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January 24, 2013

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Demolition boosts Xujiahui history

XUHUI District is pulling down buildings around the Xujiahui Cathedral to restore the area's historic look, district officials said yesterday.

The work will bring back the magnificent look of what was once the largest cathedral in the Far East, formerly known as Saint Ignatius Cathedral, officials said.

The Qixiang Hotel, opened in 1988 west of the church, will be demolished as will other nearby buildings. This also will highlight the Xujiahui Observatory, once the biggest observatory in East Asia, according to officials with the Shanghai Xujiahui Commercial Co.

"The cathedral and its square, the observatory along with the Xu Guangqi Memorial Hall and Guangqi Park, will restore the historic look of the Xujiahui area," according to the renovation plan.

Xujiahui, named for Xu Guangqi, a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) scientist and official, is one of the city's oldest commercial areas. It is undergoing a three-year renovation to boost its cultural flavor, said Qi Zhenguo, director of the business council of Xuhui District.

The former three-star West Asia Hotel-Shanghai has been dismantled to give way to a new office building with a facade covered by plants to improve air quality, according to the plan.

A ring-shape pedestrian way will connect the new building with Metro City and the Pacific Digital City, popular digital markets. Opening in October is a new Star Theatre in Metro City, where Taiwanese playwright and director Stan Lai and his team will perform stage plays.

"The Xujiahui commercial zone was established in 1992 as one of the eight commercial centers in the city, but the city's commercial structure has been greatly changed, so Xujiahui also has to upgrade its function," said Sun Jiwei, Party chief of the district.

The 2.4-square-kilometer Xujiahui area was approved as a 4A national tourist spot in October. Public toilets have been added and upgraded while tourist shuttle buses will link popular scenic spots.

Tourists can reserve tickets at for tourism routes covering major attractions like the cathedral, the Tomb of Xu Guangqi, the Tushanwan Museum, and Xujiahui Library, home to a large collection of antique foreign books.

The renovation in Xujiahui should be a model to other commercial zones in the city, said Zhen Shiling, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and president of the Institute of Architecture and City Planning of Tongji University.

"There have been many 'commercial zones' across the city and these zone should develop more functions apart from shopping," Zhen said.

City's plans for 2013

Providing free Wi-Fi at 450 spots, up from 300

Setting up food tracing systems at local wet markets and supermarkets

Building physical health monitoring centers around the city and adding community work-out facilities

Finishing separate waste collection for recycling at schools, markets, parks and government offices

Encouraging business start-ups

Providing community-based care services for 280,000 senior citizens

Adding more equipment such as fire extinguishers at 1,000 communities

Renovating 1,000 kilometers of roads and 500 bridges in rural areas

Building 30 new kindergartens and upgrading middle school labs

Providing subsidies to 10,000 handicapped, free prenatal checks for 20,000


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