Renovation sees old workers' dorms transformed for the future

More than 4 million square meters of old residential warrens are being transformed into brand new flats.

Residents living in Jiangchuan Road Subdistrict of Minhang District have witnessed a major change as more than 4 million square meters of old residential warrens are being transformed into brand new flats.

Being the old industrial base of Shanghai, four major factories moved to Jiangchuan Road and built a great number of dorms for their workers during the 1950s. Due to limited technology and funds, more than 60 percent of residential communities in the subdistrict had no independent kitchens or bathrooms.

Chen Meiqin’s family, who now live in East Jiaheyuan Community, are one of the 2,539 families that have benefited from the grand renovation project.

“The four of us were squeezed into a humble 16 square meter room for more than 40 years,” Chen said. She now lives in a one-bedroom flat which is almost three times larger than the dorm she called home for half her life.

Chen recalled they used to fight with their neighbors over the use of kitchens and bathrooms. “That was one kind of awkward intimacy,” Chen said with a chuckle. The dorm was a three-bedroom flat originally designed to house just one family.

Her previous dwelling, which was the dormitory of the Shanghai Electric Machinery Factory, was demolished. Built upon the ruins are two 24 story buildings with elevators as well as independent bathrooms and kitchens.

“We were among the earlier batches of residents who signed the agreement with the district government,” Chen said. “Those who signed up later will move back to the new buildings later.”

At 291 Jiangchuan Road, Shanghai Daily visited a dormitory built in the 1950s.

At one end of the corridor, three toilets are shoved in a room reminiscent of a 1990s public lavatory in the countryside. To the left of the bathrooms is another room with six water taps. To the side is a kitchen, also shared by six families.

But now, 77-year-old Wu Wenjuan is the last native living on the ground floor of the building.

“The remaining five rooms on the floor are either rented out at a fairly low price or vacant,” said Wu, who has spent 31 years in the building.

According to the subdistrict authority, the old structures will be demolished next year and new buildings will replace them.

Ti Gong

The corridor of the residential building at 291 Jiangchuan Road in Minhang District.

Ti Gong

The facade of the residential building at 291 Jiangchuan Road in Minhang District. Built in the 1950s, the living environment in the building has become quite hostile.


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