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Industrial Hub Morphs Into Hong Kong Hot Spot

Artists, galleries and fashion stores flocking to empty industrial buildings in search of both bargains and character have helped turn a former hardscrabble port district into Hong Kong's version of New York's Meatpacking District.

Now a new subway is set to complete the gentrification of Aberdeen, home to Hong Kong's fishing fleet and once famous for boat people living on junks.

Aberdeen, whose factory buildings date back to when Hong Kong was a manufacturing hub, is an example of how rents in Hong Kong's higher-priced areas, such as Central and Causeway Bay, have driven tenants to look elsewhere.

Interest in the area also has been growing among developers and investors. Sale prices of commercial space in the Aberdeen industrial hub of Wong Chuk Hang already have skyrocketed from HK$600 ($77) a square foot in 2007 to about $6,000 ($770) a square foot.

Gallery Exit, which specializes in local artists, said its sales have gone up after it moved to Aberdeen from Hollywood Road in Central. 'Being off center makes us more special,' said Arianna Gellini, a Gallery Exit curator.

Named in memory of a former U.K. prime minister, Aberdeen, on the southern end of Hong Kong island, is home to 80,000 people. It mimics the income gap of Hong Kong itself, with industrial buildings, public housing and senior homes vying for space with a premier yacht club and two leading international schools. Villas in nearby Shouson Hill sell for $100 million Hong Kong dollars (around $13 million) or more.

The distance, 20 minutes by car from the Central business district, can be off-putting for many Hong Kong residents. But artists and entrepreneurs have moved here in the past three years because it is still possible to find bargains, even with recent price increases.

'Space is a luxury in Hong Kong,' said William Lane, founder and artistic director for Hong Kong New Music Ensemble. 'But you need space to be creative.'

The music ensemble moved into the Blue Box factory building, which has begun to lease space to artistic groups even though it still is used mostly for industrial purposes.

According to Prime Property, which leases and sells commercial properties in Hong Kong, space in the Blue Box building rents for HK$9 ($1.15) a square foot a month, while the rent in One International Financial Center in Central is HK$160 ($20.50) a square foot.

But Aberdeen's appeal is about more than cheap rent. The old factory buildings may look deserted and run-down on the outside, but their high ceilings, big windows and open floor plans give them character, occupants say.

The cool factor has attracted people like Tingting Zhong, chairman at Red Earth Cosmetics. The former private-equity executive and banker used to call herself a 'Central girl,' but now she enjoys working in One Island South, an office-shopping complex where her neighbors include fellow entrepreneurs, designers and the offices of high-end Hong Kong department store Lane Crawford.

'It feels like you are in SoHo' in New York, said Ms. Zhong, who lunches in the vegetarian restaurant downstairs or at one of the local noodle joints nearby.

Aberdeen is popular with other former finance professionals as well. After Chance Xie quit her job as a private banker to start a travel company called Journeys by Chance, she rented a studio office there for about HK$18,000 ($2,300) a month, while the same space in central Hong Kong would cost twice as much. She now has green vistas and enough room for a piano and weekend movie parties.

Commercial-property rent in Aberdeen has been rising in the past year while rent in Central has been falling. But the gap is still large enough that tenants are making the move.

Ms. Xie even thinks about moving to an Aberdeen apartment. Home prices are still cheaper there, though the gap is smaller than it is for office space.

In South Horizons, Aberdeen's biggest residential compound, selling prices are about HK$8,500 ($1,100) a square foot, about a quarter less than Taikoo Shing, a comparable complex on the north side of Hong Kong island, or half of home prices in Central or Mid-Levels -- a popular spot for expatriates -- according to Centadata.

But as more trendy businesses move into the area, people may be priced out. Some worry that Aberdeen's newfound popularity will mean some of its charm will be lost.

Baldwin Ko, owner of high-end gelato and pastry brand 2/3 Dolci, has mixed feelings about the new subway line. 'As a landlord, I would hope that prices will keep going up,' said Mr. Ko, who as an owner of a floor in an industrial building has profited handsomely from Aberdeen's rising popularity. 'But as a retailer, you need to find affordable rent, and I hope this area can keep its multidimensional feeling.'

香港许多空置的工业大厦正在迎来大批的艺术家、画廊和时尚店铺,他们来这里寻求便宜的租金,同时也为张扬个性。香港一处曾经贫瘠的港口区因此像纽约曼哈顿肉库区(Meatpacking District)一样摇身变成了时尚圣地。加上本来就在那里的海洋公园、珍宝海鲜舫和名牌大卖场,香港仔正成为大陆游客新朝圣地。



主推本地艺术家的画廊安全口(Gallery Exit)表示,自从画廊从中环的荷李活道搬到香港仔后销售行情一路看好。安全口画廊策展人阿里安娜•盖尔尼(Arianna Gellini)说:“我们一般都是熟客,搬离中心地带让我们显得更特别。”

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com



香港创乐团(Hong Kong New Music Ensemble)创始人、艺术总监凌艺廉(William Lane)说:“在香港空间就是奢侈品,但你需要有空间才能有创造力。”香港创乐团搬进了大生工业大厦(Blue Box),这栋大厦虽然仍主要用于工业,但也已开始向艺术团体出租空间。记者访问这座工厦的时候,楼下电梯口堆着的几根钢管突然砸了下来,工厦里很多推着推车来来往往的工人,难怪很多父母对送孩子来参加创乐团的活动感到犹豫。

香港仔商业地产的租金在过去一年中持续攀升,而同期中环的租金却在下滑。即便如此,两个地区的租金差距依然很大,足以让租户们舍弃中环投奔香港仔。据在香港租售商业地产的澎达物业顾问行有限公司(Prime Property)的数据,大生工业大厦的租金为每月每平方英尺九港元(约合每平米人民币77.8元),而在中环的国际金融中心一期月租金则高达每平方英尺160港元(约合每平米人民币1,380元)。


这一因素也吸引来了像化妆品公司Red Earth Cosmetics董事长钟婷婷这样的时尚人士。这位曾经的私募股权基金投资人、投资银行业者过去把自己叫做“中环女孩”,现在却很享受在香港仔写字楼One Island South里的工作生活。和她一样选择了这栋办公、购物综合物业的租户还有其他一些创业者、设计师以及香港高端百货公司连卡佛(Lane Crawford)。钟婷婷说,这让你感觉就像是在纽约的SoHo区。她在楼下一家素菜馆用午餐,有时也会去楼下一家茶餐厅吃面。



高端冰激凌甜品店2/3 Dolci的老板高宝丰对于新地铁线路的开通又喜又忧。他拥有香港仔一处工业大厦的一层楼面,香港仔越来越旺的人气给他带来了可观的收入。他说:“作为房东,我当然希望价格不断上涨。但是,作为一名零售业者我又需要找到能负担得起房租的房子。我希望这个地区能两者都兼顾。”



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