Re­pur­pos­ing build­ings the way to go

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By David Lee li­u­meng@glob­al­ Page Ed­i­tor: cn

Bei­jing has changed a lot, not only the hu­tong of hun­dreds of years dat­ing back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dy­nas­ties but also the gray­ish-black brick and mor­tar blocks of more re­cent mem­ory. Gone are some of the in­dus­trial com­plexes built to host lo­cal pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties dur­ing the early days of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China.

The many in­dus­trial com­plexes lo­cated just out­side of the Sec­ond Ring Road with their dra­co­nian, sim­plis­tic and some­times grotesque looks hark back to the days be­fore the re­form and open­ing-up process. Just as those days are gone, the in­dus­trial com­plexes are dis­ap­pear­ing or chang­ing in a dra­matic but not al­to­gether bad way.

Early changes took place sim­ply be­cause the city needed more land for de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, it is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult to de­mol­ish huge con­struc­tions and re­claim land in Bei­jing nowa­days.

Rather than eras­ing the in­dus­trial struc­tures, re­pur­pos­ing them has proven to be more prac­ti­cal.

The 798 Art Dis­trict rep­re­sents one of most fa­mous re­pur­posed in­dus­trial com­plexes. The former pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties have been re­pur­posed to be used by some of the city’s pi­o­neer­ing artists as cre­ative stu­dios. The artis­tic charm at­tracts the city’s in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated and aes­thet­i­cally evolv­ing pop­u­la­tion. Now, the 798 Art Dis­trict

is an iconic artis­tic des­ti­na­tion that at­tracts many tourists. The trans­for­ma­tion of the 798 Art Dis­trict and sim­i­lar projects close to the Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict is largely ex­per­i­men­tal and done on a case-by-case ba­sis. The city is launch­ing its first-ever over­all pol­icy to en­cour­age the re­pur­pos­ing of old in­dus­trial com­plexes into cul­tural spa­ces in a more sys­tem­atic way and drive ur­ban space in­no­va­tion. As an­nounced in early April, just to show the se­ri­ous­ness of the re­pur­pos­ing drive, the city will iden­tify re­main­ing in­dus­trial com­plexes for over­all as­sess­ment and plan­ning.

A ma­jor in­no­va­tive pol­icy mea­sure is the five-year tran­si­tional pe­riod that pro­vides ex­emp­tions to al­low cer­tain types of re­pur­pos­ing to hap­pen with­out turn­ing re­pur­posed land into com­mer­cial or res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment projects.

In a city bur­dened by a large pop­u­la­tion and con­stant traf­fic con­ges­tion, the city man­agers are walk­ing a del­i­cate line as they craft a de­sired re­nais­sance of in­dus­trial land to avoid over de­vel­op­ment in an already crowded city space.

There­fore, through­out this process, bal­ance must be the key­word. The en­vis­aged trans­for­ma­tion will pro­vide in­no­va­tive busi­nesses with enough room while draw­ing a red line to deny any ac­tiv­i­ties out­side of the scope of the cul­tural space con­cept.

Keen ob­servers will watch closely to see how “cul­tural space” is de­fined, de­signed, and im­ple­mented.

The 798 Art Dis­trict is a suc­cess story, but this time, the city is aim­ing to scale up with city­wide col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion.

I un­der­stand that the whole process takes some time, but I, like other Bei­jing cit­i­zens, look to in­no­va­tors to seize the pol­icy op­por­tu­ni­ties and carry out the re­pur­pos­ing work soon and with a broad scope. After all, who doesn’t want to ex­plore and dis­cover more fun spots the city is yet to of­fer?

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