Government rebuffs West Kowloon Cultural District request for more funds
The troubled West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) project will have to make do with its available funds and cut costs by simplifying design of the facilities in order to cope with escalating construction costs.
Quoting sources, local Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported Wednesday that the government has turned down a request from the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to apply to the Legislative Council for more funding.
Instead the government said the most it could do was spend several hundred million dollars in public funds to build the basic infrastructure.
It also requested the authority simplify the designs in order to cut costs.
In response to the Sing Tao report, a reply from a spokeswoman for the authority was limited to saying that it was looking into the imminent selection of designs for the Xiqu Centre and M+ museum.
“We hope to update the Legislative Council on the financial position of the WKCD project in July,” she added.
In July 2008, Legco approved a one-off upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion to the authority to cover the capital cost of planning, design and construction of the arts and cultural and related facilities of the WKCD.
Two months ago, reports emerged claiming that the cost of the project could double due to increasing construction costs.
According to the latest Sing Tao report, the cost of the showcase M+ museum could be cut from the original HK$7billion to HK$4-5 billion.
In addition the authority’s Development Committee discussed the costs of holding design competitions at a meeting last month and recommended that they be cancelled to cut costs.
Another cost cutting measure was to study combining facilities such as the exhibition and performing venues.
As regards the overall concept design which was done by renowned British architect firm Foster + Partners, the authority was looking into putting the roads, carparks and other basic infrastructure below ground and get the government to build them so as to relieve the financial burden.
Allan Zeman, a member of the board of the authority, was quoted as saying that there were other ways of raising funds such as use of public-private partnerships and granting naming rights.
Another board member, Andrew Lam Siu-lo, said to Sing Tao that authority has all along been conducting financial studies of the designs but said in some cases there was no further scope for cost cutting.
In any case, the handwringing over cost overruns was premature.
“Not one cent [of the endowment] has been used yet and we should not be getting tangled up over this issue,” Lam was quoted as saying to Sing Tao.
He said it would be best to get the first three facilities, that is, Xiqu Centre, M+ museum and the freespace up and running first to assess the impact of their use and then consider the other issues.