5 Cues about Urban Regeneration in China

URBAN REGENERATION IS CURRENTLY A WIDELY DISCUSSED TOPIC, ALMONGST VARIOUS AGENTS IN THE FIELDS OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES, CITY PLANNING, CITY MANAGEMENT AND CITY DEVELOPMENT, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, ARCHITECTURE DESIGN AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES.
LOGON LAB ATTENDED THE CHINA URBAN REGENERATION FORUM 2017 IN BEIJING TO GAIN INSIGHT INTO THE CURRENT DISCUSSION REGARDING URBAN REGENERATION IN CHINA. IN THIS ARTICLE, WE HIGHLIGHT SOME OF THE TOPICS THAT WE FOUND INTERESTING AND INSPIRING.

CITY INTEGRATION

The value of reusing old buildings and the positive impact of urban regeneration on the city is now widely accepted.

Several speakers promoted the strategy of a “virtuous urban” regeneration process, where the emphasis lies on the conservation of existing structures. The value of this strategy was demonstrated by case studies from cities in Europe. City authorities in China are currently paying more attention on the process of urban regeneration. This is a significant shift in China’s urban development, where just a decade ago, it was common practice to demolish old structures without much consideration to make place for new developments.
Ms. Qinhong (Director of Policy Research Center in China Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development) emphasized the relationship of regeneration projects with the rest of the city. While Ms. Wanglin from Jiaotong University pointed out “transfer corridors”, to describe the potential ripple effect of urban regeneration process on the immediate surroundings to the city as a whole.
It is understood that changes in the behaviors of the urban society is a significant driver behind the urban regeneration process. The allocation of new functions to replace outdated and unattractive spaces is a response to changing needs and consumption patterns. This raised the questions on how the transformation of buildings and its adaptation to new functions should be approached.

A FRUITFUL COOPERATION

A cooperation between developers, government and citizens is considered beneficial for project development.

Speakers from several real estate firms and investment companies presented projects that demonstrated how building modernization and adaptive reuse of outdated structures increases the value of properties. However, to achieve positive results, projects must be developed with regards to the existing urban context. To be successful, Mr. Suxin, Conference chairman, suggested a close cooperation between developers, government and citizens.
Currently, local citizens are rarely directly involved in the planning process of urban regeneration projects, even though they are recognized as the potential buyers and end users by the industry.  The integration of citizens is a crucial step for future innovation and development, but the question on how to involve them in the development process remains a challenge.

CREATIVE PARKS

Red Town in Shanghai offers a powerful example for the iteration of urban regeneration on one site through the years.

In the last 10-15 years, creative parks have been a popular redevelopment strategy for industrial sites. Mr.Lijiang, from Rongqiao Group, presented the new design for Red Town. The creative park has been known for many years as an art venue and creative office area with an inviting public art space at the center. The site was bought by the Rongqiao Company after the former steel factory closed a while back and is currently undergoing redevelopment. Most of the existing structures have already been demolished, with only the long production hall remaining. The site is now a large construction site. The redevelopment is part of the overall upgrading process of the area around Hongqiao Metro Station. Red Town will reopen as the Shanghai Rongqiao Centre, a mixed-use complex with office, commercial, culture and publics pace. Art will be the theme of the redevelopment as a legacy from the previous site identity. This rather radical approach to urban regeneration poses the question of whether Shanghai’s creative parks are just a short-term solution or an urban typology that will be sustained in the long-term.

NEW FUNCTIONS, NEW BUSINESS MODES

Urban regeneration comes in many forms and scales. The diversity of these projects requires new and diverse business models.

Many speakers at the Urban Regeneration Forum spoke about different types of business models regarding the financing, development, and operation of urban regeneration projects. Since these projects are rather complex, flexible business models are required. There were several speakers that represented REIT companies (Real Estate Investment Trust). All speakers agreed that the functional mix is the most important factor for success, but the mix also creates new challenges. Clearly, urban regeneration is a huge step away from mono-functional developments, which dominated the urbanization process in the past. New interesting typologies have emerged, for example long rent apartments, which is in line with the government efforts to use the existing residential stock in better ways.

NEW TYPES OF OFFICE PLACES

Complexity also governs workplaces, which are becoming more diverse and differentiated in typologies.

Several speakers represented co-working spaces and presented offices of their brands. They highlighted the ongoing evolution of the workspace and the need for new workspace typologies. Thus, the workspace is still a trending and widely discussed topic. Interestingly, new office typologies are successfully placed in reused old industrial buildings and abandoned shopping malls. (Nashwork, My dream+, WE, URwork).
New technologies gave rise to new ways on how citizens interact with the urban space in the era of the sharing economy. “Like in the past, we still use a luggage when traveling, but what we put inside is different than in the past” (Mr.Xia Fengyong, Xiaomi). This ongoing development will further change the way space is designed in the process of urban regeneration.