Hongqiao cafe brews profits as Delta prospers
Huang Liyan gets up at 6:30am, arrives at Suzhou Railway Station at 8am to take a high-speed train, which pulls in at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station between 9am and 9:30am.
Since 2015, white-collar worker Huang has been working across provinces.
"The cost of living in Suzhou is relatively low and the city is eminently livable. Shanghai has a close work circle and there are many opportunities there," Huang said, adding that she hopes that there will be more high-speed trains between the two cities, and that there will be preferential policies for inter-provincial workers.
"It's about a 10-minute walk (from the train station) to my workplace, and I'll buy a cup of coffee at INK on my way," she said.
INK, a small cafe located in the Hongqiao Business District, does not have many drink options but it still attracts customers from Shanghai and the Yangtze River Delta region. The cafe has witnessed the integration of the Yangtze River Delta region over the past five years.
"Five years ago, we chose to open a cafe here because we were optimistic about the prospects of the Hongqiao Business District," said Wu Minjie, the cafe's owner.
Wu recalled that back then, nearby shopping malls and office buildings had not yet been built.
"In the first two years, very few people would pass by my cafe, and those who passed by were construction workers."
During the worst period, only one cup of coffee was sold a day. Wu once entertained the idea of giving up.
"But it's the first store my wife and I opened and we had put a lot of effort into it, so we didn't want to close it. Also, we firmly believed the district would see good development," he said.
It was announced in 2017 that China would hold the China International Import Expo from 2018, and the venue, the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), is about a kilometer from the cafe.
"After the news was released, many companies settled in the district. Our business gradually got better," Wu said.
In December 2019, an outline of the regional integration development plan for the Yangtze River Delta was released. It said that Hongqiao would be developed into an international open hub, promoting the deep integration of high-end business, exhibition and transportation functions, and further enhancing the hub function of serving the Yangtze River Delta and connecting it with the world.
In February 2021, the overall plan for the construction of the Hongqiao international open hub was released, aiming to build Hongqiao into a high-standard international central business district.
Zhang Liang, a frequent visitor at the cafe, has settled in Hongqiao.
"It's close to the airport and high-speed railway station, making it convenient for me to travel. I'm thinking about moving my office here to reach the Yangtze River Delta region more easily," said Zhang.