Have you heard the one about the guy who suggested we lift up all the old buildings on the Bund several meters and cram a shopping mall underneath them? No? It’s a good one. It goes something like —
Oh wait, we forgot. That wasn’t a joke. Some guy really thinks that would be a good idea (and apparently some members of the local government are actually considering it):
“It’s totally technically achievable and that can create more than 200,000 square meters of space to bring about business opportunities worth billions of dollars,” said Raymond Shaw, general manager of Actuant China Ltd, an engineering company specializing in hydraulic pressure.
“What a pity the area is now far from being fully commercially used” because of a need to “protect these buildings with historic value.”
Shaw’s blueprint is to raise these buildings to make room for shopping or entertainment complexes in the space that will be created below. And in order not to jeopardize the original appearance of the area, a roof, for pedestrian use, will also be built atop the current riverside roads. That will give the impression the Bund buildings have the same look as before, despite them being slightly taller.
Can’t we have a few square meters of this city that aren’t intended for commercial use? Do we really need more Armani stores?
Shaw (who is actually Beijing-born) was the man behind the huge project a few years ago that lifted and moved the Shanghai Concert Hall some 70 meters to its current location. That was a worthy endeavor. The Shanghai Concert Hall is a grand old building (some more pics here, here and here) that was wasting away in the the shadow of Yan’An Elevated Road.
But this Bund idea makes us think that Shaw has watched Ocean’s 12 a few too many times. You can’t just go around raising buildings willy nilly.
But you can, it seems, go around razing buildings as you like. No problems there. A recent Reuters story focuses on the old neighborhoods earmarked for destruction and the tens of thousands of families being relocated to make room for the 2010 World Expo. (Shanghaiist must admit that we didn’t even know the world still had World Expos until we moved to Shanghai in 2002. We guess they’re still a big deal?)
Shanghai’s Expo will take up a space “nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park and involve up to $25 billion in preparatory spending.” But that wasn’t the monetary figure in the story that caught us by surprise. They talked to a man named Ba Jin, who was being forced out of a neighborhood his family had occupied for 200 years:
Ba said he expected to receive the equivalent of about $1,000 in resettlement compensation, but added that this would be far from enough to buy a new home in his old neighbourhood. He plans to stay in the area, though, while others are being moved to Minhang, a desolate industrial district south of the city centre.
One thousand dollars? Surely this must be a typo. Maybe per square meter? Not too long ago, we talked with a man who was about to be relocated from his longtang home near Xintiandi. He said he was going to get more than a couple hundred thousand US dollars for his small place. Was that just because of his proximity to Starbucks?