The government is facing questions over its proposal to develop underground space at Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui, with a non-profit group saying it doesn’t believe the plan will achieve its stated goals, which include alleviating the overcrowded street-level walking environment and improving the pedestrian connectivity.
Paul Zimmerman, chief executive of Designing Hong Kong, a non-profit organization that aims to promote “sustainability, quality of life and good design as core values in planning, development and governance”, said on Tuesday that the government has shown that it fails to understand the root of the problem as it pursues an underground space development plan.
Commenting on the matter a day before the second phase of public consultation on a pilot study of the plan ends, Zimmerman said his group opposes the proposal.
In June 2015, the government began studies to explore the feasibility of developing underground space development in four selected strategic urban areas (SUAs), namely Tsim Sha Tsui West, Causeway Bay, Happy Valley, and Admiralty/Wan Chai, through evaluations and consultations before it recommended giving priority to the Kowloon Park Conceptual Scheme.
Under the proposal, the scheme will involve an underground area of more than 340,000 square feet with five stories of facilities that will offer a combined floor area of more than 540,000 sq. ft. Of this, 30 percent will be provided for retail and catering while 40 percent will be for community facilities, pedestrian passages and public space.
There will also be three pedestrian walkways built underground to connect Nathan Road, Canton Road, and Austin Road/Haiphong Road.
Zimmerman pointed out that the reason why Haiphong Road has long been so congested is that there is no road connecting Canton Road and an MTR station.
Designing Hong Kong and the Tsim Sha Tsui Residents Concern Group suggested that authorities should adopt a simpler and cheaper way to solve the crowding problem on Haiphong Road, that is, re-opening pedestrian crossings at Peking Road and Middle Road, RTHK reported.
The related engineering work would take less than a month with no impact on traffic, the public broadcaster quoted Zimmerman as saying.
He suggested opening a crossing at Salisbury Road as well, which would require a traffic assessment, and perhaps take longer.
About three to four years are needed to build underground tunnels, noted Zimmerman, who lost to the establishment camp’s Tony Tse Wai-chuen in a Legislative Council by-election for a Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency seat in March last year.
In addition, the activist also warned that developing underground facilities could end up causing animals and plants in Kowloon Park to be affected, which can be prevented if the option of building the above-ground pedestrian crossings is adopted.
Leslie Chan, a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in Hong Kong, who is concerned about development of Tsim Sha Tsui, wrote in an article that since the planned underground tunnel of Haiphong Road and its exit on Canton Road are both close to the former Whitfield Barracks, he is worried the structures of the Grade I historic buildings may be put at risk due to the construction.
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