Ngau Tau Kok? The name doesn’t easily trip off the English-speaking tongue.
It has neither the quick understanding of Kowloon Bay – which everyone knows how to pronounce – nor the rising recognition of Kwun Tong as an up-and-coming commercial area. Yet this district, found in between those two better known neighbourhoods, is worth getting to know. Ngau Tau Kok’s transport links make it a convenient location to work in.
Ngau Tau Kok was in fact one of the very first stations on Hong Kong’s MTR network. The station opened in 1979 as one of the few stops to be located above ground. The MTR remains the means by which most commuters arrive in the district, though buses and minibuses all make a stop at Ngau Tau Kok too before going to Kwun Tong.
Until recent times, the neighbourhood was best known for its outdoor dining. The dai pai dong food stalls at Ngau Tau Kok Lower Estate were popular until the ageing residential blocks above them were redeveloped. But times have changed for this part of East Kowloon. Like nearby Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay, the public housing and grimy industrial buildings are giving way to modern commercial developments and an increasing supply of Grade A office space.
This change is being driven by an initiative called Energizing Kowloon East. The aim is to develop the area into an alternative central business district, and to make this happen, projects are under way to improve urban design and pedestrian connectivity. Perhaps the best example of this is the new harbourside promenade which extends from Ngau Tau Kok to the Kwun Tong ferry pier. This well-designed waterfront, a quick walk from the MTR station, increases the area’s open space and offers views across to Hong Kong Island and the Kai Tak cruise terminal.
Such a nice place to chill out at the Kwun Tong Promenade
This transformation, along with the rezoning of all industrial buildings to business use, is attracting lots of small and medium enterprises and creative industries.
Why haven’t I heard of it?
The name of Ngau Tau Kok still suggests a grass-roots image locally, so the large developers tend to emphasise Kwun Tong MTR station instead when promoting their developments. But don’t let the marketing fool you. It is in fact much easier to get off at Ngau Tau Kok MTR for buildings such as C-Bons International Centre, One Bay East, Millennium City 1-3, Manulife Tower, Citi Towers and the newly named 133 Wai Yip Street, recently redeveloped from the Cheung Fai Industrial Building.
From 2017-2019, there will be over 2 million sq ft of new commercial floorplate available: including Mapletree, to be completed in 2017; Wharf T&T Plaza; and a project co-developed by Link REIT and Nan Fung, which will be completed in 2019. These will all be Grade A offices.
One benefit of Ngau Tau Kok is that these new developments are located in a compact rectangular area, making it far more convenient than Kwun Tong, where new commercial buildings are scattered throughout the district. Another is that rainy-season traffic jams in Kowloon East are usually limited to How Ming Street, Wai Yip Street and Chun Yip Street in Kwun Tong.
To the future
Plans are afoot to build a sheltered footbridge between Kwun Tong MTR and Ngau Tau Kok MTR stations, like the one linking all the commercial buildings in Central, for improved walkability. In addition, an environmentally friendly monorail is under consideration to link the district with the new developments at Kai Tak.
As more new developments are completed in the next two to three years, more facilities such as banks, restaurants and at least one shopping mall should appear. It may be time to give NTK the OK.