The Board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) held its 88th meeting on March 25. At the meeting, WKCDA’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Duncan Pescod welcomed Mr Paul Tam to join WKCDA as Executive Director, Performing Arts (EDPA). Mr Tam will lead the Performing Arts Division to deliver world-class programmes and oversee operations of the award-winning performing arts venues and facilities in the West Kowloon Cultural District. He is responsible for steering the strategic planning and sustainable development of these venues and overseeing their business direction, artistic development, venue operations, technical and production, facilities planning and delivery.
Mr Pescod was delighted to report the approval by the Legislative Council (LegCo) Finance Committee of the public infrastructure works funding application on 20 March 2020. The works include the Artist Square Bridge and the remaining works for the Integrated Basement for the district. With this approval, WKCDA enters a new phase of district development. The construction of the main portion of the Integrated Basement is a pre-requisite for any topside developments in the remaining sections of the project. The approved funding will make new cultural and commercial development in this area possible. The commercial development of Hotel/Offices/Residential (HOR) buildings, in particular, is key to the long-term sustainability of West Kowloon as this will become an important source of recurrent income for the authority.
Of equal importance, the funding approval indicates that WKCDA can now commence construction of the Artist Square Bridge, which will make the District more accessible to the nearby transportation hub located at Kowloon Station and significantly enhance the connectivity of the district. The authority will start processing related works for the basement and the detailed preparatory work for both the remaining core arts and culture facilities and the HOR development packages. Mr Pescod reported that the funding approval was most timely as WKCDA has now received the final Land Grant, which the Authority has signed and returned to the Government for final processing. The final entrustment agreements were also signed following the funding approval.
On construction projects, with the combination of the holiday period over the Chinese New Year when the construction industry typically closes down, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, progress on WKCDA construction projects has experienced a substantial slow-down during February 2020, with only a partial return in this month. It was anticipated that by early April, the progress would finally return to the rate at which we were experiencing in January. However, with the latest situation showing a return of COVID-19 cases to Hong Kong, there may well be further negative impacts on the progress of the construction works.
Like all areas of activity in Hong Kong, the West Kowloon project has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The problems encountered were in two main areas: workers on site and deliveries of materials. Most notably, deliveries of materials such as concrete to construction sites have been affected because some of the supply chains in Mainland China were temporarily closed in February. All WKCDA construction projects, including M+, the Lyric Theatre Complex (LTC) and the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) have been impacted. The Authority is now endeavouring to pull back any lost time and the situation is being monitored closely.
Nevertheless, works on LTC and the Integrated Basement continue and the entire B2 level base slab to the North and South side of the site will be completed in the coming weeks. The construction of the superstructure is also gathering pace.
The M+ project is in its final stages of construction. Mr Pescod reported that one of the consequences of the problems outlined above is that the planned date for the Occupation Permit (OP) has been delayed by several weeks. However, the authority is still hopeful of gaining the OP by the end of the second quarter of 2020. The museum is set to open nine to twelve months later.
For the construction of HKPM, despite the impact experienced in February and March, the superstructure is now up to the third floor of the seven-storey building. The main contractor is working hard to accelerate areas of work to catch up with time.