The bulldozing of a popular waterfront lawn to create a 150-space car park is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), which says it ultimately plans to build 1,820 more car parking spaces by the time the district is finished.
Speaking through its PR firm Edelman in response to questions on the destruction of the North Lawn, WKCDA said there had been a “surge in visitation to the District and hence demand for public transport services and car parking facilities”.
WKCDA said it last year decided to re-purpose the North Lawn and Nursery Park and invited “proposals on the short-term use of the site with a view to enhancing the vibrancy of the District”.
Bidders for the music venue had to agree to build the 150-space car park as part of the concession contract, but the hourly fees will be paid directly to WKCDA.
“The provision of this short-term carpark will be instrumental to meeting the further increase in demand arising from the opening of the [Hong Kong Palace Museum] in mid-2022,” WKCDA says, while refusing to share further details of the contract such as the rental price and the duration.
Transport Department (TD) told Transit Jam WKCDA had carried out a Traffic Impact Assessment where the need for a temporary car park “was revealed by the illegal parking situation that caused traffic congestion on Museum Drive.”
TD also said WKCDA was free to build “temporary” facilities, within lease conditions, with “temporary” defined as “five years or less”.
District Councillor and Harbourfront Commission taskforce member Paul Zimmerman says he has written to the Development Bureau to ask how such prime land could be turned into a car park.
“I have no recall of any briefing on any plan to convert a waterfront site into an open-air car park. Surely, the Harbourfront Commission would strongly object. I urge for the [news] and WKCDA’s response to be tabled at the first possible opportunity,” he wrote to Rosalind Man-yee Cheung, the Development Bureau’s Commissioner for the Harbour.
But in response to questions on the car park, the publicly funded body said its hands were tied, claiming the Town Planning Board has ordered it to provide a total of 2,300 car parking spaces across the district “upon completion of all the arts and cultural facilities and commercial developments.”
There are currently around 480 parking spaces available, mainly at M+, Art Park and the Xiqu Centre.
“It is expected that the demand for car parking will increase further following the opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) in mid-2022,” says WKCDA. “As only a small number of carparking spaces will be available in HKPM, it is imperative for WKCDA to implement short-term arrangements to meet the needs of the HKPM visitors,” it says.
Transit Jam first broke the news of the bulldozed lawn over the Lunar New Year, when bike rental facilities were also shuttered and guards forbade children riding bikes on other lawns around the complex.
And a study last year of M+ visitors found around half of them arrived by car, an interesting finding given that, in 2015, WKCDA told LegCo only around 8% of visitors would use private cars.
A new footbridge linking the luxury Elements mall with the M+ park may improve the share of visitors using public transport, says WKCDA.
Separately, WKCDA’s PR firm Edelman did not respond to questions on its client’s apparent lust for car parking spaces. But according to the firm, climate change is “the biggest crisis we face as a society” and, under its own climate change charter, it “chooses to work with those committed to accelerating action to Net Zero”.