Empire Group gives hope of rebirth to Mariners’ Club

February 12, 2018 11:19
The Empire Group has been chosen to redevelop The Mariners' Club in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Elsa Esthers / Wikimedia Commons / Mariners' Club

The Mariners’ Club, one of the most undervalued assets in Hong Kong, is finally going to have its long-planned redevelopment.

For the past 50 years, the blue building next to the Tsim Sha Tsui Post Office on Middle Road has been home to visiting sailors, offering capsule-like hotel rooms, a world-class swimming pool and the services of a small Anglican church. 

It is not quite a hot spot for locals, although it regularly hosts gatherings for bridge players like myself.

But with the decline of the shipping industry, and with it the number of vessels visiting the territory, the Sailors Home and Missions to Seamen, which operates the place, found that the property is underutilized even as property prices are skyrocketing in the city.

So after a long search, the mission has chosen the Empire Group, the flagship company of former Sun Hung Kai Properties chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, to redevelop the property.

Empire has beaten Henderson Land, Sino Land, Regal Hotel and Lai Sun Development in the private tender for around HK$6 billion, according to local press reports.

The tender offers Empire a 50-year deal to operate the club, which will have about 340,000 square meters, including a 4,600 square meter clubhouse on the lower floors. The higher floors will become a hotel.

Walter Kwok, Empire's big boss, said his group will work very closely with the mission in the coming years to build a modern project in line with the highest standards of the hospitality industry.

Rebuilding and maintaining a modern home for seafarers is important for Hong Kong’s status as an international maritime center, he added.

For more than 150 years, the mission has been providing welfare services to local as well as visiting sailors.

To be able to serve them better, it is important to renovate the club's old facilities, club chairman Anthony Nightingale said.

The redevelopment, which is expected to be completed by 2022, will ensure that the club will be self-financing as it continues to serve the shipping industry and the local community as well.

The Mariners’ Club also has another facility in Kwai Chung, but it is not related to the prestigious Aberdeen Marina Club, whose exclusivity has seen the value of its membership surging to new highs.

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EJ Insight writer