Friday, 7 September 2012

Kennedy Town - Paving the Way to the Future

Kennedy Town occupies the northwestern part of Hong Kong Island. It is bordered by the Belcher Bay of Victoria Harbour to the north, by the Sulphur Channel to the west, Shek Tong Tsui to the east and Mount Davis and Lung Fu Shan to the south. In 1886, when Arthur Edward Kennedy was governor, land was reclaimed along the coast of Kennedy Town. It formed a narrow coastal strip of land that included the Kennedy Praya and the coastal area from Beach Street via Collinson Street to Shek Tong Tsui. Additional land was reclaimed along the coast of Kennedy Town between 1933–1939, but works were suspended before the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. Further reclamation was conducted at the end of the 20th century. Kennedy Town is the western section of the historical Victoria City. In 1903, the Hong Kong Government erected seven boundary stones for the city, inscribed "City Boundary 1903". One of them is located next to the Kennedy Town Temporary Recreation Ground at Sai Ning Street (西寧街). While parts of Kennedy Town look and sound like a construction site right now, anyone with their finger on the pulse is pointing to it as Hong Kong’s next up-and-coming hot spot. By 2014 the three-kilometer extension of the MTR's Island Line from Sheung Wan will be complete -- the neighborhood is bracing itself for big change. Much like New York’s Meatpacking District, for more than 100 years the Kennedy Town neighborhood served as a cattle depot and slaughterhouse after animals were landed the nearby pier. The slaughterhouse closed in 1993 and for the next 10 years the neighborhood ambled along as a quiet residential area. That was until the government announced plans to give Kennedy Town an MTR station and suddenly all entrepreneurial eyes turned to the neighborhood. The public transit system will turn the waterfront locations in Kennedy Town into Hong Kong's new prime destination. Plans include converting the old Kennedy Town incineration plant and abattoir into a shopping mall, which at over 34,000 square meters will be bigger than the one at the development felicitously named The Belchers. Towards the eastern end of the neighborhood, the Western District Public Cargo Working Area is slated to become a waterfront promenade and pet’s park. The former poultry market in the Western Wholesale Food Market may become a restaurant complex and open-air eateries are planned to line the pier of the coastline
When construction for the MTR started in February 2011 one of the town’s first casualties was the long-standing swimming pool, quickly demolished to make way for a subway exit. But the loss was short-lived and Kennedy Town’s residents were swiftly rewarded with a new swimming pool last May. "Swimming pool" is quite an understatement: occupying 0.8 hectares, the complex currently has two outdoor pools; hen the second phase of the works is completed in 2016, there will be an additional multi-purpose pool, a teaching pool and a Jacuzzi. Bigger, better, more fun and with a brilliant view over Victoria Harbour, the swimming pool is the first sign of the goodies that come with an MTR line.
Nothing reveals a neighborhood’s character more than the restaurants on offer. For the most part, Kennedy Town’s neon-lit restaurants with no-frills decor cater to local laborers, fishermen, and families that count their time in the town by decades. Towards the west of the town is where the restaurant scene really points to the future. Savvy restaurateurs, quick to cater to the stream of yuppies moving in, opened restaurants and cafes with a strong emphasis on international menus and ambiance.
Davis Street is the center of evening gatherings here, sort of like a "SoHo of Kennedy Town." The strip appeals to those who enjoy bars with an unpretentious and undiscovered vibe, just as SoHo used to be. Each bar on Davis Street is open-fronted making it perfect for people-watching and for regulars to bump into each other. A recreational area on the opposite side of the street has become a meeting spot for dog owners and their pampered pooches. Prices are lower than the nightlife hot spots in Central, which is just 10 minutes away by taxi.
One of the best things about Kennedy Town is the million-dollar seaview afforded by a relatively undeveloped waterfront. As such, luxury residences such as The Merton, Manhattan Heights and The Sail command high prices that rival neighborhoods closer to the center of town, but with less vista. Locals have long used the waterfront for bouts of swimming, fishing and exercise but looking forward, should the busy bypass that currently runs the length of the harbor be transformed into something more recreational, Kennedy Town might really find itself on the map. The good news -- or bad news for rents -- is that this may happen sooner than expected. Now might be the time to negotiate a 10-year lease on your Kennedy Town apartment.