In the search for the perfect location for an Apple retail store, perhaps Hong Kong presents the most challenges—should it be on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon, and should it be located within a mall or along a street? Now Apple’s real estate team has made their decision, and will locate the city’s first two stores on Hong Kong Island, and both inside malls on the lower floors of high-rise office buildings. The two stores will hardly satisfy the substantial Macintosh community in this city of seven million residents, but they could become the first in a series of stores on both sides of the bay. It’s a mystery why Apple waited 10 years to bring an official store to Hong Kong, considered one of the world’s major commerce and business centers. Besides a wealthy middle and upper-class among Hong Kong residents, there is a considerable population of foreign workers with disposable income. Both groups are potential Apple customers. View a gallery of scouting photos of the future IFC and Hysan Place store locations.
Hong Kong Island is considered the financial center of the city, and is dotted with office buildings filled with international banking and commerce companies. The island is linked to the rest of the city by roadways, an efficient subway system and the historic Star Ferry network.
The International Finance Center (IFC) consists of two high-rise office towers linked by a three-story shopping mall that includes a multi-screen cinema and a 55-story, five-star hotel. Across the roadway and linked by an enclosed bridge is the city’s main train station. Adjacent to the IFC is the construction site for an enormous, bayside civic plaza that will attract millions of visitors a year.
The future Apple store will be located adjacent to Tower 2, the city’s second-tallest skyscraper at 88 stories, in a section of the mall that spans the six-lane Man Cheung Street. Six retailers were relocated to create one long and shallow space for the future Apple store, about 90 feet wide and 35 feet deep. Based on those dimensions, the store would occupy about 6,300 square-feet.
However, it’s possible the IFC mall has allowed Apple to push out the original boundaries of the retail space, and enclose the store behind a two-story glass façade, similar to the George Street (Sydney) store. Based on that extra space, the store would occupy about 8,100 square-feet, or about 28 percent larger than shown on mall leasing plans.
There is a third level of retail space above the future Apple store, and all the levels are lit by sunlight from a glass skylight.
Studying the white construction barricade that’s now in front of the space, details of the future store come into focus: a glass-covered storefront, with a second-level glass bridge leading out to a mall pedestrian walkway, and a glass staircase linking the two levels. The rear of the retail space is an exterior wall of the mall, and could be opened up to provide visibility to motorists and passersby on the nearby elevated walkway to the Star Ferry terminal.
As of late March 2011, the interior of the space is at the “early construction” phase—the space is basically empty, with preparation work underway. The store will reportedly open by year’s end.
Even though the IFC Apple store will be inside, it will not suffer from lack of visibility or visitors. The inside view will be panoramic, with a transparent view to the inside. Outside the mall, Apple might erect a back-lit Apple logo to promote its brand, and might even clear the now-obscured windows to provide even more visibility of the store’s interior.
The IFC is within the city’s main pedestrian traffic pattern, both for locals and tourists. The island’s main subway station is underground adjacent to the future store, there is nearby parking (expensive), and the city’s ferry terminal is a five-minute walk away. The store is 75 feet from the main employee entrance to Tower 2, where up to 15,000 office workers pass by several times a day.
Tipsters have pointed to a second Hong Kong location for a future Apple store, in the Causeway Bay section of Hong Kong Island, about two miles south of IFC along Hennessy Road. The area is a mix of bayside office towers and decades-old buildings set along congested, more traditional Hong Kong streets.
The Hysan Place project began with the complete demolition of Hennessy Centre, a 41-story office building constructed in 1982. Demolition began in 2007 and construction has been delayed several times by financing problems and a major crane accident. The developer describes the project as concentrating on “youthfulness and trendiness, aiming to introduce many international brands that are new to Hong Kong.”
The mall will feature an “open store format,” the developer says, “with high ceilings to enhance the shopping experience, while express escalators and double-decked lifts will allow for smooth flow of shopping traffic within the retail mall.”
The block-sized building is being promoted as environmentally green, including architectural design, building systems and building operation. Hysan Place is Hong Kong’s first development to be awarded the Platinum LEED pre-certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The building will eventually be 40-stories tall, with retail spaces in the lower 15-floors. Apple reportedly will open a 20,000 square-foot store somewhere in the retail section.
The developers say the Hysan Place project could be finished some time in the second quarter of 2012, and tipsters say the Apple store would open at the same time. It’s unknown where in the building the Apple store will be located.
Download (pdf) a 2003 article on the construction of IFC Tower 1.
Thanks to Hong Kong-based technologist Vinko Tsui for background, perspective and information about the city, its retail scene and the future Apple store locations, which helped shape this story. Visit his blog for insights into technology.
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