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April 22, 2021

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Drive to revamp old communities in downtown district gathers pace

Huangpu District aims to relocate more than 20,000 families living in derelict residential houses this year to revamp its downtown area while improving residents’ living conditions.

The area in eight downtown regions, including those on Xiamen, Fuzhou and Dongjiadu Roads and Jianguo Road E., will be reclaimed for historical preservation or future development, the district government said yesterday.

These old residential neighborhoods set to be renovated are adjacent to downtown commercial landmarks such as the Bund, Xintiandi, Huaihai Road M. and Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall. “Most of the buildings were built over a century ago and have fire and other safety risks,” said Zhu Fohai, executive vice director of the Huangpu Old Communities Renovation Office.

About 70 percent of fire incidents in Huangpu last year were in the old neighborhoods.

“The relocation campaign has become the top public-welfare priority in Huangpu,” Zhu said.

The city’s ongoing Jiugai campaign, or renovation of old residential communities, has become the primary solution to improve living conditions, remove shantytowns and redevelop the region to help spur the city’s economic growth.

The residents had a choice of moving to designated housing on the outskirts of the city, such as Songjiang and Qingpu districts or remote towns in the Pudong New Area, or to buy properties themselves with subsidies from the government.

Huangpu had the largest area of decrepit lane-style neighborhoods, covering around 2 million square meters, with about 30,000 families living in them at the end of 2020.

The houses have cramped living spaces and shared bathrooms and kitchens. Some residents still use chamber pots.

Most of the neighborhoods are in the downtown historical conservation zone, featuring the city’s unique shikumen, or stone-gate, houses, as well as traditional lane-style houses under protective status.

The district government plans to finish renovating all level-2 lane-style houses, those in the worst conditions that lack private toilets and kitchens, by the end of 2023. Most of the vacated houses will be preserved, especially those in the Bund, Xintiandi, north Huangpu and the Suzhou Creek riverside.

The district has established a relocation office with officials recruited from all related government bodies to enhance efficiency. The district’s Party secretary and director serve as dual team leaders.

Officials at its newly unveiled office at Huangpu Center Building in Laoximen, the Old West Gate of the city’s old town, oversee several major areas to be revamped this year.

“We chose the special site as our workplace to push ourselves to stay with the tight schedule every day,” Zhu said.

Since the massive revamp campaign was initially launched, Huangpu has been revising its yearly target. It relocated around 7,000 families in 2018 and 12,000 in 2019. A record 20,000 were relocated from old downtown communities in 2020.

The process to solicit public opinion on the relocation and compensation deals has been cut in half to about three months to help reach the goal.

“The residents have a strong desire for quick relocation from the shabby houses they’ve lived in for decades,” Zhu said.

Leading state-owned enterprises in Huangpu have been invited to join the campaign. They are asked to take charge of the future development of different regions and offer compensation to residents.

“We are under a lot of pressure, but it is our duty to accomplish the task,” said Gu Liquan, general manager of the Yongye Group.

The group’s projects include the Sinan Mansions, the only wholly preserved historical garden villa complex in downtown that includes more than 50 villas in a variety of styles. It has also taken charge of the relocation and renovation of several sites on Xizang Road and Jianguo Road E.

Subdistrict and neighborhood committees have organized volunteer and professional service teams to explain policies and persuade residents to sign relocation agreements.

The Nanjing Road E. Subdistrict has established a Special Team of Young People, comprised of young government officials and Party members who visit households to learn about their difficulties. Lawyers and retired teachers have been invited to help solve various issues and family disputes.


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