Hong Kongers have been saying “meet me at Central Market”, for almost 180 years now. So, when the Urban Renewal Authority awarded Chinachem the task of revitalising and running this iconic landmark, every member of the team immediately understood the magnitude of this responsibility.
“Our vision for Central Market is for it to be a playground for all” observes Chinachem CEO, Donald Choi. “There are shops and stalls for your daily needs, gifts or treats to buy, places to relax, plus restaurants and takeaways for quick snacks or meals with friends. This inclusivity we’ve created is a perfect example of placemaking, a space that’s owned by everyone, of all ages, all incomes and all backgrounds.” Translating Donald’s vision for this remarkable 12,000sqm site, right in the heart of the city, were Shadow Design partners, Benjamin Lam and Chan Kin Cheong. Their approach to making this key destination welcoming to all, has been to remove the traditional boundaries found in mixed retail environments. The open flowing atmosphere they’ve created, encouraging social interaction between people as they use or traverse through the space, is key to making Central Market feel relevant and universally accessible. Where divisions are required, the designers have used glass, plants, or custom-built timber lattice work, ensuring there’s always clear sight lines through the space, encouraging visitors to roam, explore and uncover the multi-purpose features of this three-level venue.
“We had about six very short months to turn vision into tangible experience. And Chinachem were exceptionally well equipped to deliver on our joint promise to the URA” commented Ben Lam, the project’s joint lead architect. “Transforming this scale of space, to this level of quality, in this amount of time, has been quite remarkable. And the exciting part is that a project like this only improves with use. So, it will just keep getting better and better.”
Key to the curation of a diverse spectrum of small and medium sized retailers, is Chinachem’s innovative solution to the capex challenges of POS and shopfitting. Their ‘Plug To Operate’ scheme provides tenants with instant infrastructure, allowing them to test out concepts on short term leases, with minimised risk and overhead. This means that Central Market can play host to businesses never normally able to get exposure to the footfall that a Central location offers. This alternative approach delivers the diversity vital to the Market’s long-term success within the city’s competitive retail landscape.
So, after lying dormant for 18 years, 2021 has seen Chinachem transform this destination into a key component of what is being referred to as Hong Kong’s cultural triangle of PMQ, Tai Kwun, and the revitalised Central Market. The phrase, “meet me at Central Market” has never been so popular.