Early start pays off for Sun Hung Kai despite deletion of one tower
A private residential project on a prime site along Victoria Harbour has been given the planning green light after the applicant, developer giant Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016), wielded the knife on one tower block.
The Metro Planning Committee of the Town Planning Board last Friday approved the developer’s revised nine-tower scheme at the site adjacent to the North Point Ferry Pier.
The developer appears not to have lost out too much in terms of potential sales as the number of flats was reduced slightly from 710 in the original ten-tower scheme to 702 in the nine-tower scheme.
With tower number four gone, Sun Hung Kai redistributed the flats that were in the deleted tower to the remaining towers.
As such, three tower blocks had their heights increased to allow more flats while the remaining five towers saw no change in height.
The redistribution of flats was necessary as Sun Hung Kai was required under the government lease to build at least 700 flats on the site.
And all of this was because of public concerns over the wall effect and “visual permeability” at an earlier meeting last July when the board deferred its decision so that Sun Hung Kai could have a rethink.
In addition to the nine-tower scheme, the developer also offered an eight-tower scheme for the public to comment on.
“Amongst the three schemes, the nine-tower scheme is a more balanced scheme in bringing substantial improvement to the visual permeability as compared with the original ten-tower scheme, while maintaining some variations in the [building height] profile which adds visual interest to the backdrop of the future [public open space] at the waterfront and achieving a more satisfactory noise compliance rate than the eight-tower scheme,” Planning Department said in its consideration paper to the board.
It added the Harbourfront Commission and Eastern District Council preferred the nine-tower scheme.
Sun Hung Kai took quite a risk in starting foundation work before town planners had even met for the July meeting, when the application was to be considered.
On a visit last July, Construction Post noted that Gammon Construction had already started work on the foundations and diaphragm walls on the eastern half of the site for the ten-tower scheme that was submitted to the board.
Last Friday, when this correspondent revisited the site, Gammon was still working on the eastern half.
It is not clear if any abortive works for piling were incurred by the deletion of one tower and reconfiguration of the remaining towers.
A comparison of the two schemes shows that the towers on the nine-tower scheme were shifted slightly, with the tower footprints being tweaked in addition to the three towers being made taller as mentioned earlier.
The developer won a tender for the site in July last year with a bid of HK$6.91 billion.
Asked to comment last July, a former senior official at Lands Department said: “It is a risk and reward situation and my guess would be that the fundamentals of the project are unlikely to change so Sun Hung Kai would be confident their foundation works will be suitable for the final scheme.”
With time being money, developers would be looking to save time by starting work earlier while the planning issues were hammered out with town planners.
Sun Hung Kai’s project means bad news for Island Lodge residential block, just across from the site on Java Road and which was completed only in 2008.
With the completion of Sun Hung Kai’s project expected after 2016, Island Lodge’s unlucky owners will have had an unrestricted view of Victoria Harbour for just eight years.