The government has given a green light for the demolition of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel after it closed for business last Tuesday.
The ferris wheel sits on the Central harbourfront in front of Central Piers No.9 and No.10. The Lands Department previously leased the area to Swiss AEX Holding Limited in May 2013 to construct and operate the tourist attraction.
Last Monday, the firm’s land lease expired. The Development Bureau said on Sunday 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).
Development Bureau chief Michael Wong said that it was unlikely that the ride would be reinstated prior to the transfer of the land lease.
“As per our understanding, the observation wheel comprises not only the wheel itself but the foundations. The demolition of this site may take approximately two months. When asking if the wheel will be able to continue operation, we have to consider that it is already September, and that the leased land must be returned to the government on October 31,” said Wong.
“If discussions between the two companies do not yield any results, then the new tenant will have to construct a new observation wheel – for this reason, the land must be cleared prior to the transfer of the land to the new tenant.”
The bureau said that the government had previously authorised Swiss AEX’s applications for demolition and reinstatement works at the site.
On Saturday, a spokesperson for Swiss AEX said that TECL was established as a company with a share capital of HK$1 last November, and claimed it had no experience in operating observation wheels – a claim the government denied. She said that Swiss AEX had previously considered the transfer of the existing wheel to TECL at a mutually agreed purchase price, but that the firm had not provided any proof of funds demonstrating its commitment as of last Thursday.
Swiss AEX then offered to reopen the wheel. In response, a spokesperson from Development Bureau said on Sunday that TECL had won the tender according to the procedures stipulated by the government in May, and that the tender result had been endorsed by the Central Tender Board of the Lands Department.
The bureau said that the three-year tenancy of TECL will begin once the land lease transfer is complete. It said that the future operation of an observation wheel on the site will depend on the time it takes to construct a new ride and acquire the necessary licensing.
Under a three-year short-term contract, the land – covering an area of 7,320 square metres – is leased at a rate of of HK$1.5 million per month.
The Task Force on Harbourfront Developments first tabled the construction of a ferris wheel on the waterfront for discussion in May 2014. It claimed that the wheel would be a new tourist attraction, providing 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.
TECL told HKFP that it will respond in the coming days.