HONG KONG — Last Thursday, digitized neon waves undulated across a small crowd standing inside the large, darkened room on the 21st floor of a brand new high-rise overlooking Hong Kong’s glimmering historic Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong property development and retail tycoon Adrian Cheng stood in the middle of the group, as he gave a speech about “making waves” by adding creativity and culture to the city through redeveloping one of its oldest sites.
The site Cheng was speaking about just so happens to be his childhood home. Thirty-nine-year-old Cheng grew up with his family in the Eighties and Nineties inside the serviced apartments of New World Centre, one of Hong Kong’s landmark retail, hotel, residential and business multiplexes. The building, which first opened in 1980, was demolished around 2010 to make way for what would later become Victoria Dockside, Hong Kong’s own Hudson Yards.
“The area has been with my family for more than four decades, so to be able to rebuild it into Victoria Dockside, a global art and design district for Hong Kong, and to inject culture and creativity back into this area is simply amazing,” said Cheng in an interview with WWD, adding that this opening marks the beginning of a new chapter for both him and the district.
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On this momentous evening, Cheng had invited his friends, fellow socialites and other movers and shakers including feng shui master Thierry Chow, Kpop star Lee Sung-jong and others to celebrate the opening of K11 Atelier, an office tower and the first phase of Victoria Dockside, a 3 million square foot, $2.6 billion culture and design district spearheaded by Cheng’s family firm — New World Development.
And besides revamping Cheng’s childhood memories, Victoria Dockside is literally giving the area a new lease on life.
Known for its high cost of living and record-breaking rents, Hong Kong office space is more expensive than that of downtown Manhattan, London and even other Asian cities such as Tokyo and Beijing. Offices come at a premium in a crowded metropolis full of high-rises, and yet many firms continue to vie for the most coveted workspace along the city’s scenic and historic harbor front.
The opening of K11 Atelier demonstrated this demand. A midlevel office within the K11 Atelier was rented out for 120 Hong Kong dollars per square foot, the highest rate ever reached in Kowloon, according to a NWD spokesperson. The previous record was around 90 Hong Kong dollars per square foot.
“[This new record] is a good thing for us and an endorsement from other companies knowing this is going to be a prime location for them, with the views and the connections and the community we’re building,” said the spokesperson.
While the culture, retail and residential components of Victoria Dockside have yet to be revealed, K11 Atelier’s office tenants and employees will have access to a set of programs and spaces designed to connect and bring them together. “We have yoga classes, team-building classes, workshops, culinary courses,” said the spokesperson. “It’s basically a way to help people get out of ‘work work’ — it’s a networking space.”
More than 70 percent of the office spaces were rented out prior to the opening, with tenants including Mizuho Bank, Taipei Fubon Bank and other conglomerates.
Set to open fully in 2019, the Victoria Dockside redevelopment was designed by American architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox who oversaw Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills, while landscape architect James Corner Field Operations, who did New York’s High Line, oversaw the outdoor spaces. The venue is located beside next to other Tsim Sha Tsui landmarks such as the Hong Kong Space Museum.
Public spaces including Salisbury Garden and Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s Hollywood Walk of Fame, also underwent redevelopment as part of the Victoria Dockside project. Last week, alongside K11 Atelier, Salisbury Garden was one of the first new spaces to open; its redesign features a spacious lawn, and an outdoor screen that can transform the park into a movie theater.
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While he remained mum on giving any details about the upcoming retail component of Victoria Dockside, Cheng said he plans to make an announcement soon, and added that Chinese Millennials are especially looking for more culture and concepts within their retail experiences.
“In the case of K11 Art Malls,” Cheng said of NWD’s Hong Kong, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou-based shopping malls, “I’m injecting art and culture, and stories into the museum-retail concept. I’m curating a lifestyle for Millennials, so they can come to consume culture, to discover and be inspired, and that’s very important to the new generation of consumers.”