13 Feb Finding the spirit of Kennedy Town Hong Kong with Amanda Cheung from Grosvenor
When we create a neighbourhood guide, we never go alone. We connect with locals who share their stories and favourite places. They could be students from a local school, a group of elderly or an artist’s collective. We also find a sponsor with a heart for the hood. A hotel, developer, local business or charity that is willing to make a positive commitment to a place. Together we set out on a journey to find and document its soul before it disappears. And that’s what we share with you in a map and an app, so you can travel more responsibly and respectively and help to keep heritage alive in these neighbourhoods. In the up-and-coming district Kennedy Town Hong Kong we were lucky to work with Caritas MCSK Community Centre, an NGO that has been working in the area for 33 years, they know the place inside-out and have friends at every street corner. The sponsor was Grosvenor, a Hong Kong developer that was keen to help us put K-Town on the map. We catch up with Amanda Cheung, Director, Marketing & Communications Asia at Grosvenor to talk about the project, the company philosophy and what makes Kennedy Town so special.
Kennedy town is one of the few places in Hong Kong with unobstructed waterfront views
Thank you for making the K-Town Neighbourhood Guide happen, why did Grosvenor choose to support this project?
We appreciate iDiscover’s grassroots approach. It’s not a travel writer’s or an expert’s view, you take the time to interview residents to collect stories and create a map that really shows what local people love about their neighbourhood.
What’s Grosvenor’s connection to Kennedy Town?
In 2016 we conducted research on Hong Kong neighbourhoods with The University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme. The study indicated that although 59% Hong Kong residents felt that Hong Kong provided a good quality of life, over 70% were satisfied with where they live – their immediate neighbourhood. For us this was an interesting conclusion. At Grosvenor we always want to understand the places we work and invest in, so the acquisition of premises in Kennedy Town prompted us to delve a bit deeper. We found out that in Kennedy Town that percentage is even higher, at 91%. People who live here like the combination of typical Hong Kong characteristics in combination with modern conveniences.
Grosvenor has remained very active in this part of town, you’ve published a Kennedy Town neighbourhood magazine and also opened a community kitchen in Shek Kong Tsui with Caritas, can you tell us a bit more about these initiatives?
There are approximately 3,500 subdivided units (SDU’s) in Kennedy Town. We talked to Caritas and together explored ways to make SDU-dweller’s lives more comfortable. We want the Neighbourhood Kitchen to act as a communal extension of our members’ living space, much like the corridors in the early housing estates. Here, people can cook meals, aunties can play mahjong and kids can do their homework or even celebrate birthdays.
Since its opening in September (2018), the Neighbourhood Kitchen has welcomed 163 active users
Grosvenor’s Amanda Cheung at the opening of the Neighbourhood Kitchen together with Grosvenor and Caritas staff, District Councilors and kai fong
“Grosvenor’s purpose is to deliver lasting commercial and social benefit. We want to make great places and leave them better than we found them”
Grosvenor was the brains behind the development of Belgravia and Mayfair, London’s prime cultural districts. How does that influence the DNA of the company?
Grosvenor’s purpose is to deliver lasting commercial and social benefit. We want to make great places and leave them better than we found them. Our company’s history spans over 340 years so we don’t just build for this generation but also for the next. Our heritage gives us a strong sense of stewardship and is key to Grosvenor’s business approach. Grosvenor has been in Hong Kong for 25 years, our presence in Asia has mainly been in residential. We also have projects in Shanghai and Tokyo. In each city, we target specific neighbourhoods and study the local dynamics, investing in places that are vibrant, seeing how we can further add value. It’s not just about foot traffic, it’s also about character and diversity and creating an inclusive environment.
Grosvenor promotes the concept of ‘Living Cities’ what does that mean?
Our Living Cities philosophy is the way we deliver our purpose or the way we manage properties and places to contribute to the success of cities. It refers to our holistic approach and includes concepts like sustainability, connectivity and good governance. What this means in reality is that we have spelled out how as a developer we can contribute to building better cities: by being thoughtful in the way we design and use building materials, tenant selection and a concerted effort to connect with the local community.
Which are your favourite neighbourhoods in Hong Kong where we can still find the soul of the city?
I live in Tai Hang and love it. It’s so central, in the middle of everything including small independent restaurants and boutiques without feeling overly manufactured and hipster-ish. I also love Sham Shui Po for its Hong Kong grittiness. There was a time when I’d be there every weekend to buy fabric when I made clothes for my daughter. It’s a great neighbourhood for exploring the many haberdasheries and browsing the second-hand stalls along Ap Lei Street.
Grosvenor’s Tim Jowett and iDiscover’s Stephanie Cheung and Ester van Steekelenburg showing the K-Town Guide at a community festival at Little Creatures Brewery
The old generation of Kennedy Town residents sharing stories and memories of place
A new generation of Kennedy Town residents reimagining the Sai Wan waterfront
Finding the spirit of place in this old Hong Kong neighbourhood
About Kennedy Town
Kennedy Town Hong Kong is the new hipster hood, with craft beer cafés and trendy restaurants at the quaint quayside enjoying full sea view and a fresh breeze. But it wasn’t always like that. For years this remote neighbourhood at the end of the tramline was the ‘backyard’ of the island. Here you’d find slaughterhouses, factories, wholesale markets, squatter villages, incinerators and even a mortuary. The early years have shaped K-Town’s community into one of the city’s most resilient and vibrant, forming a neighbourhood with a unique spirit.
Want to find the K-Town spirit?
Discover the spirit of K-town with iDiscover Kennedy Town Guide, handcrafted itineraries that show you the honest and authentic places in the neighbourhood, comes with a free app that is packed with background stories and insider secrets!
Explore the authentic side of Kennedy Town with the iDiscover App&Map
Words by Ester van Steekelenburg
Ester moved from Amsterdam to Hong Kong Just before the handover in 1997… with little more than a backpack. She fell in love with the city’s energy and almost 20 years later, she still calls Hong Kong home; a base from where she works on cultural heritage projects throughout Asia. Her favourite cities include Hanoi, Istanbul and Yangon. In Hong Kong she’s happiest exploring the city’s busy backstreets or hiking in the country parks.