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Old school 'graduates' to a new site

AN 89-YEAR-OLD school will be picked up and moved to a new location to save it from the wrecking ball and make way for a commercial project in downtown Shanghai.

The former office building for the Minli Middle School, a three-story structure on Weihai Road near Shimen No. 1 Road, will be rolled 57 meters southeast on rail tracks to its new location, according to the Shanghai Tonghua Reinforcement Co Ltd, which is in charge of the move.

The process will begin in the first half of this year and wrap up within six months, said developer Dazhongli Properties Ltd.

The relocation is part of a reconstruction program for the Dazhongli area, in which HKR International Ltd and Swire Properties Ltd will join to build two high-rise office buildings, three hotels and a retail center.

The heritage structure is expected to become a landmark in the project area, although its exact use has not yet been decided.

The commercial project covers 63,000 square meters and is bounded by Nanjing Road, Weihai Road, Shimen No. 1 Road and Qinghai Road. Total gross floor area above ground will reach 291,200 square meters.

Workers were leveling the ground outside the building yesterday in preparation for the move.

The structure was built as a residence by brothers Qiu Xinshan and Qiu Weiqing, two paint industry tycoons, in 1920, at 412 Weihai Road.

There were originally two homes at that address. The building under relocation was later turned into offices for the school, while the other home was demolished in the 1990s to make space for new classrooms.

The European-style building features finely carved stone work, arched colonnades and mosaics of colored glass. It also combines the style of southern China architecture on its northern exterior.

It received city-level heritage listing from the Shanghai government in 1999.

The relocation process is similar to the one used to move the 74-year-old Shanghai Concert Hall, which reopened to the public after being slid 66.46 meters southeast in 2004, engineering experts said.

Both the outside and inside of the building will be fastened with steel straps to prevent structural damage.

Workers will then cut the building's key pillars, lift the structure by synchronized jacks and lay it on a metal base. The building will then be pushed on rail tracks to its new site.

Engineers in China are considered to be well versed in moving large buildings. Most of the Shanghai Concert Hall remained intact during its relocation, but some of the interior was damaged.

The Minli Middle School's exterior and interior decoration will be renovated after arriving at the new site, the developer said.

A century-old magnolia tree will be kept in its original spot or relocated to the area, said Du Yili, a manager at Dazhongli Properties.


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