Historic area finds new life with help from private businesses

The former Columbia Circle in the western downtown area reopened to public over the weekend as a new practice on the protection of historical buildings.
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Visitors stand out outside the Columbia Country Club, once a social gathering place for Americans.

THE former Columbia Circle area reopened to the public over the weekend, marking a new milestone in local preservation efforts.

The historic compound features restored structures, as well as offices, entertainment venues and culture amenities. There are also nods to the area’s record of scientific research.

The site, on Yan’an Road W. near Panyu Road, was a social gathering place for Americans from 1927 to 1942. It became the former site of the Shanghai Institute of Biological Products after 1949.

The first phase of the project focused on the Columbia Country Club, the Navy Club and a villa built for Dr Sun Yat-sen’s son, Sun Ke, along with 11 industrial buildings belonging to the institute.

Ti Gong

The Columbia Circle compound reopens as a hub for entertainment and leisure.

The Sun Ke Villa is a highlight of the project, as it was listed among Shanghai’s first group of protected historical buildings in 1999. Its restoration included cleaning the exterior walls and improving ventilation to ward off mold in the wooden flooring.

It will open in September for public cultural exhibitions and lectures.

The rebirth of Columbia Circle was accomplished with help from local enterprises. This is part of a new approach to the preservation and restoration of protected buildings, which has long been under the purview of the city and district governments.

“We have conducted micro-revamping on the historical structures to make nearby inhabitants be able to enjoy the project,” said Zhang Hai, senior vice president with Vanke and a leader of the renovation project.

The institute was relocated to Fengxian District in 2014. The old country club remained vacant until 2016, when Vanke rented it for two decades and began renovations.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Cha House, a 98-year-old villa in Jing’an District opens to the public last weekend with its inaugural exhibition after it was rolled to its new location.

Columbia Circle is just one of Shanghai’s historical treasures that has reopened recently.

A 98-year-old villa, at 420 Weihai Road, opened its doors again after being transported 57 meters on rails in 2010 from No. 412 and undergoing eight years of renovation. HKR International Ltd contributed to the entire project. A free exhibition on the villa’s history is under way until June 30. After this, the structure will be used as commercial and office space.

“The protection on historical buildings must be combined with new usages. This is the best solution to restore and protect the culture behind the structures,” said Zhang Ming, head of the Zhang Ming Architectural Design Firm, a company which renovates historic buildings.


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