The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is the latest organisation found not to be consulted on the controversial decision of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) to concrete over prime waterfront lawns to build an open-air waterfront car park.
HKTB’s executive director Dane Cheng told RTHK Radio 3’s Backchat show yesterday he had no knowledge of the development at the Palace Museum site.
Cheng had been discussing Hong Kong’s tourism recovery and had put forward the unveiling of the new Palace Museum in June or July as a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s tourism recovery plan.
When asked about the lawn destruction, which severely limits outdoor space at the Palace Museum site, Cheng said he had no knowledge of the move.
“I haven’t seen that yet, I better check with them,” he said.
Cheng said parking was a problem at the site and the WKCDA was making the right move.
“I understand the car parking has been an issue. When we talk to the trade, the travel trade, even the coaches taking local tourists to M+ and the park, they have problems parking,” he said.
HKTB joins the Harbourfront Commission (HFC) in having been kept in the dark over the destruction of the popular waterfront amenity and the creation of at-grade car parking on the very edge of Victoria Harbour.
In mid-February, the HFC’s Task Force on Harbourfront Developments wrote to WKCDA asking for clarification on the works at the site. “We are not aware that WKCDA has consulted the Task Force […], grateful if you could enlighten us on this please.”
WKCDA replied on 15 March with the same letter it had earlier sent to Transit Jam in response to enquiries about the lawn, in which it claimed it was required to provide 2,300 car parking spaces across the district while currently it only built 480.
It also said rampant illegal parking along Museum Drive proved the need for more parking spaces.
But in fact illegal parking remains a huge problem today, despite the opening of the new car park a month ago and even with other adjacent car parks offering hundreds of empty spaces, a Transit Jam survey at the weekend revealed.
Cars parked illegally on the roundabout literally yards away from the new car park – which costs just $32 per hour on weekends but is largely empty – blocking double-decker buses from turning at the end of their route.
On Sunday, private cars lined the whole of Museum Drive, turning the new two-lane carriageway into a single track, even while adjacent underground car parks had over 150 spaces available, again at $32 per hour.
Some cars had engines idling, with drivers waiting for park-going families. Others were simply illegally parked.
One youngster enjoyed a picnic on the tailgate of his Toyota FJ Cruiser.
“Isn’t it cool?” he said when asked why he preferred to eat on the roadside when there’s a park across the road. “It’s like camping.”
While key bodies have not been consulted, some plans for underground car parking have been presented to lawmakers.
In March 2021, a LegCo brief said some lawmakers expressed concern over whether the provision of “over 2,000 car parking spaces […] was consistent with a vehicle-free design concept”.
The government, using a Traffic Study from 2009, then responded saying a key feature of the West Kowloon “Conceptual Plan”, developed by Foster + Partners, was the “integrated basement”, whereby traffic and loading bays were shifted underground, “thereby freeing up the site above for public enjoyment and enhancing the walking environment at podium level.”
There was no mention of at-grade parking, or the destruction of the North Lawn, in any of the papers presented to LegCo or the District Council on the issue.
District Councillor and CEO of Designing Hong Kong Paul Zimmerman, who is also a member of HFC, sent WKCDA a list of questions on 15 March “to better understand what we can expect going forward at what is promised to be a large park with cultural and other facilities on the waterfront of Victoria Harbour”.
The questions include concerns over WKCDA’s consultation process on land use, traffic management on Museum Drive, management of parking and traffic for the Palace Museum opening, and any master plan for pedestrian access to the site.
Transit Jam also put follow-up questions to WKCDA’s PR firm Edelman last week. Isis Wong, manager for the WKCDA brand at Edelman, says the authority will respond “in due course”.
President Xi Jinping personally signed the collaboration agreement for building the Palace Museum during a visit to West Kowloon in June 2017, two days before current Chief Executive Carrie Lam took office.