Even before the West Island Line extension of the MRT opens on Dec. 28, Kennedy Town, which the new line will link to Sheung Wan district, has been experiencing a sea change.
With their eye on the fresh stream of customers the extension will bring in, operators of many western-style restaurants and bars have been rushing to get a foothold in Kennedy Town, at the western end of Sai Wan on Hong Kong Island, Sing Tao Daily reported Wednesday.
The boom is transforming the area, known for its rows of automotive garages, into something resembling Central’s Lan Kwai Fong, one of Hong Kong’s nightlife hot spots and home to more than 90 restaurants and bars.
In Forbes Street, which used to be filled with car mechanics’ shops, at least six restaurants now woo diners.
While eateries and watering holes have been multiplying in Kennedy Town, garage owners are suffering, and some are ready to relocate.
Since the extension was announced, landlords have been relentlessly raising the rents for mechanics’ shops.
One garage owner said he was forced to give up his shop to a restaurant and relocate when his landlord doubled the monthly rent to six figures.
Another owner said it is clear that landlords are planning to turn the area around Forbes Street into a nightlife destination like Lan Kwai Fong so that they can enjoy a steadily rising income from rents.
Eric Lun, a director at Midland Realty, expects more mechanics’ shops to be driven away by unaffordable rents.
The rent for one garage in the area has recently been raised to HK$400,000 (US$51,557), he said.
Lun said the rents and selling prices of stores in Sai Wan district have risen nearly 30 percent on average this year.
Transactions have been active, as many high-end restaurants in Central have been trying to open branches in the district.
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