Link REIT, Asia’s largest real estate investment trust and the second largest of its kind globally, holds a position of infamy in Hong Kong, its headquarters and primary market. A decade on from its formation, which occurred through the divestiture of what were previously public retail assets, Link REIT has been both lauded by investors for its superior returns and vilified by the general public as an agent of the city’s gentrification. Critiques have raised two sets of allegations against Link REIT: that their approach to redeveloping the city’s public markets has made these spaces unaffordable to the poor, previously the markets’ principal patrons; and that many of the markets’ legacy vendors, themselves also often impoverished, have been forced to leave their businesses post-renovation, unable to afford refurbishment. Redeveloped wet markets are now more upmarket and almost European, with Link REIT targeting a decidedly more bourgeois patron. But at what cost to the city’s social fabric? And should this be a material concern?
The story’s protagonist, Calvin Kwan, is the General Manager of Sustainability at Link REIT and has spent his tenure attempting to demonstrate that sustainability has a place in the corporate boardroom. Now tasked with rethinking his company’s approach to managing these assets, Calvin must consider to whom Link REIT holds obligations and how outside approaches to urban redevelopment might generate sources of value that are both financially accretive and socially beneficial. Faced with heightened levels of public scrutiny, Link REIT’s response may shape their continued right to operate within the city.