For a neighbourhood like Mid-Levels West, attempts to find that single word (or words) to sum it up can be futile. A hangout for yuppies and expats? An upper-middle class haven with good school networks? A perfect blend of the city’s hustle and bustle and lush vegetation? The difficulty stems from the fact that the neighbourhood has something to offer residents from all different walks of life.
Long Term Option
Located above west end of Central and halfway up Victoria Peak, Mid-Levels West stretches along Caine and Bonham Roads to Pokfulam. Properties on offer can range from 2,000-square foot apartments to shoebox studio flats, from affordable walk-ups boasting high ceilings to luxurious high-rises with harbour views, clubhouses and shuttle buses. “Examples like Gramercy and Centrepoint, which are closer to the SoHo area, are more for young expats. Azura, Seymour and Robinson Place are more suitable for families with kids,” says Anne-Marie Sage, head of residential leasing and relocation services at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).
Serviced apartments are a sector not to be overlooked. The sheer number of serviced suite operators in the area speaks for itself — Hanlun Habitats, Bonham Residence and D’Home, just to name a few. Yuky Chung, director of residential property at Hong Kong Homes sees a surge in demand from expats with temp positions and locals looking for a shorter-term stay for home renovation. “The peak season is from March to summer where there are lot of exhibitions and conventions in town,” she says.
So is Mid-levels West a good investment? Industry watchers forecast both sales and rental rates will remain quite stable. “Returns on Hong Kong Island are never high-yielding but capital growth is what investors rely upon,” theorises Sage, who nonetheless predicts a slight fall in rentals due to development in West SoHo. “More and more people are moving to Sai Ying Pun, which will boost the mixture of local and western lifestyle when the new escalator is built,” Sage adds.
Indeed, Mid-Levels West is not without competitors. The area is mainly a renter’s district with almost half of the population being expats. In a report, Simon Smith, senior director of research and consultancy at Savills notes a steady flow of Mid-Levels relocators to the east (Tai Hang, Tin Hau and Quarry Bay) for high-value deals. “Adventurous expats continue to search out more remote locations along the MTR line at more reasonable rents … We are aware that Hong Kong (Island) remains an expensive place to stay,” he writes.
One of the district’s most eye-catching properties is on Conduit Road. The largest flat at 39 Conduit Road by Henderson Land — a penthouse on the 46th floor — has a hefty price tag of $646.48 million or $112,748 per sellable square foot, making it the most expensive flat per square foot in Asia. Otherwise, average home prices in Mid-Levels West are hovering at around $18,000 per (saleable) square foot according to local brokers.
Although basic amenities including grocery stores and coffee shops can be found along Caine and Bonham, the real buzz of Hong Kong is within walking distance — just an escalator ride away. The extraordinary 800-metre Mid-Levels escalator, the world’s longest covered outdoor escalator provides easy access to entertainment hubs such as SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong, and did its share in transforming the district.
For those with kids, the neighbourhood is home to some of the city’s top colleges. Notable ones include the University of Hong Kong, EFS’s Island School on Borrett Road and the junior Glenealy School on Hornsey Road. Elite local schools such as King’s College, St Paul’s College and Sacred Heart Canossian School are all situated along major roads. The Woodland Montessori Pre-school on Caine Road has playgroups for toddlers.
But there’s a downside to all this character: Overcrowding and traffic jams are a pervasive part of daily life. “The buildings on the lower roads are very close to each other so unless you live in a high floor unit, you are likely to see your neighbours!” says Sage, adding that hillside apartments along Conduit Road, however, enjoy a good deal more greenery.
Not surprisingly, a government study has shown the average traffic speed in Mid-Levels has slowed down considerably — only 13 kilometres per hour, which is the slowest of all on Hong Kong Island. “The traffic and construction work only makes the area noisier and dustier,” says Hong Kong Homes’ Chung. And this is unlikely to be alleviated in a few months’ time.
The bad news is that the MTR West Island line connecting Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, which has a proposed entrance on Bonham Road, may fail to meet its planned December opening. Put simply, anxious residents will have to wait until the first quarter of next year to see improvements in traffic flow and air quality. Although short-term price adjustments are unavoidable, JLL’s Sage remains optimistic. “The delay will affect the market but not dramatically.” As the old saying goes: location, location and location.