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The Spirit of Hong Kong?

The winning design for the Central Government Complex is described as the ‘Spirit of Hong Kong’ demonstrating ‘openness to new ideas’ and ‘transparency of Governance’. Can the same be said of the connection between Tamar and the inner city?

Rocco Yim’s design included four footbridges connecting Tamar with the elevated pedestrian network of Central and Wanchai. The bridges linking the Far East Finance Centre and United Centre were deleted for cost reasons. The remaining twin-footbridge with Admiralty Centre was included in the Outline Zoning Plan and the HK$4.9bln engineering and construction contract. In 2007, Town Planning Board members raised concerns over the quality of connections with the inner city and suggested adding underpasses however ‘the Administration preferred the footbridge’.

In November 2008, when the Government published the detailed layout plans under the roads ordinance, large staircases appeared next to the twin-footbridge in front of Admiralty Centre. Without entering into a negotiation with the owners, the Government had decided on ‘the present arrangement of a landing on the pavement of Harcourt Road’ rather than connecting into Admiralty Centre.

Government ‘deliberated on the issue vigorously’ and considered that ‘the cost and time implications’ in agreeing a ‘re-configuration’ of ‘the shopping mall level of Admiralty Centre’ and the ‘quite narrow’ ‘connection points between Admiralty Centre and neighbouring buildings’ with the ‘private ownership’ of ‘over 500 individual parties’ would be too ‘substantial’.

The external landing of the footbridge requires widening the pavement and removal of a bus lay-by used by 25 routes. In the future, 19 bus routes will have to stop in the second traffic lane and the other 6 routes will use a new bus stop in the now much shorter turning lane for entering Admiralty via Tamar Street.

The Government claims that this reduction from three to two lanes would have ‘minimal’ impact on traffic along Harcourt Road, a strategic urban trunk road (‘red route’) and a key circulation road for the Admiralty complex.

However, no traffic impact data has been made available and it is unclear whether the future operation of the South Island and the Shatin-Central lines from Admiralty Station has been taken into account.

Two large pillars, two staircases, one elevator shaft and protective beam barriers will occupy the pavement and block the façade of Admiralty Centre, including their billboards and shop windows.

The footbridge is expected to have a significant visual impact on Harcourt Road. In September 2008, ACABAS, the Advisory Committee on Appearance of Bridges and Associated Structures, concluded that ‘from an urban design and a holistic design point of view, alternatives such as (an) underpass connecting MTR Admiralty Station to CGC (Tamar) would be preferred to the proposed footbridge.’

To connect Tamar with the inner city requires a footbridge with internal connections through Admiralty Centre to the elevated pedestrian network of Queensway Plaza and down to the MTR (red line).

Without the re-configuration of Admiralty Centre the pedestrian network will be limited to the existing CITIC footbridge, which connects Tamar, United Centre, Queensway, Harcourt Garden Car Park and (planned) Pacific Place. The new large twin-footbridge between Tamar and Admiralty will then be underused as it only connects with Exit A of Admiralty MTR station (blue line).

However, MTR passengers would be better served with an underpass (black line) and the blight associated with the footbridge would be avoided. The reason given for not pursuing a tunnel is that ‘the requirement of the statutory Outline Zoning Plan was a footbridge, not an underpass’.

This brings us full circle and back to the beginning, the Spirit of Hong Kong.

Not The Spirit of Hong Kong

1. Failure to contact and negotiate with neighbouring property owners;

2. Failure to improve the connection between the existing elevated pedestrian network and the Green Carpet of the new Government Offices on Tamar;

3. Failure to provide Government employees and visitors of Tamar the best possible link to the MTR;

4. The removal of one lane from the strategic Harcourt Road, impacting traffic around the expanding Admiralty Rail Station;

5. The blight of the public realm with an over-sized footbridge, staircases and pillars;

6. Reducing the level of service for pedestrians by blocking a pavement;

7. The waste of public funds on a footbridge larger than required (given the lack of connections);

8. Behaviour unbecoming of a good neighbour, responsible developer and flexible government.

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