How hotels change neighbourhoods and write history
This article was written with Ed Ng and published on his blog earlier.
Hong Kong Island smoulders in the tropical sun: A beautiful, vibrant place, rich and prosperous — the envy of the world, and the cosmopolitan heart of Asia.
Central, the Peak, the Lan Kwai Fong and Soho districts, the southern coast — sprinkled with the villas of the rich and famous throughout the island.
Right across the beautiful Victoria harbour, where the peninsula of Kowloon connects to the mainland, you’ll find the working-class neighbourhoods of Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsai and, further north, Mong Kok, known collectively in Cantonese as Yau Tsim Mong, one of the 18 districts of the territory.
For decades, Hong Kong island was the stage where the spotlight was, and Kowloon just a piece of land from where to regard its shining sister with admiration.
Real estate agents say that ”location” is everything, but thankfully, locations too can change and sometimes evolve very dramatically.
Hong Kong’s waterfront has arguably the highest concentration of wealth per square meter in the world. The redevelopment of Kowloon has turned the peninsula from a gloomy working-class neighbourhood into a bright spark of culture and luxury, ready to welcome the world.
The area has been turned by visionary city planners and courageous investors into a new and modern center of art, creativity, business and hospitality. When the Festival de Cannes selected a venue for their first Asia event, they chose Kowloon over Hong Kong. They crossed over to the Dark Side.
For AB Concept principal Ed Ng personally, buildings like the Victoria Dockside with the K11 Atelier and ultra-luxurious Rosewood Hotel inside have a special meaning.
It forms a milestone in the revitalisation of southern Kowloon.
“Seeing this vibrant change the we felt it a natural move for us to join this revitalisation by moving our studio into this vibration location. If facts, Terence and I were both born and grew up on the Kowloon side. My mother used to go to the office right by the Star Ferry pier, while I attended design schools just a stone throw away.”
“We founded our company on the Hong Kong side in Star Street 20 years ago, it was a neighbourhood right on the edge of the prosperous Central district. Star Street was a startup hub, where you could enjoy the lifestyle of the budding entrepreneur. As the company grew, we moved into a proper office building with a more corporate setting.
“Yet over time, we learned that creative talent, quality of life, and a beautiful work environment, are not just a matter of interior design, but also about the outside world and your immediate surroundings.
“That’s when I began to think of location as something more than a physical address. It is also a spiritual place, filled with history and emotions. And this is why in June 2019, we became a part of the Victoria Dockside family .
The changes that came with it were at once dramatic and unexpected.
“Our team became proud of the new office. When I walked in through the doors, all my colleagues were there, smiling, even amongst the chaos of moving and hundreds of boxes still unpacked. There was an energy here, a spirit, a new eagerness to be part of something great.
The third generation of the visionary developer got it right. This is not just about business returns and stock market valuations, but about building a cultural hub, enabling artists and creators, and building a platform for others to prosper.
Victoria Dockside quickly became a magnet, attracting just the right crowd with the right energy. Its clientele, and the beautiful Rosewood Hotel, elevate not just its visitors to a new level of experiential luxury, they change the entire atmosphere of southern Kowloon. They turn the Dark Side into a shining beacon, ready for the future
The author is director of global business development for luxury interior design house AB Concept in Hong Kong, Milan and Taipei. Follow the author on LinkedIn