1890s Central Reclamation [1903- ]
98. General Description of Scheme: As the works have now practically reached completion, it may be useful to give a brief account of their origin and progress. The Praya Reclamation Works were initiated by Sir C. P. Chater, and have been carried out under the Praya Reclamation Ordinance, No. 16 of 1889. Prior to the passing of this Ordinance, reclamations of limited extent at West Point in front of the Sailors' Home and the Wharf and Godown Company’s property (Marine Lots 95 and 105) were sanctioned, but, as these fell within the limits of the main scheme, they were subsequently carried out in conjunction with it. A considerable quantity of rubble stone for the foundations of the sea,-wall for these reclamations had been deposited before the main scheme was undertaken and, as the new reclamation projected somewhat further into the harbour, it was necessary to widen the mound so formed in order to bring the wall into alignment.
The reclamation extends from the boundary of the Naval Yard Extension westwards to a point opposite Marine Lot 181, a distance of nearly 2 miles, the total area reclaimed from the see being approximately 65 acres. Of this area 33.73 acres constitute building land, the remainder being occupied by roads and open spaces. An area of 2.2 acres of land outside the boundaries of the actual reclamation and formerly occupied by streets was rendered available for inclusion with building lots. The total length of new Praya Wall is 10,263 feet.
ln connection with the Praya Reclamation Works the reconstruction of Government Piers has also been carried on. So far as this work has progressed, it includes permanent structures for the Nam Pak Hong Pier,‘ Boat-slips opposite the old and new Harbour Offices, Pottinger Street Pier, Blake Pier, Murray Pier, and temporary piers at Ice House Street and Wardley Street. The permanent structures are all of masonry and concrete with the exception of Blake Pier which is constructed almost entirely of iron.
The total expenditure, up to the 31st December, 1903, on the whole of the above mentioned works, amounted to $3,362,325.37
The estimated cost of the Praya Reclamation alone was $2,942,916.65. Consequently, when all outstanding accounts are paid, a small balance will probably remain to the credit of the scheme, notwithstanding the great increase in the cost of work during recent years due principally to the drop in exchange from 3/-, at which rate the original estimate was made. The Ordinance provides, however, that the cost per square foot of any particular allotment is not to he ﬁxed at the average cost of the whole Reclamation but at the average cost of the particular Section on which such allotment is situated. It is therefore more than probable that there will be a debit balance on some of the Sections, but it is certain that any such balance will only amount to a small percentage on the original estimated cost. The actual cost in any particular case cannot be exactly stated until the revision of the accounts, now in progress, has been completed, and the necessary adjustments have been made between the various sections or between them and the Re-construction of Government Piers.
The actual construction of the Reclamation was commenced in February, 1889; so that about 14 years have been occupied in its execution. In an outlying part of the Harbour such a reclamation could have been carried out in less than half the time, as it would have been possible to proceed with the entire work simultaneously, but such an arrangement in the case of the Praya Reclamation, which extends throughout the entire frontage of the principal business part of the City, would have caused intolerable inconvenience and consequently it had to be carried out by degrees. There were also other circumstances which seriously affected the progress ofthe work.
The original design of the new Praya Wall was prepared when Mr. J. M. PRICE was at the head of the Public Works Department. Just before the commencement of the Reclamation Works he was succeeded by Mr. S. Brown who made some fundamental alterations in Mr. PRlCE’s design necessitating the employment of special plant, some of which had to be obtained from England. Although the rubble foundations for the Praya Wall were being proceeded with while the special plant was being obtained, a season’s low tides were lost, and it may be said that the works suffered a year’s delay, at the outset, through the change in design.
The principal feature of the new design for the wall was the substitution of blocks for granite footings, with the view of using the blocks, in the ﬁrst instance as temporary weights for loading and consolidating the rubble foundations. This was a slow and expensive process; but it was justiﬁed by results. The temporary load caused more or less settlement of the foundations throughout their whole extent, and they generally reached a permanent; bearing before the superstructure was commenced. In some instances, however, the settlement became so slow, during the later stage of the application of the load, that the blocks were removed before settlement was quite complete, and in building the superstructure an allowance for further settlement was made. in other instances the foundations suddenly collapsed, under the temporary load and, when this happened. the blocks had to be picked up with the aid of divers, the rubble foundations made good, and the temporary load replaced. Had the temporary loading of the foundations been dispensed with, it appears likely that several lengths of wall, probably after being ﬁnished to coping level, and backed up with earth, would have collapsed, and had to be rebuilt at great trouble and expense.
Another cause of delay was the period of severe depression and scarcity of money which was experienced in 1892, when doubts arose as to whether the Marine Lot-owners could fulﬁl their obligations in providing the funds necessary for the completion of the authorised works. The letting of new contracts was postponed until it was decided that the scheme was to be gone on with and carried to completion and, before this decision was arrived at, a season's low tides were lost, causing practically 1 year’s delay.
According to the original programme, the Reclamation was to be commenced simultaneously at both ends, and the works were to be carried on until they met in the middle; but owing to the refusal of the Lot-owners on Section No. 1w to come into the scheme, that portion of the Reclamation was not taken in hand until 1898. ln carrying it out, the rubble foundations of the sea wall subsided repeatedly, and caused more trouble and delay than any other equal length of foundations.
Owing however to delays on the part of the Contractor for Section No. 6W, Mr. TSANG KENG, work on section No. 1W, was completed practically simultaneously with it.
Much of the work performed on the Reclamation is invisible, the foundations of the Praya Wall extending down through water and mud to the hard ground. This means that the depth of the wall and rubble mound, from the top of the coping to the bottom of the foundations, varies from 27 to 80 feet. In addition to being extended out to the new Praya Wall, the Storm-Water Drains had to be reconstructed from the old Praya Wall backwards, for distances varying from 100 to 1,450 feet. The aggregate of the areas of the Reclamations outside the old Praya Wall has already been given as 65 acres, but the whole surface of the old Praya had to he raised, and portions of the surfaces of the adjoining streets. Thus the total area dealt with was 80 acres, and the total weight of materials used in the works may be put at something like 3,500,000 tons.
When it is mentioned that the cost of the entire work per square foot of‘ building land has amounted to about $2 to $3 and that portions of the land in the western and central districts have realized $8.78 and $20.00 per square foot, respectively, there can be no question as to the success of the scheme from a ﬁnancial point of view. The scheme has also been of great beneﬁt in providing new and wide thoroughfares throughout the principal portion of the City and in affording accommodation for the great development which has occurred in the trade and population of the Colony. In addition to the sum expended upon the Reclamation itself, a large sum, probably about $4,000,000, has been spent in the erection of buildings on it.