Can Kai Tak, Hong Kong's former airport, take off as the city's second business district?

By Lam Ka-sing kasing.lam@scmp.com / SCMP | July 16, 2019 3:17 PM SGT
The viability of repurposing Hong Kong's former airport at Kai Tak into the city's second business district by the 2020s is likely to fade further into the distant future, as the construction of basic amenities and infrastructure is delayed by a lengthy consultation process.
A monorail network with 12 stations linking the former airport's runway precinct with neighbouring Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay remains on paper, as the commencement of construction planned for 2018 is stuck midway in a three-stage public consultation process that has lasted a decade.
"The vision is good", but the "execution of the plan might have been mishandled", said He Huahan, a district councillor who some times advises Hong Kong's government on public facilities in the Kai Tak South area.
"Related amenities and facilities are still not in place, including the Sha Tin-Central link, while the consultation for the construction of the monorail has taken more than 10 years."
If Kai Tak's past was a showcase of Hong Kong's can-do spirit and entrepreneurship, its present reflects some of the problems that ail the city, rendering its future in doubt.
Kai Tak, which served Hong Kong for more than seven decades until 1998 as the city's sole civilian airport, got its name from a failed real estate project by two local businessmen, Ho Kai and Au Tak, in the 1920s, who had sought to build mansions on a plot of reclaimed land.
At the behest of American aviator Harry Abbott, the then British colonial government turned the reclaimed plot into an airfield with a grass strip runway in 1924, where Abbott set up his flying school.
The early airfield served as the Far East destination for the then Imperial Airline (now British Airways), and Pan Am's Hong Kong Clipper service from San Francisco. The airport was expanded using prisoner-of-war labour by the occupying Japanese forces during the second world war.
So far only 5 per cent of the 323-hectare site covered by the Kai Tak redevelopment plan has been allocated for commercial use. Photo: Winson Wong alt=So far only 5 per cent of the 323-hectare site covered by the Kai Tak redevelopment plan has been allocated for commercial use. Photo: Winson Wong
A plan to expand Kai Tak's usage as an international airport began in 1954, and a 3,390 metre (11,130 feet) runway was reclaimed from Victoria Harbour in 1974, where it still stands.
Located minutes from bustling Kowloon,...