest electricity consumer and contributor to carbon emissions. Henderson, however, has won awards for its environmentally-friendly buildings, and is most likely to focus on energy efficiency in this site as it has in its others. 

The Government has acknowledged this need for an eco-mindset. The tender guidelines stated the need for green space and design to mitigate such issues as the Urban Heat Island effect – a fundamental problem in this city. Anne provides a comparison with the mainland by stating that “developers are now getting emissions targets provided centrally for their buildings.” Hong Kong has its carbon targets to meet, and Site 3 has some guidelines, but it needs effective collaboration between the developers and the SAR’s Government to ensure developers explore every possible green initiative. 

Target setting to achieve carbon neutrality would be one remedy we would like to see, and transparency around these progressive targets would move the needle of change.


"Henderson, however, has won awards for its environmentally-friendly buildings, and is most likely to focus on energy efficiency in this site as it has in its others."


Henderson and end-users will find this is a fantastic opportunity to lead by example, especially in aligning with the Government’s 2030+ vision and the growing importance real estate is placing on Environmental, Social and Governance issues as a whole.

“There are lots of research establishments in Hong Kong that could partner with Henderson to showcase their environmentally-friendly materials, and this could be part of Site 3’s,” Anne points out. This brand-new site is ripe for showcasing the best Hong Kong can do in terms of cutting-edge, forward-thinking, reduced carbon, affordable construction.

Hong Kong is continuously advancing its image as a world-class city that puts people at the forefront of design. Now, Hong Kong is on the cusp of an immense paradigm shift, and liveability has a huge role in giving citizens what they need, which can start with developing more open public space.

Site 3: A city on the cusp examines the recent land sale through the lens of commercial viability, liveability, connectivity and smart cities. Thank you to Anne Kerr, Mott McDonald, Eli Konvitz, Atkins and Alex Katsanos, Arcadis for their expert contribution


Artist rendering of Henderson Land’s design for Site 3. Source: Hong Kong Government


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Nigel Smith

Managing Director

Managing Director's Office | Hong Kong

香港

施禮賢是高力國際(香港)常務董事,負責香港業務的日常營運,致力發掘戰略性機遇,推動與客戶的互動,從而獲得新的業務商機。

施禮賢於2015年加入高力國際。自上任以來,他透過結合發表具建設性見解的研究、創新的營銷策略以及交付切合客戶所需服務的強大力量,大大擴展了香港的業務。

施禮賢不單積極推動多元與共融,並鼓勵支持企業和社區就推動性別平等和職場健康的倡議。

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