Developer: Swire Properties Limited
* Wong and Ouyang (HK) Limited
* Hugh Dutton & Associates
* Gustafson Porter + Bowman
Location: Hong Kong SAR, China
By Colin Galloway
Large-scale urban renewal projects are rare in Hong Kong due to the city’s high land prices, a shortage of consolidated land parcels, and the general inclination for quick profit over long-term placemaking. The Taikoo Place regeneration, launched some 40 years ago by developer Swire Properties in the neighbourhood surrounding a former sugar refinery and docklands in the Eastern district of Hong Kong island, is therefore all the more remarkable, not only for its staying power, but also its single-minded pursuit to fashion a large, diverse, self-contained community.
Located some 8 kilometres from the Central CBD, Taikoo Place functions as an alternative business hub currently featuring an enormous 6.1 million square feet of gross floor area. The area has evolved over time, with some buildings now into their second and third generations, and the developer continues to acquire older industrial buildings in the area as part of an ongoing commitment to redevelopment.
Commercial assets comprise nine Grade-A office towers together with a universe complementary of other offerings that include hundreds of F&B outlets, numerous retail facilities, a 345-room hotel and serviced-apartment component, and much else besides. The area tends to be favoured by companies in the creative and IT industries, as well, more recently, as an increasing number of more established businesses fleeing high rents in the Central CBD.
The overarching design philosophy that runs throughout the entire project reflects Swire’s enlightened approach to development, incorporating a strong commitment to sustainability in everything from building design to energy saving, green financing, waste management, large expanses of open green space at ground level, and an overhead footbridge network that links the area’s main components. Major buildings are all highly-rated in terms of BEAM Plus, LEED, and WELL certification.
What makes the project remarkable, however, is not simply that it creates a critical mass of first-class commercial facilities. The bigger story, as one locally-based juror put it, is about placemaking and community: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is one of these 15-minute communities that has everything: the residential, the schools, the shopping mall, the doctors’ offices—literally everything you need within walking distance. It is a post-COVID 19 world where a large quantity of people can choose to live close to where they work, send their kids to school, and have everything they need right there. That is what makes Taikoo Place quite unique in Hong Kong.”
The emphasis on community is not restricted just to tenants of its commercial assets, but is intended to serve the entire neighbourhood, most obviously via Swire’s commitment to sponsoring frequent social and cultural events (such a street carnivals, markets, and art events) that draw people from the whole of Hong Kong.
Less obviously, but probably more importantly, that commitment is also evident in a focus on investing in the public realm to ensure the neighbourhood’s original character is preserved. The developer has therefore retained many of the street-level shops in the Taikoo Shing Estate and Cityplaza areas, together with community-friendly shopping options such as the Cityplaza mall. All too often in equivalent regeneration exercises, the replacement of such facilities with a sea of high-end shops leads inevitably to gentrification and the slow death of the area’s former identity. Swire’s dedication to maintaining that neighbourhood personality bears witness to the community spirit that is part of its DNA.