The government may have to go back cap in hand to legislators for more funding as development costs more than double for the much-delayed showcase project the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD).
Local Chinese newspaper Sing Tao Daily reported Tuesday, quoting sources on the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, that costs could jump to a range of HK$40 billion to HK$50 billion.
That is more than double the one-off upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion approved by the Legislative Council made in July 2008 to cover the capital cost of planning, design and construction of the arts and cultural and related facilities at the WKCD.
Asked by Construction Post to comment on the increased cost, a spokeswoman for the authority said: “The West Kowloon Cultural District project is now in the planning and design stages, and after the first batch of facilities are designed and ready for construction, reliable cost estimations will be possible.”
According to Sing Tao, the design of the Xiqu (Chinese opera) Centre was currently being finalized while the result of a design competition for the M+ museum showcasing visual culture would announced in June.
The authority was quoted as saying last December when the Xiqu design was announced, that the estimated cost would be about HK$2.7 billion, compared with the initial estimate of HK$1.3 billion made in 2006.
For the M+ museum, the initial estimate was HK$2.6 billion in 2008 but a board member quoted by Sing Tao said that “this time, it would not be cheap” and the cost could hit HK$5 billion.
The report noted that just these two projects alone would eat up about 40 percent of the initial endowment.
It said the main reason for the increase in cost was the lower estimates of construction cost inflation used back in 2008 for the financial assessment, at only two percent per annum.
According to a tender price index for competitive tenders received by quantity surveying firm Langdon & Seah in its latest quarterly construction cost review, in the second quarter of 2008 when the government provided its financial estimates to Legco, the index stood at 1360.
However, by the fourth quarter of 2012, the index had jumped to 1632, representing an increase of 20 percent.
The firm has forecast the index to hit an even higher figure of 1708 for the second quarter of this year.
A total of 17 facilities are planned at the WKCD.
Legislator Kwok Ka-ki was quoted by Sing Tao as saying that when he served on the Legco subcommittee on the WKCD in 2008, he thought the government’s estimates were too conservative.
Kwok said since the project has already started, more funds would just have to be approved if the government requested further funding.
The WKCD project has had a troubled implementation over the years ever since first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa proposed the project in 1998.
An early plan for a huge canopy designed by architect Foster + Partners to cover the site was scrapped in 2005 over cost concerns whereupon the government decided to start all over again.
In 2011, a new design, again from Foster + Partners, was chosen as the new master plan.
The authority’s first chief executive Graham Sheffield left suddenly in early 2011 after spending only five months after arriving in Hong Kong, to be replaced a few months later by Michael Lynch.