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October 31, 2016

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Home » District » Jing'an

Older complexes renovate their activity centers and playgrounds

NEW residential complexes come equipped with fancy club-like facilities where residents can rest, read and do recreational activities.

That’s not the case, however, in many older complexes, where a dull utility room-like place is sometimes opened by neighborhood committee staff for a periodic event.

The Xiangqian residential complex, which falls into the latter category, is having its old utility room upgraded as part of 10 pilot sites in the district.

“We aren’t pulling down everything,” said Li Jingjing, co-founder of the Oriental Danology Institute, which has a government contract to upgrade old facilities. “Rather, this is what might be called a micro-renovation.”

Old junk stored in the utility room at Xiangqian has been removed. Layers of dust on shelves has been wiped clean. Chipped walls in dull colors have been freshened up with bright paint.

The site features a cozy reading area, with about 1,300 volumes of book on shelves for residents to peruse. The selection will be refreshed every three months by a district library.

There are mats on the floor for children to play, and pictures on the walls were drawn by local artists depicting life in the neighborhood. There is also a “photo wall” where residents can hang their own works or post notes of community interest.

“All this can enliven the residents’ sense of belonging and foster more interaction with neighbors,” Li said.

A children’s playground has been installed just outside, in what was formerly a disused, weedy area.

“Children need to breathe fresh air and play with their friends, but in the past they didn’t have anywhere nearby to go,” Li said.

She added, “Grandparents also need private moments. But in many cases, they have to take care of grandchildren. This revamped site gives both children and grandparents space to enjoy what they want to do.”

Indeed, the playground has become a most popular place in the complex.

In the past, investment in equipment like computers and videos didn’t attract much resident interest. But the renovated activity site is changing attitudes.

“What we want to do is create an ambience that engages residents.” Li said. “We also want to inspire interest in cultural activities that challenge both the mind and spirit.”

According to Zhang Zhong, deputy director of the Jing’an Cultural Bureau, old complexes tend to breed old thinking. Improving the environment improves how people think about themselves, others and their environment, he said. “They need cultural stimulation close to home,” he added.

By the end of this year, renovation at all 10 sites will be completed, and 10 more will be earmarked for upgrading next year. Inspired by the success of Xiangqian, one complex not on the list has gathered together the funds itself to upgrade their activity center.

“That is exactly what we want to achieve,” Zhang said. “If we create and maintain the vitality on these sites, we will encourage more residents to improve their social environment. We think of ourselves as a catalyst, with residents themselves as drivers of change.”

Li said the improved activity centers will host an array of cultural and educational events.

“For example, many elderly residents are proficient at traditional handicrafts,” she said. “But today’s youngsters don’t know anything about that. So we hope to build a bridge linking the generations.”

Better serving the public

A three-year plan to upgrade grassroots reading centers in the district will begin next year.

“Shanghai doesn’t lack big-scale bookstores or high-quality book boutiques, but we want everyone to have close proximity to the fun of reading,” said Ma Jiabing, district deputy publicity director.

Local reading areas can’t compare with libraries in the volume of books available, but they can encourage people to take time out to do more reading. Ma said the creation of more local reading clubs will also be encouraged.


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