Old factory sites get a creative makeover

Most old state-owned factories in Hangzhou downtown area have been razed, but authorities are also coming up with more creative ways to utilize the dinosaurs of the smokestack era.

Most old state-owned factories in inner areas of Hangzhou downtown area have been razed to make room for office buildings, apartments and parks, but authorities are also coming up with more creative ways to utilize the dinosaurs of the smokestack era.

Instead of demolition, some of the buildings are being renovated and turned into hubs of cultural and artistic endeavors.

It’s all part of efforts to build what the city calls “creative Hangzhou,” with emphasis on the services sector and “soft” industries.

Renovation costs less than demolition and reconstruction, and the ideal locations of some of the old buildings are a magnet for people in sectors such as architecture, fashion, catering and design.

Among the transformed sites is the Jolo Fifth Creative Park in the Zhalongkou neighborhood of the Jianggan District.

Not long ago, it was named “Zhejiang Province’s best cultural and creative park,” beating out competition across the province.

Old factory sites get a creative makeover

Tangerine-colored buildings at the Jolo Fifth Creative Park add a bright touch to what was once a textile warehouse.

In Jolo Fifth, tangerine-colored buildings with art-covered walls and modern interiors barely give a clue to the site’s past function as a warehouse for the textile industry.

“It never brought much income to the neighborhood as a warehouse,” said Shen Wenyan, vice director of the Zhalongkou neighborhood committee. “On the contrary, it became an eyesore as new residential buildings surrounded it. Something had to change, and we wanted to take advantage of that.”

The district government invited German architects to draw up the designs for renovating the warehouse. It was converted into a stylish office block, with a restaurant, cafe and library included. The meeting rooms include one with the interior decor of a birch forest, with walls made from plants.

Some 100 companies have moved into Jolo Fifth, including architects, interior decorators and landscape designers.

“We were attracted by preferential policies such as rent subsidies and tax concessions,” said Zhang Jianfei, an engineer of the Zhejiang branch of China Aerospace Construction Group. “The cluster of architectural design businesses helps us in our business.”

The company employs more than 100 architects, specializing in urban landscape design. Last year, it wowed the public with the uniquely designed Qingxin overpass.

Just Right Expo Co chose Jolo Fifth for its company headquarters, also citing the incentives the site provided. The company has organized more than 100 expositions in 35 countries and regions, and is among the Chinese enterprises aggressively expanding overseas.

Before Panama recently established diplomatic relations with China, Just Right had been tapping the market in the Central American country for more than seven years. That gives it a unique advantage in serving as a commercial bridge for other companies seeking a foothold there and for Panamanian companies wanting to do business in China.

“The management committee of Jolo Fifth helped us through the governmental approval process and other related procedures,” said Cheng Wei, manager of Just Right.

“That saved us time and money. The services provided to us since we moved in have been satisfactory. I have no doubt that moving here was a wise choice.”

Shen from the neighborhood committee said the fact that Jolo Fifth is nestled among residential buildings means the site has to “offer better services to clients to compete with other parks in more commercial areas that are vying for their business.”

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