Gulou plan to ‘revive’ area

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-8 0:08:02

The demolition of courtyards in the Gulou area is only intended to improve the environment of the historic district, officials from Dongcheng district government said Monday.

Cultural heritage protection activists and local business owners, meanwhile, told the Global Times they fear  the project may have the opposite result, destroying both the local culture and historic buildings.

"The aim is to revive the Drum and Bell Tower square as a place for leisure and improve locals' livelihood," said Zhao Junming, the spokesperson for Dongcheng government.

"No more buildings will be built. We will preserve the old style of the Drum and Bell Tower area," he told the Global Times Monday.

The demolition plan affects 66 courtyards and 136 households around the area, covering 4,700 square meters. It was announced Sunday that 38 families had already accepted a compensation package of 44,361 yuan ($7,115) per square meter.

Local real estate agency HomeLink sells property in the Gulou area for 74,569 per square meter.

An official surnamed Zhang with Dongcheng Commission of Urban Planning said the residences slated for demolition are illegally built houses that date from the 1970s.

"The infrastructure of this area isn't good and it's crowed and dirty. Our renewal program will improve the environment there as well as protect the old style," said Zhang.

He Shuzhong, founder of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center disapproves of the plan.

"It's just tourism and marketing development done under the banner of preserving historic relics. The history and culture will be destroyed in this process. And the residents' lifestyles will be changed," said He.

He stressed that the government can improve the infrastructure by investing more money and paying attention to management of the area rather than simply demolishing it to pursue neatness and orderliness.

Rong Guangrong, owner of bar Zajia Lab in Doufuchi Hutong, said while his pub will not be demolished now, he is worried about business.

"About 70 percent of the tourists who come to the Gulou area are foreigners. They like old Beijing and its courtyards. I'm afraid the government plan may destroy its historical scenery," said Rong.

Rong is now shooting a documentary about the residents in the Gulou area who need to move.

"Most of those residents worry about their future. Lots of them are elderly and live on government subsidy. They pay around 20 yuan a month for rent; if they move, they'll worry about their livelihood," said Rong, adding that some people are reluctant to move to a modern apartment.

Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

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