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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

Hong Kong's Amazing Development History One Site At A Time

If you enjoy learning about a city through its development history, Hong Kong has a tale to tell. CityLife highlights some of the city’s finest redevelopment projects and traces their roots.
Hong Kong expanded rapidly after World War Two, from 1.8 million people in 1948 to 5.7 million by 1990. The generally hilly terrain meant that finding suitable and sufficient land for development to accommodate ever increasing population was always going to be a challenge.
In the early 1970s, the Hong Kong Government embarked on the establishment of satellite or new towns in the New Territories to meet burgeoning housing demand. But that was not enough. And, as the city expanded from its centre, locations once considered too remote or suited only for industrial and utility facilities often became prime sites for urban development.
The established owners of these facilities often led their conversion into major private residential and commercial developments, focused on housing and supporting a rapidly growing middle class.
Dockyards and depots, power plants and factories were all rapidly subsumed under Hong Hong's redevelopment binge, transformed into some of the world's largest private housing estates in just a few years. For the most part, they delivered decent, if compact, accommodation, well served by amenities and handily connected to the rest of the city.
CityLife is pleased to introduce some these models of urban development for you to visit. As well as witnessing how Hong Kong redeveloped and reinvented itself at this vital phase of its growth, you'll capture an insight into Hongkongers' lifestyle – meals, socialising, exercise, entertainment, study and play, which take place much more in the local community than for countries with larger homes.
Mei Foo Sun Chuen (Mei Foo)
The granddaddy of Hong Kong's private housing estates, and the largest when built, Mei Foo comprises 99 multi-storey residential towers with over 13,000 apartments on its 40-acre site. The site was formerly a major petroleum products storage depot and was developed by owner Mobil Oil and named for its Chinese brand name 'Mei Foo'.
While Mei Foo's Le Corbusier–inspired design of close-packed 20-storey buildings may now seem dated, it remains the quintessential middle-class Hong Kong housing estate – well- built, functional, spacious and self-sufficient, with a variety of shops and services on the ground floors. Home up to 80,000 residents, it also became a model of property management, with residents involved through owners' committees. Mei Foo is easy to reach by MTR or bus.
Completed  1968 to 1978
Former use   Oil depot 
Tai Koo Shing
Completed: mostly by 1986. Former use: dockyard.
Mei Foo's success was quickly copied by other companies, including the venerable John Swire and Sons, who operated the Tai Koo Dockyard in Quarry Bay and adjacent Tai Koo Sugar Refinery. The dock was relocated to Tsing Yi as part of the United Dockyard and Swire went ahead with the redevelopment of the site shortly after.
The 53-acre (21.5-hectare) development is perhaps Hong Kong's most successful private housing estate. Over 12,500 apartments occupy the site's 61 residential buildings (28 storeys tall) that are spread out over the site. A large shopping mall, Cityplaza, nestles in the heart of the building complexes. Over the years, Swire also converted several industrial buildings into gleaming skyscrapers lined with trendy bars and restaurants and a luxury hotel, adding to the vibrancy and attractiveness of the whole area. Tai Koo Shing remains the bellwether of the city's vital property market.
Getting to Tai Koo Shing is convenient. Be sure to also take a walk along the Quarry Bay Promenade close by and enjoy splendid views of the Eastern harbour.
Riviera Gardens
Completed: circa 1990. Former use: oil depot.
Another oil depot – this time it was Caltex, the Asian retail arm of US oil giants Chevron and Texaco, that decided to convert its oil depot in Tsuen Wan into a housing development, in partnership with local developer New World Development.
Riviera Gardens which comprises 19 high-rise residential blocks plus retail units and a shopping centre, is now part of the sprawling Tsuen Wan new town west of Kowloon, featuring skyscrapers, a vibrant waterfront and a picturesque harbour.
Whampoa Garden, Hung Hom
Completed: 1990. Former use: dockyard.
Not surprisingly, the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dockyard, owned by conglomerate Hutchinson Whampoa and located on the waterfront of Hung Hom in Kowloon, was also redeveloped by its owner. Whampoa Dockyard, which at one time was the largest shipyard in Asia, merged with Taikoo Dockyard to form United Dockyards and relocated to faraway Tsing Yi in 1972, but the Whampoa site wasn't developed until the 1980s.
Whampoa Gardens is made up of 88 residential buildings plus two commercial complexes – including the Whampoa, a shopping mall shaped like a luxury liner. Whampoa Garden's delightful waterfront connects all the way to Tsim Sha Tsui, a chance for a fine relaxing stroll with views of all the harbour.
South Horizo​​ns, Ap Lei Chau
Completed: 1995. Former use: power station and oil depot
South Horizo​​ns, a large private housing estate located at the southern tip of Ap Lei Chau with beautiful views of Lamma Island across, was also developed by Hutchison Whampoa. The site was formerly a power station for the Hong Kong Electric Company, a subsidiary of Hutchison , and an associated oil depot, operated by Shell Oil. In 1982, a large, new coal-fired power station was built on Lamma Island to replace the aging and smaller oil-fired power plant and to meet rapid growth in demand on Hong Kong Island.
South Horizo​​ns comprises 34 high-rise blocks, with over 9,800 apartments. It remains a desirable private estate given its tranquil, waterfront location. Nearby are several large factory outlets selling branded goods and furniture that are worth visiting. South Horizo​​ns is easily accessible by MTR or numerous bus routes.
Times Square, Causeway Bay
Completed: 1994. Former use: tram depot
It is hard to imagine that Times Square, one of the city's best-known shopping centres and office tower complexes in the heart of bustling Causeway Bay, was once a tram depot. The iconic Hong Kong Tram, then owned by the Wharf Group, had to be relocated due to burgeoning development of the area and to noise complaints. New tram depots were built in Sai Wan Ho and Sai Ying Pun near either end of the tram system and this site was redeveloped into one of the city's iconic landmarks.
Shop and eat to your heart’s content at Times Square, and maybe visit nearby renowned shopping and dining destinations including Lee Gardens, Fashion Walk, and Sogo.
Cheung Sha Wan along Cheung Sha Wan Road and Lai Chi Kok Road
Completed: from 1990s to present. Former use: textile and garment factory buildings
When Hong Kong was one of the world's textile and garment manufacturing centres, in the 1960s and 70s, its heart was in Cheung Sha Wan, then dotted with factory buildings. As Hong Kong evolved into a financial centre, these buildings were repurposed for commercial and retail use. Garment giant Lai Sun, which sold under the iconic Crocodile brand, redeveloped its factories into Cheung Sha Wan Plaza, a major shopping and office tower complex. A more recent redevelopment, D2, was converted from an industrial building into a trendy shopping , entertainment and dining complex. Thankfully, Cheung Sha Wan's textile roots have endured, through several large wholesale garment marts featuring hundreds of brands from Korea, Japan and China.
Kwun Tong/Kowloon Bay
Completion: ongoing. Former use: flatted factory buildings
Over the last two decades, from shortly after the old Kai Tak Airport was relocated, the skylines of Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay have been steadily transformed. As Hong Kong's industrial hub, Kwun Tong was known for its serried ranks of flatted factories. With the closure of the airport and consequent relaxation of building height limit, private developers are steadily demolishing or converting these buildings into office and retail use. Today, Kowloon Bay waterfront is lined with gleaming office towers and shopping complexes framed by the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and a nicely landscaped waterfront promenade.
Notable locations include the Millennium City and its APM Mall, MegaBox and Kitec Mall. From the nearby Kwun Tong Ferry Pier, you can enjoy a relaxing ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to either Sai Wan Ho or North Point.


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