DestinAsian - - FLASHBACK -

Taipei ex­cels, as wit­nessed by an im­pres­sive run of restora­tion and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion ini­tia­tives. Huashan 1914 opened in 2005 on the site of a long-de­funct rice wine fac­tory. The for­mer squat­ter set­tle­ment of Trea­sure Hill made its de­but as a re­vamped “artist vil­lage” in 2010, fol­lowed the next year by the com­ple­tion of a 111-kilo­me­ter net­work of river­side bike paths. And in 2015, eastern Taipei’ s no­to­ri­ous Neihu land­fill (n ot -soaf fe ction ately dubbed Trash Moun­tain by lo­cals) was con­verted into a 16-hectare eco­log­i­cal park.

And the rest of the world ap­pears to be tak­ing no­tice. Taipei is now one of the high­est-ranked cities in Asia on global liv­abil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity in­dexes, and was named 2016’s World De­sign Cap­i­tal by the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of So­ci­eties of In­dus­trial De­sign for its ef­forts to “rein­vig­o­rate” the ur­ban land­scape. This is clearly good news for mayor Ko Wen-je, who re­cently brushed off crit­i­cisms that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s vi­sion for the cap­i­tal was not “flashy” or “grand” enough by stat­ing its top pri­or­ity was “build­ing a city where peo­ple can live their life hap­pily.”

Aside from head­line-grab­bing projects like Huashan 1914, this means that a lot of the in­ter­est­ing trans­for­ma­tions are hap­pen­ing at the neigh­bor­hood level. To un­der­stand them, one should start where Taipei essen­tially be­gan: the western Gochic Bi­cy­cle 59 Qi­dong St., Zhongzheng; 886-2/ 2314-3296; gochic bi­cy­ Huashan 1914 Cre­ative Park 1 Bade Rd., Zhongzheng; 886-2/2358-1914; Leput­ing 67 Hangzhou South Rd., Da’an; 886-2/23951689; leput­ Song­shan Cul­tural and Cre­ative Park 133 Guangfu South Rd., Xinyi; 886-2/2765-1388; so ng­shanc ul­tur­al­park .taipei. URS 127 Art Fac­tory 127 Di­hua St., Da­tong; 886-2/2550- 6775; fb.c om /u rs12 7 art­fac tory. URS 155 Cook­ing To­gether 155 Di­hua St., Da­tong; 886-2/2552 0349;­ing to­gether155. URS 329 Rice and Shine 329 Di­hua St., Da­tong; 886-2/2550-6607; ri­cen sh ine329 .com. district of Dadaocheng bor­der­ing the Tam­sui River, which in the mid-19th cen­tury emerged as a key port for the bur­geon­ing tea ex­port trade. Pop­u­lated by for­eign­ers and mer­chants, it flour­ished in the early stages of Ja­pan’s 1895–1945 oc­cu­pa­tion of Tai­wan, boast­ing land­marks such as Taipei’s first rail sta­tion and mod­ern movie the­ater. The for­tunes of many of the fam­i­lies that dom­i­nate Tai­wanese busi­ness to this day were based in the shops and godowns that crowded Dadaocheng’s Di­hua Street.

None­the­less, the city’s cen­ter of grav­ity soon shifted de­ci­sively east­ward as its Ja­panese ad­min­is­tra­tors erected the trap­pings of power in the more spa­cious Zhongzheng district, which is still home to most gov­ern­ment of­fices and a fine le­gacy of baroque and neo­clas­si­cal build­ings like the stately Pres­i­den­tial Of­fice (orig­i­nally the base of the Ja­panese gov­er­nor-gen­eral). More re­cently, as a new cen­tral busi­ness district mush­roomed in Xinyi, even far­ther from the city’s old port, Dadaocheng was left to qui­etly go to seed.

Un­til, that is, it served as the ba­sis for an ex­per­i­ment. For much of its history, Taipei had adopted the same blunt method of ur­ban im­prove­ment as other Asian cities, essen­tially tear­ing down old neigh­bor­hoods and build­ing new ones. But in a nascent democ­racy this of­ten gave rise

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