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May 4, 2011

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Extension blights historic home

RESIDENTS fear that the historic building in which they live will collapse after a neighbor illegally built heavy extensions on top of the structure.

Deep cracks appeared in the walls of apartments in the three-story Shangwen Road building during the work to build a two-story rooftop extension.

The building is in Longmen Community, where 49 shikumen residential buildings dating from 1934 are under the protection of Huangpu District government.

Shikumen homes, which incorporate Chinese and Western elements, are a distinctive Shanghai architectural style.

Wang Mingbao, a 74-year-old resident told Shanghai Daily that her neighbor upstairs, Zhao Fengfeng, started building on the roof of their building last October, despite objections from residents and government officials.

Wang said although small cracks appeared on the walls and the building shook during construction, Zhao ignored all complaints.

Work began to add another floor to the illegal apartment on April 20, and a long crack appeared at the building's entrance.

Wang was shocked by "the government's inaction," which she claims led other residents to believe they could also get away with adding illegal extensions.

Now illegal structures can be seen on many of the historic buildings, with Zhao's "topping" the most prominent.

"I have lived in this building for 48 years and took pride in its long history and wonderful environment, but now the illegal structures have ruined everything," said Wang.

Huang Jianshan, an official with Laoximen Neighborhood Committee, told Shanghai Daily that they were working with Huangpu housing administration and would demolish Zhao's illegal building if she refused to remove it herself.

Huang said a team had gone to demolish Zhao's building in April, but backed off when she threatened to commit suicide by jumping off the building.

Huang said Zhao built the first part of the illegal structure for her son, who is in his 20s, and added a second floor as a "temple to pray to Buddha."

The committee was unconvinced by this explanation, said Huang.

Zhao's neighbors said she has lived with her son in a 20-square-meter room since her husband died last year.

They said Zhao told them she had to build the structure because her son was getting married and needed his own room.

Huang said this could not justify construct illegal construction, but added that the neighborhood committee would try to find ways to help Zhao and her son if they were living in poverty.


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