Barely a decade ago, the corner of Hollywood Road and Po Yan Street in Sheung Wan was exactly like every other corner in the district. There was laundry, a hardware shop, a medical supply store favoured by the outpatients of Tung Wah Hospital. But once prices and rates in Mid-Levels started creeping up, renters began a slow exodus west, bringing new life to sleepy Sheung Wan, and to a similar degree, its neighbours.
Living the Life
At one time, Sheung Wan was an economical alternative for young professionals and artsy types; close to Central without Central prices. “This area has grown significantly over the past five years. It now has a real hub of shops and restaurants. There are a lot of small sized properties bought for investment that have been nicely renovated and therefore become very popular area to rent with young executives,” notes Head of Residential Leasing and Relocation Services at Jones Lang LaSalle, Anne-Marie Sage.
The once-sleepy district — which can semi-officially include the resurgent Tai Ping Shan and parts of Sai Ying Pun — is a hotbed of chic. A quick look around reveals swanky new dining outlets like Shelter, Heirloom, 208, Magnolia and a raft of private kitchens tucked amid just as many independent home, interiors and fashion boutiques. It’s a great place to pick up a unique bottle of wine, from the new Enoteca Italiana, Wine Point or Aurora Wine, and hotels are increasingly turning to the area for new properties — among them Holiday Inn Express, Regal (under construction) and the recently opened Ibis. All this in less than a decade. This is high speed even by Hong Kong standards.
Naturally, this lifestyle activity goes hand in hand with the slew of new residential properties, from serviced apartments like Ovolo and The Jervois, to redevelopments (a west end specialty) like SOHO 189 and Helen Lindman’s tong lau, to high-end private residences (Blake’s 226 Hollywood Road). The latest to join Sheung Wan/Sai Ying Pun’s decidedly creative landscape is Eight South Lane, tucked behind The Belchers. Sheung Wan, like Central before it, is seeing its personality bleed west, extending the urban cool along with the MTR line — whose Island Line extension opens later this year. Developer Adrian Cheng expects Eight South Lane will attract the same hip residents and young executives Sage believes prefer Sheung Wan. “They are global nomads with a free spirit, cultured beings and collectors who love the artisanal. They are the urban elites, with a bohemian soul,” said Cheng in a statement.
Similar to Mid-Levels with less greenery, Sheung Wan remains largely residential. With the notable exceptions of Shun Tak Centre and Grand Millennium Plaza, prime office space is scarce — though ironically Sheung Wan offices had the lowest vacancy rate in Hong Kong at end of 2012. Schools are also low on the Sheung Wan radar, though more creep up the farther west you head. As Sage reiterates, “As this is an area mainly populated by single professionals or couples, schooling is not a priority. Having said that Island Christian school opened in 2010 in this area.” It’s not a family location per se, but it could be if you push it.
Most of the businesses occupying the existing offices (and make no mistake, there are offices in Sheung Wan) are local organisations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the creative industries. Even still, the area’s offices saw one of Hong Kong’s sharpest rental increase in 2011. With non-core options more often being considered, Sheung Wan could potentially reap a commercial benefit, though it will never be home to Deutsche Bank or KPMG.
Investors tend to look for locations that will provide strong capital gains, and anyone who purchased in the low-key demi-enclave in, say, 2000 is looking like a genius today. Sheung Wan could be losing attention to Kennedy Town and the true Sai Ying Pun areas, which are, “Already becoming popular. People have been investing for a while anticipating the MTR,” notes Sage. “You have probably missed the boat in terms of buying early and therefore for a good price,” she finishes. Unlike Mid-Levels, Island South or Happy Valley, reasonable (relatively speaking) sales prices can still be found in Sheung Wan, though for how much longer is anyone’s guess. Very soon it will no longer be the end of the line.