If there’s one postcard image that represents Hong Kong, it has to be the neon skyline view across the harbor from the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade.
No surprise then, that TST’s 457-meter waterfront Avenue of Stars was one of the territory’s most visited attractions before it was closed for an upgrade in 2015.
Now it’s back in business after a three-year refurb led by architect James Corner (the mastermind behind New York’s High Line and Seattle’s Central Waterfront) and local team New World Development.
The revamped walkway, which reopened January 31, strives to be more than just a popular – and very touristy – viewing platform, but a sustainable and welcoming destination for locals and visitors alike.
$2.6 billion makeover
“The Avenue of Stars is part of an ambitious revitalization project, through which we are transforming this heritage site into a world-class waterfront, and a cultural destination for the Hong Kong people and the world,” says Adrian Cheng, executive vice chairman of New World Development.
First opened in 1982, the promenade stretched along the then-prosperous eastern shore of Tsim Sha Tsui.
It was rebranded as the Avenue of Stars in 2004, with a cinematic theme similar to Los Angeles’ Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Today, together with its adjacent Salisbury Garden and the old New World Centre, the Avenue of Stars is part of a HK$20 billion (US$2.6 billion), three-million-square-foot redevelopment project called Victoria Dockside.
The much-anticipated project – set to open in phases – will be home to the new K11 MUSEA museum/shopping mall, the first Rosewood Hotel in Hong Kong (due to open in March) plus residential and office buildings.
Before its renovation, the Avenue of Stars was criticized for its lack of seating, greenery and character.
Its upgrade mirrors the evolution of other public spaces around the world in recent years.
“Many public spaces during the 20th century were designed fairly basically, without too much richness of grain, texture, amenity or character,” Corner tells CNN Travel. “Many appeared to be the same the world over, and remained nondescript, empty and under used.
“Today, in contrast, there is now much more focus placed upon well-designed public places that leverage their context and provide a rich palette of experiences for all who use them. Cities want authentic and unique spaces that enliven and enrich everyday life.”
In addition to lifting the hand prints of celebrities from the floor to the shoreline handrail, the new design doubles the available seating area.
It provides seven times more shade and eight times more greenery than the old Avenue of Stars.
Statues of stars like martial arts legend Bruce Lee and pop music queen Anita Mui will no longer be behind barricades but will stand on a fountain platform.
Transformable kiosks will sell local foods and brands, while the Salisbury Garden will offer green resting space as well as a small-scale performance area.
Sustainability is another highlight of the new Avenue of Stars.
It boasts the first wave energy generator in Greater China and uses solar panels to power some of the lighting along the promenade.
Plastic water bottles won’t be sold in the kiosks. Instead, drinking fountains have been installed.
Hong Kong’s ‘High Line’
“Great public spaces are fundamental to great cities,” Corner says. “They provide the key to a particular city’s identity, image and quality of life.”
He says the new-look walkway will hold its own alongside his work on the New York High Line and Seattle Waterfront.
“These projects are similar in that they are all linear and try to re-interpret the age-old typology of the promenade, the strolling walkway and the enjoyment of being with other people,” he adds.
“But on the other hand they are all different, largely because of their contexts.
“Our Tsim Sha Tsui project – both Salisbury gardens and the Avenue of the Stars – are set within the massive scale of the harbor and the city skyline; it is a vastly expansive and panoramic context. So this project is very unique and specific to Victoria Dockside and Hong Kong.”
Getting there: If taking the MTR, get off at Tsim Sha Tsui Station and head for Exit J. The Avenue of Stars is just a few minutes’ walk along Salisbury Road. For a more scenic route, take the ferry from Central or Wan Chai Ferry Pier and walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade till you reach the Avenue of Stars.