That’s refreshing news. Not that Shanghaiist has anything in particular against Xintiandi. It’s OK, in an Epcot Center sort of way. Maybe in 10 years or so, once the novelty wears off and the prices come down a bit, it will be a decent place to sit outside and have a beer. But we don’t understand why we see so many red-hatted tour groups barrelling their way through the place, snapping photos. We don’t understand why so many visitors are led to believe that there’s anything old about the place at all. Xintiandi is not a neighborhood of restored old buildings. Old buildings were razed and residents were displaced to make way for Xintiandi. The same thing is happening now in the blocks that surround the Xintiandi area. The real estate is just too valuable. (And if the old neighborhoods must get chewed up and the old residents spit out, Shanghaiist would choose something that looks like Xintiandi as the lesser evil to get built in their place.)
But it’s nice to read that not everyone in Shanghai follows the “out with the old” mantra. According to the Shanghai Daily, the historic 3.2-kilometer south bank of Suzhou Creek, stretching from Waibaidu Bridge near the Bund to Chengdu Bei Lu will be the site of a major resoration project to be completed by the magical year 2010. Some old warehouses and homes will be converted into restaurants, galleries and theaters, and — most importantly — “most residents of lane houses, or shikumen, in the area will not be forced to leave their homes.” One early 1900s neighborhood the story mentions as a “major historic shikumen site” is Zunde Lane at 136 Xiamen Lu, which still houses 958 families.
“We will not follow the Xintiandi development pattern,” Chen Youhua, a senior engineer with the Shanghai Urban Planning Design Institute which created the plan, said in the story. “Our plan aims to restore the original living atmosphere of the region including original dwellings and old-Shanghai-styled street scenes.”
The story said the city government will fund much of the conservation effort, with private investors adding to the site’s commercial venues. Reportedly the area between Xizang Zhong Lu and Chengdu Bei Lu will be set aside as residential, Xizang Zhong Lu to Henan Zhong Lu will be used for “service and trade,” and a “tourist area” will be set up near the Bund. Before we get too excited about all this, however, it should be noted that the Shanghai Daily story was based on a “preliminary plan put together by the district government.” So there is still a decent chance they could change their minds and turn the area into one big parking lot.
Photo from Shanghai Diaries.
Translation by Anya Le