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May 23, 2019

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Residents to safeguard micro-renovations

The first round of micro-facelift projects are near completion in old communities around People’s Square, with residents organized to maintain standards.

The micro-revamping — subtle, low-key renovations to improve living standards while retaining the traditional layout and lifestyle of the city’s shikumen (stone-gated) neighborhoods — has been carried out in the Guizhouxi neighborhood on Beijing Road E. and the Jiangyin Road Community.

Illegal buildings have been demolished and public areas redecorated in the century-old neighborhoods.

Small gardens with various flowers chosen by residents have replaced illegal buildings built by some inhabitants to make up for crammed living spaces.

The unique shikumen buildings, constructed in the 1920s and incorporating Eastern and Western architectural styles, have been preserved to revitalize communities, said Lu Jun, deputy director of the Nanjing Road E. Subdistrict.

Among highlights of the renovation is a “shared living room” in the Guizhouxi Community. Here residents can cook in a public kitchen, meet friends, stage festivals, as well as read books or try their hand at designing their own art.

There’s also a nearby public laundry house, with five tumbler washing machines.

To maintain standards, a volunteer team of 11 residents has been organized to take care of the gardens and shared facilities as well as promote garbage sorting, said Lu.

Cao Zhenmin, 62, who has been living in the Guizhouxi neighborhood for more than half a century, has been elected head of the volunteer team.

Cao said his daily life had become fulfilled thanks to his patrols around the neighborhood and watering of flowerbeds.

“All the team members, including me, are fond of flowers and we tend pot plants at home,” Cao said.

“Now we have expanded our hobby to cover all the public regions across the community.”

Chinese wistaria, trumpet vine and roses in the gardens are about to bloom. A loquat tree has borne its first fruit which residents use as treats for guests at the communal living room.

The practice will be promoted to other old neighborhoods in the downtown region, Lu said.

It used to cost 30,000 yuan (US$4,347) for the subdistrict to hire professionals to take care of the gardens. With the volunteer team, the annual cost has been reduced to about 3,000 yuan, used to replace some withered plants, Lu said.

His old neighbor Tan Yaoting serves as the building chief for the No. 12 building in the same neighborhood.

He takes the lead in sorting dry and kitchen garbage at shared kitchens and asks residents to follow.

“After our neighborhood has become neat and beautiful, the residents are more willing to practice garbage sorting and other public activities,” Tan said.

Some quality business operators have also been recruited to open wet markets or hotels on Beijing Road E., a former major site for ironmongery.

A boutique hotel has opened on the site of a former illegal structure near the Guizhouxi Community. It was originally a parking garage for Shanghai’s first taxi company Xiangsheng, now known as Qiangsheng.

Many old photos of the site and the taxi firm decorate the 64-room hotel, said Zhang Qi, a manager of the hotel.

A small wet market has opened nearby. Before, residents had nowhere local to shop for food.

Renovation work has entered the final phase for the community along the 200-meter Jiangyin Road. Originally known as Mandalay Road, it later became the city’s first and most popular flower and bird market in the 1960s.

Concrete walls in public gardens are being decorated with colorful pebbles.

Inside buildings, shared kitchens and toilets have been redecorated, and fire prevention equipment has been installed.

A former eatery in an illegal structure will be converted into a canteen for the elderly and nearby white-collars, said Lu.

Residents are also widely involved in the revamp. They can decide the kinds of flowers and trees that are to be planted in public gardens, but are required to take charge of future maintenance.

Children have been invited to create paintings on the walls of public spaces with the help of artists. A 200-meter narrow zigzag path has been adorned with paintings and pot plants.


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