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'Fake-over' kills business

  • Source: Global Times
  • [21:32 June 17 2009]
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The new development took much longer than the demolition, leaving Qianmen incomplete by the time of the starter's gun for the Beijing Olympic marathon.

Phase 1 of red-gray concrete makeover features an empty 20-yuan tourist tram, is apparently finished.

"The concrete in the new avenue runs counter to old Beijing style and is not a good fit for the old shops," said Feng Fusheng.
"I think it's good," said 30 year-old Beijinger Yu Miao. "Before the rebuilding I rarely went there. The old Qianmen area always reminded me of a cluster of budget businesses, not so fashionable."

The chairman of State-owned Tianjie remains proud of his company's handiwork.

"The project is not developing or exploiting the street but protecting and repairing it based on the original street," Tianjie chairman Tian Yun told Global Times.

"There are only two possibilities when the chairman makes a comment like this," said Hu. "Either the chairman is pretending to be a fool so that he would appear ignorant of everything.

"Or he is simply a fool."

Tian Yun explained how he had wanted to create a whole new character for Qianmen: the new Qianmen Dajie represented long-overdue gentrification of prime real estate beside Tiananmen Square, a top tourism draw.

He said an avenue full of famous fashion brands and traditional brands would fill with visitors "from home and abroad", making Qianmen Dajie really live up its old moniker of "Heaven Street", the 570-year-old nickname of the Qing Dynasty red-light district.

Besides H & M at 82 Qianmen Dajie, Starbucks and Zara are coming soon. Starbucks is moving into a space next to a Muslim restaurant with three centuries of history that used to occupy the entire Qianmen Dajie No. 1 Building. Today the old restaurant has a small corner of its original site, sharing with a Starbucks about three times larger.

"We picked the location of the café according to our own needs and negotiated with the project developer of Qianmen Dajie," said a public relations manager surnamed Li at Starbucks Asia headquarters in Shanghai. She refused to give her full name.

"I don't think I will go shopping in Qianmen Dajie if there are too many foreign shops," said You Ruiming, a 50-year-old Beijing taxi driver.

"They will belong to the young not the old Beijing folks like me."

Zara opens soon in Qianmen. Photo: Zhang Yuchen

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