A member of the Harbourfront Commission has criticised plans to dismantle the Hong Kong Observation Wheel after the previous tenant’s land lease ran out.
The ferris wheel sits on the Central harbourfront in front of piers nine and ten. The Lands Department previously leased the area to Swiss AEX Holding Limited in May 2013 to construct and operate the tourist attraction, but the firm’s land lease expired last Monday. The Development Bureau subsequently said that, unless an agreement to retain the wheel is reached, the site must be cleared to make way for the new tenant, The Entertainment Corporation Limited (TECL).
Ivan Ho, a representative from the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design on the city’s Harbourfront Commission, estimated that the wheel would take at least three to four months to take down.
“The underground concrete foundation [of the ferris wheel] is very large. If the wheel is fully dismantled and thrown away, it will not only increase the pressure on our landfills, but will also be an extremely unreasonable and un-environmentally friendly plan,” said Ho.
Ho said that, although the government cannot intervene in commercial transactions, it would damage Hong Kong’s international image if the old operator demolished the foundation of the ferris wheel and left citizens with “a shambles.” Ho urged the government to request that Swiss AEX leave the steel and concrete foundations of the current wheel in place for the new operator, in the event that the structure is slated for demolition.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau urged the current operator and new operator to work towards ensuring a smooth transfer of the existing facility.
“Development Bureau colleagues are, I understand, working very closely with them with the view to resolving this,” said Yau. “I believe that both operators should look at the bigger picture and the interests of the public.”
TECL said on Monday that its initial proposal had included a plan to build a new wheel. It said that it had been unable to reach a deal with previous tenant Swiss AEX.
“It transpired that Swiss AEX do not own the wheel, the owner is a company called Dutch Wheels which are the manufacturer of the wheel and which is located in the Netherlands,” said TECL.
The company said that it will continue direct discussions with Dutch Wheels regarding the acquisition of the existing wheel. It also said that it is committed to its proposal to offer substantially lower ticket prices per ride.
Measuring 60 metres in height, the existing ferris wheel features 42 gondolas which carry eight passengers each. Under the previous tenant, an adult ticket cost HK$100 and a children’s ticket cost HK$70. The duration of a ride was 20 minutes, with each ride including three rotations.
The Task Force on Harbourfront Developments first tabled the wheel for discussion in May 2014. It said that the wheel would be a new tourist attraction on the harbourfront, and provide another vantage point from which people could see the city’s skyline. After around eight months of construction, the ride was opened to the public in December 2014.
HKFP has contacted Swiss AEX for comment.
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