Redevelopment under way at Baoshan's last 'urban villages'

A revamping project has been launched on the city's last listed "urban village" in north downtown where modern communities will replace the former shantytown.
Ti Gong

A screen shot from a 2017 video shows a bulldozer tearing down old residential buildings in an “urban village” after the Baoshan District government launched a revamping project for the Yanghang Town area.

A massive urban renewal project is currently under way at the last listed “urban villages” in Baoshan District.

Five villages in Yanghang Town, in Baoshan, including the villages of Dongjie and Xijie villages originated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), will receive about 830,000 square meters of newly built residential space to accommodate 741 households.

The former houses of these residents, mostly jerry-built structures in maze-like neighborhoods developed about half a century ago, are now being bulldozed to improve the environment and living conditions of residents.

Construction started yesterday on a first batch of 13 residential high-rises. Residents will move back to the area around 2020, by which time over 1,300 modern apartments will have been built there, according to the township government.

Shanghai once counted 47 “urban villages” — under-serviced shanty settlements typically inhabited by migrant workers and the transient — and those in Yanghang are Baoshan’s last. The relocation of Yanghang villagers began in June 2017, and nearly all local residents have agreed to be moved.

Ti Gong

Another screen shot from the video shows an “urban village” in Yanghang Town filled with illegal structures and unlicensed businesses. Ambulances and fire trucks could not enter these villages through their narrow streets.

“I’ve been looking forward for two decades to getting relocated from this village, with its poor environment and safety risks,” said a 66-year-old resident surnamed Li who was born in Xijie.

The villages around Yanghang Old Street formed a prosperous commercial market in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). On its heydays, over 180 stores operated along the street.

The local handicraft industry flourished into the early 1900s, particularly for paper umbrella makers.

However, the environment in the villages began to worsen in the 1980s as out-of-towners crowded into the area in search of low-price housing.

The streets were too narrow for ambulances or fire trucks to enter, while the wooden houses and illegal structures there posed fire risks, said Chen Jiang, the director of Yanghang.

Five of the six blocks that once contained the villages have been cleared to make way for development.

In addition to new residential buildings, development plans for the area include the construction of three kindergartens, two wet markets and a community service center, said Chen.

Five roads in the area will also be expanded and renovated.

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