Projects to give historical Qingdao needed face-lift
Web Editor:國際日報 International Daily News
Built in 1897, Zhongshan Road in Qingdao, Shandong province, used to be one of the most bustling business areas in northern China, home to more than 140 stores, cafes, bars and hotels in its heyday. However, the glamour of the street, along with the entire Western-influenced old city area, faded away after 1994 when the city government moved east, leading to a shift in population density and outdated industrial infrastructure.
To revitalize the historical area, 72 projects led by the local government got underway on April 28, backed by a total investment of 4 billion yuan ($593 million). The projects will repair historical buildings, improve the infrastructure and introduce innovative business models.
The projects, which will run into 2024, cover a total floor space of about 1.7 million square meters, including 55 renovated roads, 12 new parking lots and six streetside gardens, according to a three-year plan for the protection and renovation of the city's historical areas.
"In the coming three years, Qingdao will promote the conservation and utilization of its historical and traditional-style buildings, and build them into sightseeing attractions that combine our local culture and modern dynamics and fashion," said Chen Weihua, deputy director of the city's historical areas renovation office.
With Zhongshan Road at the center, the historical area of Qingdao, covering 28 square kilometers, is "a huge treasure", said Zhou Zhaoli, from the renovation office responsible for history and archive studies. The official added that the area is home to more than 300 historical buildings and 60 former residences of renowned local figures, and demonstrates how the city has developed to integrate Chinese traditional culture with Western elements and how local residents' lives have changed over the years.
"We have organized experts to conduct on-site studies of more than 100 historical buildings, which will help guide our repairs, construction and future tourism development," Zhou said.
Xu Kun, an executive of Shibei Jiantou Group, a contractor undertaking some of the renovation projects, said the most difficult part is not just the conservation and repair of buildings or upgrading infrastructure, but attracting capital, technology and talent while maintaining local characteristics and values, to meet the demand of modern industrial development.
"It is great to relax here and experience a mixture of traditional and modern culture, as well as the combined stylings of the West and East," said Li Xuanxuan, a 26-year-old local finance clerk. "I believe the old downtown parts will absolutely grow into must-go places for young people to post on social media after the city government's revitalization."
Attracting new economies, new business models and more young people will be key to the revitalization and future high-quality development of the historical area, according to Zhang Lei, deputy director of Qingdao's Shibei district. "There will be old buildings and old scenery, but new experiences and new consumption."
In the investment plan for the Dabaodao area near Zhongshan Road, various innovative business models that young people are interested in have been introduced, including talk show theaters, fashion outlets and designer studios.
"It will be a super complex featuring great inclusiveness," he said, adding that the government, platform companies, business leaders and social capital will all be involved in the operation of the historical area.