Turning dingy backstreets into delightful public spaces

Yang Jian
Shanghai's downtown Huangpu District has launched a campaign to revitalize its small backstreets to transform the cityscape and breathe life into neglected spaces.
Yang Jian
Turning dingy backstreets into delightful public spaces
Imaginechina

Taking a break in front of a stylish store on Danshui Road.

Shanghai's downtown Huangpu District has launched a campaign to revitalize its small backstreets to transform the cityscape and breathe life into neglected spaces.

The "One Street, One Road" initiative has seen the renovation of the century-old Nanchang Road with a blend of history and coffee culture, while redeveloping the vibrant West Lingjiazhai Road and the repurposed "Financial Alley" beneath the Huangpu River embankment.

With micro-renewal projects, the campaign emphasizes historical architecture, accessible waterfronts, stroll-worthy streets, relaxing green spaces and efficient underground areas.

These projects took center stage during the "Heart to Heart Home Open Mic" public forum, hosted by the Huangpu government and Radio Shanghai on Friday.

Focused on the theme of "10-minute community life circles," the event brought together officials in urban planning, subdistricts and community business operators to help promote the campaign citywide.

Turning dingy backstreets into delightful public spaces
Ti Gong

Officials in urban planning, subdistricts and community business operators share the latest urban renewal campaigns in Huangpu District.

"Community space don't necessarily need to be aesthetically stunning - functionality and maintenance are more crucial," said Wang Mingying, project leader of the ongoing 2023 Shanghai Urban Space Art Season.

Wang said streets and roads used to be primarily for transportation purposes with the focus on efficiency and convenience.

A significant transformation has been identified. Streets and lanes are now considered public spaces and crucial carriers of public life.

Lu Xiaojun, the Party chief of Huaihai Road M. Subdistrict, shared the latest campaign to revamp the Danshui Road. She said the target is simple: to make residents and tourists have more places to sit and relax.

Through the subtle renovation, the small road now offers pocket parks, scenic pathways and abundant seats to pause and relax. The cultural ambiance along the road is also rich, with a quaint bookstore nestled amid vibrant community stores, which have been well-preserved during the facelift campaign, Lu said.

Turning dingy backstreets into delightful public spaces
Imaginechina

A miniature art exhibition at a pocket garden on Nanchang Road.

After renovation, the West Lingjiazhai Road, a quaint 300-meter-long alley, has been adorned with continuous arcade buildings as well as a series of snack shops, fruit stalls, and vegetable markets.

It has been selected as one of the two model urban revamp cases of Huangpu during the art season.

Bao Tongbin, the Party chief of Bansongyuan Subdistrict, described the vibrant scene of the street on every weekday afternoon. The aroma of scallion pancakes mingles with the sweet fragrance of fruits. Amidst the laughter of children after school, the delivery staffers issue gentle reminders to "watch out."

Three pocket parks with a total area of 1,500 square meters have been built along the road. They are named "Encounter," "Together" and "Morning and Evening" gardens, providing spaces for the elderly and children to engage in various activities and play.

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