Academic journal article China Perspectives

Who Is Relocating Whom in the Renovation of Shanghai's Old City?

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Who Is Relocating Whom in the Renovation of Shanghai's Old City?

Article excerpt

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The aim of this article Is to Identify the various actors present during the relocation processes brought about by urban renovation projects, and to analyse how they Interact and the ambitions that sustain them ...) More specifically, It hopes to contribute to a better understanding of these processes by describing the many actors whom residents come up against In such circumstances, and their respective responsibilities. It Is based on the observation of two specific renovation projects launched In 2003 In the Old City of Shanghai, by a public developer In one case and by a private developer In the other.!2)

It Is helpful to start with a brief look at the situation In the two districts studied. so-called Xiangyuan Lu renovation project, which was entrusted to the public developer Fuyue In Shanghai, took place between 2003 and 2007 and resulted In the relocation of all the occupants (4,000 households) living on the seven hectares In question. The so-called Gujia Lu project, which was entrusted to the private developer Zheshang, took place between 2003 and 2005 and led to the relocation of only 800 households, repre- senting 26 percent of the local population, before It was forced to stop due to a lack of capital.!3)

It should be pointed out that the decision to start a renovation project In the Old City of Shanghai Is the responsibility of the District government, which draws up an annual renovation plan and then turns to different de- velopers depending on the nature of the projects. The choice of developer Is governed by a variety of motivations. Either the District government di- rectly approaches an experienced and powerful public developer, due to the specific difficulty or social consequences of the project, or It launches a call for tenders, In particular when the projects call for a major contribution from the market.

Once the District government and the developer have signed a land use contract, the relocation of the affected occupants and work units begins. Building permits and plans pertaining to "protected historic districts" are actually required to comply with regulations far stricter than those covering ordinary land and must be approved - In what can be a fairly long process -by the Town Planning Bureau of the municipality of Shanghai. Anxious to be able to start construction as early as possible, property companies do everything In their power to obtain building permits just before the end of the relocation phase.

Insofar as land Is scarce In the city centre, renovation projects generally aim to radically transform the property landscape and therefore to relocate the entire population that lives there. For a short period in the late 1990s, the principle of rehousing relocated occupants locally prevailed in the city central of Shanghai. However, in order to achieve an economic balance and enable developers to make higher profits, this principle was very soon aban- doned and replaced either by rehousing the occupants in a district much further from the centre or by paying them monetary compensation. Local rehousing sometimes prevails today in small and medium-sized cities, for example in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, where occupants are more capa- ble of engaging in a successful power struggle with private promoters. In a large city such as Shanghai, it is much harder for occupants to make their voices heard.

Therefore, at the start of a relocation process, an agreement is signed be- tween a District government and a developer; in theory, the latter then be- comes the project manager of this process.

The various actors who intervene in a relocation project

When relocation projects are discussed in the academic litterature, the resistance of certain occupants is often described without any clear knowl- edge of the identity of the people the inhabitants are directly or indirectly resisting. Similarly, the nature of the links established between the two par- ties remains blurred: do these interactions fall within the commercial field or that of administrative relationships? …

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