Residents bid farewell to neighbors and old housing block

March 14, 2019 |

The last group of 12 households left their decrepit neighborhood in Putuo District near the Suzhou Creek on Wednesday.

Two blocks away, the area, formerly known as Liangwan Yizhai, or “two bays and a residence,” was one of the city’s most notorious shantytowns until 1999. 

It has been replaced by Zhongyuan Liangwan Cheng (Brilliant City), a high-end commercial residential community which houses about 30,000 people.

However, the more than 300 households living in the 24 Block of Putuo have been struggling on in their crammed rooms, with creaking floors and shared bathrooms.

The tough living condition made it one of the fastest in the city to finish its relocation procedures. More than 97 percent of the residents agreed to relocate and all put their names on the dotted line within three months.

"At last, I can have my private bathroom and kitchen," said Liu Yujuan, 58, who has spent three decades in a 15-square-meters apartment with her husband and son. 

She happily got into the first relocation truck and bid farewell to old neighbors yesterday.

She has been relocated to a new high-rise apartment building in Taopu, Putuo District. Her new home covers some 70 square meters.

Residents had a choice — move to designated housing like Liu or purchase properties on their own. 

The compensation ranges from 46,000 to 65,000 yuan (US$6,857-9,689) per square meter, said Xi Jie, manager of the relocation company.

Within the old block, mahjong tiles are still on a number of tables in a vacant chess-and-card room, which itself is believed to have once been a popular public bathing room. 

Staff said the room had been used by residents every night.

While some people like Liu are truly glad to have more space, privacy and indoor plumbing, others lament the disappearance of the old neighborhoods.

Liu's neighbor, surnamed Lu, cried when the renovation trucks were about to leave. 

She asked her husband to dismantle the signage for her apartment and carefully wrap it.

"I'd like to bring it to my new home as a memory to my life here," Lu said.

Though both have been relocated already, old neighbors Chen Zhaodi and Jin Weimin met each other in front of the six-story building yesterday. 

They came back to bid farewell to their former homes.

"I was born in the building and spent my whole childhood here," the 40-year-old Jin said. 

There was a beautiful garden in front of the building and the neighbors always had good relationship, he recalled.

Chen, 75, had lived in her apartment for four decades.

The structure was built in 1979 after a batch of former private houses were demolished. Chen was relocated to an apartment on the sixth floor of the building.

"The nearby Changhua Road was once a popular street marketplace, and traditional operas were performed along the road when I was a child," Chen said.

The buildings are about to be demolished, giving way to a school, amid rising demand from nearby residents, the relocation company revealed.

The land on Changhua and Putuo roads is ideally located. 

About 500 meters away, a commercial project named 1,000 Trees, dubbed the city’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon, is about to open.

It is expected to be a downtown landmark with restaurants, museums, art galleries and entertainment sites as well as up to 1,000 balconies filled with plants and trees, giving the structure a hill-like appearance.