Blueprint to drive culture, science and the economy

Yang Jian
A new round of development is to be launched at the North Bund in Hongkou District in a bid to recapture its historical grandeur as a gathering place for global businesses.
Yang Jian
Blueprint to drive culture, science and the economy
Hongkou District Urban Planning and Natural Resources Bureau / Ti Gong

An artist’s rendition of the North Bund in Hongkou District after a new round of development.

A new round of development is to be launched at the North Bund waterfront, in Hongkou District in a bid to recapture its historical grandeur as a gathering place for the world’s top shipping businesses and intellectuals.

The riverside region along the Huangpu River is part of Shanghai’s “golden triangle” along with the Lujiazui financial hub in the Pudong New Area and the Bund in Huangpu District.

Some of China’s earliest intellectuals set off abroad in search of wisdom from its ports, while now it is a site of where the East and West meet, culturally, in the modern age.

The North Bund aims to drive industry development, upgrade its functions and improve its environment.

In the latest development blueprint, released by the city’s planning authority, the plans involve more economic, scientific and cultural elements in a bid to become a “world-class sitting room.”

The North Bund citizens witnessed the creation of China’s first electric lamp, made its first telephone call and watched its first movie. Due to its ideal location, the site has absorbed cultures from both home and abroad in the last century.

Foreign celebrities, such as Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Bertrand Russell and Bernard Shaw, first set foot on Chinese soil at the North Bund port. The nation’s first set of students studying abroad also set sail from the North Bund’s harbor, many of them went on to become leaders of China’s New Democratic Revolution.

During World War II, the shikumen, or Shanghai’s unique stone-gate residence, in the North Bund became a safe haven for many Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. About 23,000 Jews, who fled Nazi-occupied Europe, found shelter in the city. Most of them lived in the Tilanqiao area of the North Bund.

Many historical structures have been preserved and developed into cultural venues in the region. They include the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, with the historic Ohel Moishe Synagogue inside, the Dock Culture Museum on the waterfront, the China Securities Museum, renovated from the famous Astor House Hotel, and Shanghai Postal Building, a Baroque-style structure built in 1924.

During the city government’s recent waterfront development campaign, the infrastructure and ecological environment of the North Bund has improved.

It has gathered the world’s top shipping and finance enterprises. It also become a popular attraction for tourists because of its newly developed recreation and commercial facilities.

The North Bund has been earmarked to be a new portal of Shanghai’s urban development in a new era.

The area will become a blue-ribbon central activity zone, a highlight of a world-class parlor and a demonstration for the delicate management of a supersized metropolitan city.

Each piece of land and building, of the 4-square-kilometer North Bund area, is extremely precious, so research and design will play a big role, a city government official says.

The planning authority invited the best designers and planners from across the globe to research the waterfront on the business district, functions, skyline, historical ambiance and comprehensive transport.

Detailed plans have been made to gain global brand awareness, explore business development potential and examine the environment for work and recreation for the world’s top professionals and innovative teams.

The North Bund will have three core functions: business, public culture and commercial services. It will develop hotel, recreation and education businesses as supplements.

The core central business district will have a high density of office buildings and commercial facilities, while the cultural regions around the Tilanqiao and Hongkougang River will preserve the historical flavor.

Central activity district

As part of the Huangpu River skyscraper cluster, a 480-meter-tall new landmark structure will be built on the North Bund to echo with the Lujiazui skyscrapers on the opposite side of the river.

The highest building on the waterfront, the 320-meter-high tower of the Sinar Mas Plaza, also known as the White Magnolia Plaza, will be part of the additional high-rise buildings.

About 8.4 million square meters of new buildings have been planned. They will be home to nearly 100 international companies and organization. The increased number of office buildings will generate annual tax revenues above 100 million yuan (US$14.25 million), while the number of multinational firms based at the riverside region will rise rapidly.

Hongkou has lured one-ninth of China’s mutual funds by showcasing its regional advantages and offering favorable policies to support the development of financial services.

The district is home to 1,520 financial institutions, which manage over 5 trillion yuan of assets. The financial service sector accounts for about 20 percent of Hongkou’s fiscal revenue, increasing from fewer than 4 percent a decade ago.

The China Securities Museum represents both the financial and cultural features of Hongkou. The museum is based in the historic Astor House Hotel near the North Bund, where the Shanghai Stock Exchange came into existence in 1990.

Most of the museum collection is made up of securities, bonds, funds and futures certificates, along with items relevant to the banking and insurance industries.

Established by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the museum has recorded the development of stocks and futures since 1978, as well as earlier history dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The world’s first 5G application exhibition and innovation center has been launched at the North Bund, making Hongkou a pioneer in the city’s 5G connectivity and broadband network.

The 5G International Innovation Harbor, in a four-story building, has an exhibition hall displaying the most updated applications based on 5G and the next generation of mobile communication technology, along with innovation platforms for global enterprises to join the development.

At the 5G trial network launch ceremony in Hongkou, Vice Mayor of Shanghai Wu Qing made the network’s first 5G video call on a Huawei Mate X, the first phone with 5G capabilities, on the North Bund in March 2019.

World-class parlor

The North Bund will host international meetings and exhibitions, high-standard expositions and exchange events.

Visitors will be accommodated in newly built luxury hotels and historical buildings that have been renovated and turned into hotels.

Several global financial and cultural conferences are held annually on the North Bund. They include the North Bund Fortune and Culture Forum, where industrial leaders and scholars share their knowledge on finance and technology, the global city culture forum and the International Literature Week.

The North Bund has planned an international community for innovation industry talent. About 70,000 residents will live and enjoy convenient public service facilities in the area.

About 400,000 square meters of public service facilities has been planned, along with 20 schools.

There will be about 60,000 square meters of community facilities covering administration, commercial, culture, sports, medical and seniors’ care. A 6.3-kilometer pedestrian riverside path has been developed, dubbed the most beautiful waterfront of Shanghai and a lighting system is also under construction to create an attractive evening view by the riverside.

To further improve the ecological environment, about 60,000 square meters of greenery is to be introduced to Gaoyang Road to connect the Metro Line 12 and Line 19 (under planning) stations to the waterfront.

Historical structures will be preserved around the Hongkougang River. A 3.4-kilometer riverside path, along the Hongkougang, is also being developed so visitors can get a feel of the city’s historical residential region.

A historic section featuring the history of Shanghai’s Jewish refugees will be developed at the North Bund to become a new cultural landmark of the city.

The “Ark on the Sea” will be created around the Tilanqiao area. It will include the century-old Tilanqiao Prison, formerly known as Ward Road Gaol, the Xiahai Temple, dating back to the Qing Dynasty, and the nearby neighborhoods that once accommodated Jewish people fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II.

Within the region, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is being expanded with new exhibitions for its increasing number of visitors, which has grown 10 times from the 10,000 people who first walked through the doors when it opened in 2007.

The museum will be expanded this year to over 4,000 square meters from its existing 900 square meters. It has received over 400,000 visitors, including many former refugees and their families, from over 100 countries.

The museum has also held exhibitions overseas in Germany, Israel, the US, Hungary, Australia, Switzerland and Italy.

Urban management demonstration zone

The North Bund has a convenient transport system, with five subway stations of Metro Lines 4 and 19.

The planned Line 19 will further connect the waterfront region, while a public transport hub is being planned on Haimen Road.

In future, visitors will be able to hop on a bus to within 600 meters of the waterfront, or take an eight minutes’ walk from a Metro station.

To make the comprehensive transport system more convenient, the planning authority designed an underground and overhead walking system to connect the subway and bus stations.

A two-story skywalk will connect the office buildings, subway stations and commercial facilities on the riverside. Visitors will be able to enjoy the riverside scenery on the skywalk’s hanging gardens.

A “slow walk zone” has been planned, where vehicles will be banned from entering nearly half of the zone.

The design aims to spare more streets and public areas to pedestrians.

The underground space will feature a rain collection system to recycle water and prevent the waterfront from being deluged during the city’s rainy seasons.

New technologies, such as 5G and internet of the things, will be promoted in the region.

Hongkou has initially released 10 5G applications, covering medical services, education, finance, retail, public security, fire prevention, urban management, construction and sports. Many of the services are being offered at hospitals, schools, construction sites and sports venues in the area.

Shanghai General Hospital, for example, has been working with China Mobile on patient information transmission and communication between ambulance doctor and hospital via 5G.

Shanghai East Foreign Language School has begun sharing foreign language classes with a middle school in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

A smart urban management system will be tested on the North Bund, such as automated driving buses, intelligent parking guidance and intelligent traffic management.

Hongkou plans to further optimize its business environment.

It has already launched an integrated website for all kinds of administrative issues.

Various application procedures will be further shortened.

A trial initiative to allow business operations in multiple places with a single license will be launched for companies based in Hongkou.

The district government has released measures and polices to attract investments.

A building chief scheme under which subdistrict and district officials offering tailored services to each office building has covered all the 91 key office buildings and 47 innovation parks.

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