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J SENSES and SOHO east:
Rendezvous of style on the Island

02 Jun 2017

Inheriting K. Wah Group’s belief in innovation while blending the best from Eastern and Western cultures, J SENSES and SOHO east, dining and recreational complexes on Hong Kong Island, have quickly grown into two hot spots in town these years. Both offering spectacular experiences in their unique ways, J SENSES features three-storey historic buildings which have been converted into a feature shopping and dining complex, while SOHO east is a waterfront dining area that gives patrons a breathtaking harbour view.

J SENSES: a stylish dining rendezvous blending the avant-garde with the nostalgic

From reclamation to the erection of high-rise buildings, Wanchai district has borne witness to a century’s time of development. At 60 Johnston Road, the house built in 1888 which was once home to “Wo Cheong Pawn Shop”, has been converted by K. Wah International Holdings Limited (“KWIH”) in a joint development with the Urban Renewal Authority in 2007, known as “J SENSES”. The completion of the renovation project has set a precedent for revitalising heritage architecture through the conservation and restoration of historic buildings.

“‘J SENSES has been a unique and challenging project,” remarked Quinly Wan, KWIH’s Director of Hong Kong Properties Development and Leasing. “Revitalisation and conservation projects in core districts on Hong Kong Island have been extremely rare. The idea had been to preserve the old features of the historic buildings while introducing modern-day functions, and to blend the old and the new. And we did just that, creating economic value out of old architecture to strike a balance between heritage conservation and commercial viability in a successful attempt,” she said.

The interiors of the 4 tenement buildings have been merged to create a more spacious premises, while the arches have been preserved.

Exemplary precedent in the revitalisation of heritage architecture

Managed by KWIH, the “J SENSES” revitalisation project was to blend 5 pre-WWII tenement buildings (4 blocks at 60-66 Johnston Road and 1 block at 18 Ship Street) into a modern architectural complex offering a show of exquisite arts as well as fine food. These 5 tenement buildings were named Grade 2 Historic Buildings by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2009.

The original façade of the old tenement buildings has been preserved after renovation, including restoration and preservation of the building's plaques.

Delivering economic value by offering a stylish dining rendezvous

While retaining old features of the buildings, such as the French windows, long balconies and the plagues of “Wo Cheong Pawn Shop” and “Yu’s Fraternity Association of Hong Kong”, KWIH has also injected innovative elements to realise the economic value of the heritage buildings by developing J Residence, a stylish residential tower, and introducing fashionable lifestyle concept stores. Top-notch local artists and chefs with international fame have been also been enlisted, making “J SENSES” a discerning and vibrant rendezvous that features delicacies from around the world.

A good number of the restaurants at J SENSES provide outdoor dining areas, where patrons are able to view the enchanting scenes of the busy streets of Wanchai, whether during daytime or in the evening.

Quinly Wan, KWIH’s Director of Hong Kong Properties Development and Leasing, said that KWIH would make adjustments to the mix of tenants from time to time to offer fresh experiences to customers.

Driving development of the district with a good mix of high-quality retailers

All restaurants at “J SENSES” have been carefully chosen with their own unique features. Many boast balcony seats with excellent views, where patrons can sit back and enjoy the luxury of leisure in a busy city. These feature diners have also enriched variety for the catering industry of Hong Kong.

“Despite the limited number of dining premises available at ‘J SENSES’, we are already hosting 2 Michelin-starred restaurants here,” said Quinly Wan. “These are some of the best cuisine operators who are vastly experienced with a passionate commitment to the provision of premium cuisines. We believe that the high-quality tenant mix has not only attracted consumer flow for ‘J SENSES’ which has made it a focal point for dining in Wanchai, but has also encouraged the opening of up-scale restaurants in the streets and areas nearby, such that a neighbourhood of refined dining and lifestyle has gradually come into shape.”

Each tenant is carefully examined and selected to ensure quality and uniqueness at J SENSES.

SOHO east: a rare harbour-side dining area on Hong Kong Island and a quiet hideaway amidst city bustles

Located at Hong Kong Island East, SOHO east offers a tasteful dining experience in a leisurely atmosphere, and has long been established as one of the landmark waterfront dining areas on Hong Kong Island for more than 20 years. Next to the promenade with convenient traffic access, this is where patrons can enjoy the pleasant harbour views with their families, lovers or even pets before or after dining. Quinly Wan described it as the “Stanley in downtown of Hong Kong.” Currently, there are over 20 restaurants at SOHO east offering a variety of delicious cuisines to patrons.

Handpicked collection of tenants

The tenants play an important role in the success of a property project, or even driving the development of local communities. On top of tenant’s experience, we also consider factors such as the quality and prices of food. “The leasing team would determine whether a particular food caterer can tie in with the positioning of SOHO east and whether it is able to satisfy the requirements of patrons,” she said.

Most of the restaurants at SOHO east are located at the harbourfront. Customers can dine and chill out while enjoying the breathtaking Victoria Harbour view.

Combination of art and dining

A mix of art and dining could also be a source of unique experiences for patrons. Gitone started at SOHO east 9 years ago, is a “private-kitchen” cum art studio. Customers may take a pottery lesson, while the crafted pottery works are actually put to use in the diner. “I want to bring art into our daily life, instead of crafting pottery for decoration,” said Terence Lee, person-in-charge. The studio is separated from the pedestrian walk by a ceiling-to-floor glass window, as people often stop by to watch the pottery-making process. Mr Lee believes this is a good way to broaden the outreach of pottery art and enhance the artistic dimension of the community.

Besides enjoying different authentic cuisines, you can even create your own art piece at SOHO east!

Increasing usage of e-marketing channels

Customers of SOHO east are mainly locals, Korean and Japanese residents who lived in the nearby housing estates. “Boosting the popularity of SOHO east, especially the young generation is the key objective of our marketing promotion,” Quinly Wan added. “In order to cope with the new generation and the habit of obtaining dining information through mobile devices, SOHO east has developed an exclusive smartphone software application to support regular promotional activities and enhance interaction with customers, who are able to receive instant information on discounts and concessionary offers. After the launch for more than a year, food coupons worth over HK$1 million had been given away,” said Quinly Wan. “We will continue to develop software application and increase our exposure to the social media, with the aim of providing extra dining information for our customers,” she concluded.

 

J SENSES: Discover Hong Kong’s Heritage

Hung Shing Temple

Hung Shing is believed to be the deity who provides protection at sea, therefore Hung Shing was worshipped by fishermen, farmers and sea traders. The temple used to be stood by the shoreline, however over the years of land reclamation, it was being ‘pushed’ farther inland. It underwent its first renovation in 2015.

Old Wan Chai Post Office

This oldest surviving post office building in Hong Kong, now serves as the Environmental Protection Department Resource Centre, was listed as a Declared Monument. The centre provides facilities like interactive learning room and library databank of environmental material. Moreover, here is the start of Wan Chai Nature Trail, the first urban green trail in Hong Kong, which ends at Wan Chai Gap Park with the length of 1.5 km.

The Blue House

With the iconic colored wall, the Blue House used to be the only English school in Wan Chai before WWII and the house of a famous kung fu studio.  It is not difficult to feel the typical living quarters through the wooden doors and the steep stairs. You can even visit the “Hong Kong House of Stories” to learn more about the history and connection between the building and the community.

 

SOHO east: Enjoy the city’s harbourfront

Quarry Bay Promenade

This promenade is the most well-known pet garden in Eastern District. With the arbour, benches and all kind of ancillary facilities, your pet will definitely spend a fun time outdoors. Here is also the best place to do sports, jog or take a walk along the promenade while enjoying the specular sea view of Victoria Harbour.

Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery

Alexander Grantham used to be the largest fireboat in Asia and took part in different rescue operations in Hong Kong’s bustling waters. It was reconstructed into an exhibition gallery in 2002 and has been showcasing firefighting artifacts and illustrating marine rescue work since then.

Hong Kong Film Archive

The archive preserves more than 5600 movies’ copies and holds film exhibitions and screens some of the movies from time to time. TIME magazine even named the archive to be one of the “25 Authentic Asian Experiences”, described the archive as a treasure “hidden in a honeycomb of middle-class high-rises”.