Hong Kong business magnate Allan Zeman speaks about his frustrations with the government in getting things done — but his faith remains strong over the development of the city’s last waterfront at Kai Tak
By the 1980s, Allan Zeman was just one of many successful entrepreneurs in Hong Kong — all that changed when he transformed a grimy backstreet in Central into one of the city’s biggest nightlife hotspots, Lan Kwai Fong.
Popularly known as the ‘Godfather of Lan Kwai Fong’, Zeman’s business insight goes far beyond that. In 2004, he took over as chairman of Ocean Park, which was facing powerful competition from the forthcoming Hong Kong Disneyland. Using his acute acumen, Zeman quickly transformed Ocean Park into a world-class amusement park, successfully striking back at his competitor by winning over the droves of tourists heading over from mainland China.
Over the years, Zeman’s innovative approach to business and devotion to public services have made him something of a celebrity. His stretches farther into China and the rest of the world. Today, his role as a community leader sees him serving as a board member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA), which aims to create an international cultural quarter and nurture a breeding ground for local art forms.
A lofty ambition, but time has proven that living up these promises is already costing society a huge amount of money and time. Naturally, Zeman begs to differ. “Culture is not something you can develop overnight,” he says. “Hong Kong needs an international art hub and we are really making a statement out of it. Architecturally, the project managed to attract all the top minds in the world to present their concepts.”
Foster + Partner’s ‘City Park’ was selected as the masterplan; Zeman says it was largely due to the plan’s open green spaces giving back to the community. As for progress on the development as a whole, frustration is setting in. Within the government, be it due to the political system or the excessive public consultation processes, progress has been slow. “It is taking too long for the project to move forward,” Zeman says, “but I don’t blame the government. At least we’ve tried.”