Historic villa's illegal walls removed and unlicensed renovation stopped

The two-story No. 4 mansion, formerly known as Haig Villa, is located in the alley of 1006 Huashan Road. It is one of 20 villas that were built in 1925. 
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Workers remove scaffolding at Haig Villa after urban management and housing authorities began work to remove illegal structures at the building. 

Unlicensed renovation of a protected heritage mansion in Changning District has been stopped and illegal structures were demolished at the weekend, said the district government.  

The two-story No. 4 mansion, formerly known as Haig Villa, is located in the alley of 1006 Huashan Road. It is one of 20 villas that were built in 1925. In 1999, the Shanghai government designated the mansion as a historic building. The villas feature various architectural styles from England and Spain. 

The owner of the No. 4 villa built two 15-meter-long walls in the common alley and began an unauthorized refurbishment project two years ago.

On Saturday, the district's urban management and housing authorities worked together to remove the walls and illegal structures that occupied 110 square meters. They also confiscated construction tools.

"All the additional structures built on the historic building will be removed and the renovation has been suspended until the renovation plan is approved by the authority," said a housing bureau official, adding that the owner would be punished.

In August, experts surveyed the villa and found that its external facade had been completely altered. A balcony had been built on the second floor and the original windows had been removed. The building's interior had also been changed. In addition, the roof's masonry structure had been replaced with light steel.

The current owner of the No. 4 villa is Lu Changqi, who bought it for his company, Gefeng Investment Management, in 2015. 

Neighboring residents said the villa had been vacant for quite a long time.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Law enforcement officials survey the the No. 4 villa on Huashan Road on Saturday.

Chen Yong, a man who claimed to be Lu's representative, visited the mansion on Saturday. Holding what he said was a letter of entrustment from Lu, Chen decried the demolition of the illegal structures. “They cannot come here out of blue and tear down our place,” he said. 

But when asked about the legality of the structures that were being removed, Chen was silent.

Sun Honglin, director of the Jiangsu Road subdistrict office which oversees the area in which the villa is located, said his staff had visited the mansion in June. 

“They were illegally building a balcony and were trying to build the walls, which blocked the entrance of the No. 6 villa,” said Sun.

“They told us they were going to demolish the walls after they sorted out all the construction materials in August. But apparently they were taking chances to bypass us.”

The authorities said the walls had blocked them from seeing what was happening in the No. 4 villa. 

Explaining why the authorities had allowed the walls to block the common alley for months, Sun said: “Since we did not know what they were doing, and they promised they would demolish the walls, we did not take further action.” 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Workers remove the scaffolding surrounding the villa after the authorities ordered the removal of the illegal structures and suspension of renovation work.

Haig Villa is famous for its cultural heritage. Peking Opera actress Yan Huizhu had lived in the No. 11 villa until she committed suicide in 1966.

Law enforcement officers will keep patrolling the site and ensure that all the illegal structures would be removed, said Sun.

In June, a three-story, English-style villa, located on 888 Julu Road in Jing'an District, was severely damaged during a renovation by its owner. The owner was later fined 30 million yuan (US$4.53 million) and ordered to restore the building within 10 months. Ten government officials were also punished for failing to protect the historic building.

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