First on SecondSai Ying Pun continues to morph into the next Sheung Wan with the imminent arrival of Altro

Sai Ying Pun has long been regarded as that low-key, low-rise neutral zone between rapidly gentrifying Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town. Still ripe with the aroma of dried fish and dotted with seemingly incongruous boutiques and arty offices, all set to the clatter of the tram, it’s a key factor in the mass migration west on Hong Kong Island as the city’s funkier element steadfastly remains unwilling to cross the harbour while simultaneously being pushed out of Sheung Wan.

That being the case, it’s no surprise that the district is the target of increased development. The latest to wade into the Sai Ying Pun waters is Singapore-based RECAP Development with its 28-storey Altro, targeted for completion in the first half of 2014. Located on Second Street (purportedly the building’s address is its namesake in Italian, though many would argue for “secondo”) around the corner from the junction of Pok Fu Lam and Queen’s roads, the project will ultimately comprise 41 units, including a 2,200-square foot penthouse duplex. The site was a previously (mostly) vacant plot with a derelict building on it, which RECAP purchased earlier in the year with a keen eye towards Sai Ying Pun’s future growth. “Location is one of the critical factors for property investment and we believe that Sai Ying Pun has great potential. We see [it] as an untapped area for growth,” explains Suchad Chiaranussati, RECAP’s managing director. “With an increasing number of buyers looking beyond Mid-Levels, Sai Ying Pun is an area with a lot of potential. It’s close to Central and the restaurant scene in Sheung Wan and SoHo, has excellent public transport facilities and still retains a sense of Hong Kong’s heritage.”

That sense of personality is already what attracts many renters and buyers to the district, something Sheung Wan is slowly losing, and Chiaranussati is quick to point out that even though Altro is a high-rise in a largely low-rise neighbourhood, they’re not alone — nor are they all that interested in stripping the area of its charm or hiding it. “Other property developments, such as Island Crest and SoHo 189, are changing the landscape and skyline in Sai Ying Pun. With Altro’s single tower and the apartments’ all-glass windows and private balconies, residents will enjoy the panoramic views over Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island’s urban city landscape,” he says. Whether or not those views will last long remains to be seen; development in Hong Kong is an unstoppable train. Natural elements such as bamboo, volcanic stone and as much landscaped greenery as possible have been incorporated into the building’s design, to ensure what Chiaranussati refers to as a sense of tranquillity in the heart of the city. The ground floor is reserved for retail use for resident convenience and perhaps lends an added sense of community too.

And community is key. RECAP has made it clear Altro will be “pet-friendly.” That may not seem like a big deal to some, but it’s a signal the developer is expecting a different kind of buyer. “Our target buyers are also residents who are currently living in the area and are looking to upgrade their lifestyle,” he says, going on to mention that while Sai Ying Pun is likely to see price hikes in the wake of the MTR opening, “We still consider Sai Ying Pun affordable luxury … There are limited quality properties in Sai Ying Pun, so this will appeal to discerning buyers looking for rare quality in a premium location.”

Nonetheless Sai Ying Pun is an investment hotspot, and Altro is sure to get its share of investors. It’s too well located with too many development plans in the immediate area to go overlooked for long in spacestrapped, property investment mad Hong Kong. Altro will have a swimming pool and rooftop garden, and as the property’s sole marketing and sales agency Savills’ deputy senior director residential sales Keith Chang states, “Most residential buildings in Hong Kong are over 20 years old and are short on recreational facilities. Altro provides only 41 brand-new units, which are well-designed for users looking for a comfortable and functional home.” With space for Fido.