Different generations of Hong Kong people probably have different impressions of Russell Street, which is known among locals as Mouse Street because it used to be a squalid neighborhood infested with rodents.
Even in the ’60s, it was already a hive of commercial activities, where double-deck trams snaked through long lines of dai pai dong (open-air food stalls) that drew hungry office workers and commuters with steaming pork buns and spicy chicken legs, and a wet market with clamorous vendors adding to the vibrancy of the place.
The street, which once served as a depot of Hong Kong Tramways, changed its complexion and status after Wharf Holdings turned it into Times Square in the early ’90s in what is arguably the most value-accretive property deal in Hong Kong.
The rest, as they say, is history. Now, according to the latest survey of estate broker Cushman & Wakefield, the center of bustling Causeway Bay and home to high-end fashion brands and fine dining has displaced New York’s Upper 5th Street Avenue as the world’s most expensive retail street in terms of rentals.
Over the last 12 months, average rent on Russell Street was estimated at US$2,671 (HK$20,953) per square foot, compared with US$2,250 in Big Apple’s 49th to 60th Streets, says the report Main Streets Across The World.
Although the average rent on Russell Street slipped 1.5 percent, it was enough for Hong Kong to regain the top ranking for the first time in five years, after the snooty New York avenue saw a 25 percent drop in rents as more consumers shifted to online shopping and more stores looked for less pricey locations.
This year also marks the the sixth time for Russell Street to be crowned as the world’s most expensive retail location, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which tracked 446 posh streets around the globe to compile its report.
London’s New Bond Street ranked third on the list with a flat rent of US$1,744 per square foot, which was enough to make it the priciest retail hub in Europe despite worries over Brexit.
The stratospheric rents in Hong Kong could partly be attributed, of course, to the crazy rich Chinese who have opted to satisfy their cravings for luxury items in the tax-free SAR, instead of snapping up the same goods back home, where they have to pay a 30 percent import tax and worry whether the items they get are genuine or not.
As a result, Hong Kong is at least four times more expensive than Beijing, where the average retail rent at the landmark Wangfujing Street is US$482 per square foot.
Completing the 10 most expensive streets are Avenue des Champs-Élysées at US$1,519 per square foot; Via Montenapoleone in Milan, US$1,466; Ginza in Tokyo, US$1,219; Pitt Street Mall in Sydney, US$964; Myeongdong in Seoul, US$908; Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, US$854; and Kohlmarkt in Vienna, US$515.
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