Tamar Site (2005)
We do not object to government use on this strategically located site, which is also one of the last few remaining waterfront sites along the Victoria Harbourfront. We support that only core government uses including the Legislative Council, Executive Council and Office of the Chief Executive be located here; whilst the rest of the Central Government Offices (CGO) to remain in the existing location. In view of the commitment to downsize the civil service force and the relatively well maintained conditions of the existing CGO buildings, we do not see the urgency to relocate these offices to Tamar. In addition, we wish to caution the Government and the community to rethink about the scale of the development at Tamar: is it necessary to build an enormous high rise complex which consists of a wall of four towers ranging from 30 something to 60 storeys in height (180 m)? Or should it be a cluster of low to medium-rise buildings of unique design which are easily accessible to the public?
The Tamar site is situated in a unique geographical location – to the east, it connects with the cultural, performance, arts and convention facilities to the south, it connects with the financial, commercial, business and tourism hubs; to the southwest, it connects to the Garden Road area which is rich in historical and heritage values. We consider that the Tamar site should be fully utilized as a multi-purpose hub that accommodates political, economic, cultural and entertainment functions. This would highlight its unique harbour setting, strengthen Hong Kong’s importance as an international city and financial center in Asia in an all-win situation. It can also enhance all-day vibrancy of the Central and Wanchai area and contribute to uplifting the quality of city living. The uniqueness of the site naturally prompts a design to reflect more openness and transparency of both the LegCo and the Government and to facilitate direct contacts and communications with the public. We trust that with careful considerations and creative design, the new complex would not breach the ridgeline nor destroy the Victoria Harbour setting as viewed from the Peak. The stepped building height profiles advocated for developments along the harbourfront could also be realised.
The remaining part of the Tamar site should be dedicated for public enjoyment. It should be designed to blend in with the harbourfront, allowing easy access for the public to enjoy the beautiful harbour views at close proximity to the waters. Other than public open space, the previous “HarbourFest” event pointed to an urgent demand for a sizable outdoor performance venue. Active commercial uses, such as, shops and restaurants that complement waterfront development must also be included. If Tamar could become a place for the public to enjoy the harbour, not only would it help alleviate the already serious traffic congestion problems, it would also allow for a breathing space amidst the densely built-up business district, enhance the visual quality of the urban landscape, and, return the harbour to the people. This would be a win-win situation for all.
Development Intensity, Building Height and Visual Impact
High intensity development, whether government or business sector-led, would impose great pressure on the transport infrastructure in Central and Wanchai. The Government should set a good example by taking the lead to strictly follow the relevant guidelines it has promulgated e.g. Urban Design Guidelines, Traffic and Environmental Impact Assessments, and Air Ventilation Assessments. With regard to building height restrictions, , a maximum building height of 180mPD (approximately 50 to 60 storeys) has currently been stipulated on the relevant Outline Zoning Plan. Since this statutory plan was prepared based on some outdated development assumptions e.g. extent of the reclamations, urban design requirements, land use planning in the surrounding areas etc., this building height restriction is no longer considered appropriate. If buildings were to be built up to 180mPD, Government would be violating its own Urban Design Guidelines, specifically, in the need to protect the ridgeline (view of the ridgeline on Hong Kong Island as viewed from Kowloon and views of Victoria Harbour from the vantage point at the Peak). If Government takes the lead to breach the guidelines, it would be very difficult to expect private developers to observe the requirements under the Urban Design Guidelines in the future and would turn the Guidelines into mere empty words. Furthermore, the key design concept of stepped building heights towards the harbour would also not be able to materialise, The Hong Kong cityscape, in particular along the Victoria Harbour, would be further degraded. From a planning perspective, there is a need to review the outline zoning plan to ensure that it complements developments around the harbourfront area and its surroundings, and to address public expectation on urban design requirements and the dire need to improve the traffic problems. We urge the Government to uphold the relevant guidelines and to demonstrate by example their vision for future waterfront planning and development.
From the design perspective the Government should aim at a people-oriented approach and turn this site into a multi-purpose hub. It is also important to bring people from the Admiralty area to the harbour so that Tamar can be an easily accessible and user-friendly place for the public. With this in mind, Hong Kong can enhance its status and its citizens’ quality living while meeting all needs. Moving the high security level CGO to Tamar would only turn this precious site into a desolate island in our CBD.
Planning for the Existing Government Offices
Currently, most discussions focus on whether the CGO should be relocated to Tamar, whilst the overall impacts of the redevelopment of the existing CGO sites have been neglected. The CGO are currently located within the Garden Road area, characterized by a cluster of culturally and historically significant heritage buildings, including the St. John’s Cathedral, former Governor’s House, the Bishop’s House, Court of Final Appeal (former French Mission Building), Helena May Institute, Peak Tram Terminus, the American and British Consulates, the former explosive depot of the Victoria Barracks, Museum of Tea Ware (Flagstaff House) etc., which all witness and form part of Hong Kong’s century-old history. Besides heritage buildings, the area is also a green oasis. In the recently completed “Study on Landscape Value Mapping of Hong Kong”, the area is within the highest landscape value ranking. It is also home to champion trees. Therefore, if the sites of the existing CGO are to be auctioned and redeveloped into high density and highrise to finance the new Tamar development, we are not only sacrificing a piece of land of the highest landscape value but wiping out a part of our historical heritage permanently. Furthermore, high-rise developments on these sites would also violate the Urban Design Guidelines recommendations to protect our ridgelines and views of the Victoria Harbour from the Peak. High density developments would also generate high levels of vehicular and pedestrian traffic which would worsen the current congestion problems. The extensive site formation works may also affect slope stability. This is not in line with the sustainable development principles promoted by the Government.
We recommend the Government to consider designating the whole area north of Robinson Road and the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens all the way down to St. John’s Cathedral and Murray Building as a “Heritage Zone”. In doing so, this would not only allow comprehensive preservation of the valuable heritage building clusters but the recognition of this heritage zone within the CBD core could provide an opportunity for all of us to savour a significant part of the city's history.