The opening of the first phase of Novotown, a non-gaming development on mainland China territory next door to Macau, and that is to have a Hollywood film-themed amusement park, will begin from the second half of this year.
That is according to a Tuesday filing by Hong Kong-listed Lai Sun Development Co Ltd, representing the Lai Sun group, the lead developer on the Hengqin Island project.
“The construction works of phase one of Novotown are expected to be completed in the first half of 2019 with the opening in phases in the second half of 2019,” noted Lai Sun Development.
A December press announcement on behalf of the Hollywood-themed scheme – Lionsgate Entertainment World – had mentioned it would be part of Novotown and said the “first half of 2019” was the target opening date for the Lionsgate-based facility.
China’s central government wants to see non-gaming attractions flourish on Hengqin. The Macau government has said it views such facilities as complementary to Macau’s casino-resort tourism sector, and would like to promote two-centre holidays taking people to both places. A proposal to develop Hengqin as a tourism island was recently approved by China’s State Council.
Some non-gaming attractions such as a Chimelong theme park are already running on Hengqin; others – including Lionsgate Entertainment World – are being developed; and some are still in the planning or fund-raising stage.
But a Macau tourism official said last week that an easing of visa formalities between Macau and Hengqin would probably be needed for Hengqin to attract more non-Chinese tourists. Travel to Hengqin by foreigners currently requires the same visa application process as that required for visiting other parts of mainland China.
Lai Sun Development reiterated in its Tuesday filing some earlier commentary that phase one of Novotown had a total gross floor area of 4 million square feet (371,612 sq metres). It added that the total development cost of that phase was estimated to be just under CNY5.45 billion (US$811 million).
Phase one of Novotown is 80 percent owned by Lai Fung Group and 20 percent owned by Hong Kong’s eSun Holdings Ltd. The latter was linked to Macau’s Studio City casino project before it was developed. That scheme was later taken over and realised by the-now Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, a Macau casino concessionaire.
Both Lai Fung Group and eSun are controlled by Lai Sun Development.
Phase one of Novotown on Hengqin is also to have a “family edutainment” centre called National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, under a licensing agreement with the National Geographic Society.
A second phase of Novotown – for which no timetable has been announced – is due to include a themed facility called Real Madrid World, under a licensing deal with leading Spanish professional football outfit Real Madrid Club de Fútbol.
Phase two is also due to offer a 900-place educational facility for children aged seven to 12 years, called the International Leadership Academy Hengqin, under a cooperation deal with Harrow International (China) Management Services Ltd and ILA Holdings Ltd.
Additionally in phase two is slated a Ducati Experience Centre, under a licensing arrangement with Italian motorcycle maker Ducati Motor Holding SpA.
“Lai Fung Group is in the process of finalising the master layout plan for Novotown phase two with the Chinese government,” noted Tuesday’s filing.
The document added that in 2017 the group had struck a cooperation deal with a unit of Kwoon Chung Bus Holdings Ltd for the development of a cross-border bus service between Hong Kong and Hengqin. The service’s “sole and exclusive” bus terminus in Hengqin is to be located at Novotown.
Hong Kong and its major international airport are now linked by road to Hengqin’s mainland parent city Zhuhai and to Macau, via a cross-Pearl River Delta bridge opened in October.
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"There’s a huge amount of possibilities out there and in the case of Macau, it seems that some of these issues should be considered or we may lose the epithet of gambling capital of the world"
Macau-based lawyer and senior partner at law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés