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New ideas for old places

SHANGHAI, which became a sister city of Spain's Barcelona a decade ago, is now learning from its example as it renovates its old town areas.

Zhou Wei, director of the Huangpu District government whose jurisdiction includes the city's central old town area, said yesterday he and his colleagues had visited the Barcelona Pavilion at the Urban Best Practices Area three times to learn from the successful experience Barcelona accumulated during its 24-year renovation projects.

Since 2000, the district has renovated 4,500 buildings in the Yu Garden area, covering 2 square kilometers, and tried their best to keep the original character of those old buildings.

The area where the Suzhou Creek meets the Huangpu River near the Bund is also on the list of old town renovation. Expanding the green belt area, repairing and restoring the original look, and developing new functions - hotels, high-end office buildings and museums - from those old buildings, are the main objectives of the renovation project, Zhou said.

It is similar to what Barcelona has done and what the city shows at the UBPA.

When the renovation first started in 1986, the urban landscape was very dense in Ciutat Vella, the old town of Barcelona, and it had no certain development planning, said Xavier Valls, an official with the city's renovation office.

About 2 percent its buildings were in danger of collapse.

With 45 city squares newly built, 38 public areas created and 3,000 residential buildings erected, Ciutat Vella has been transformed, yet has retained its traditional appearance.

Zhou said they would refer to the Barcelona example when drawing up the next five-year plan.


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