Rundown downtown Hefei regenerated with shops and bars

Updated: 2016-01-11 07:45

By Zhu Lixin in Hefei(China Daily)

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At the end of 2012, Zhu's company signed a contract to renovate the village. The reclamation depots were soon moved out and renovation of the dwellings' external facades started the following March.

The plan preserved the properties and allowed the owners to earn a considerable amount in rent every year, Xu said.

When the company started to attract tenants, Briton Jeremy Hayes moved his bar, Shipyard, into the village. From afar, the neighborhood seemed no different from those similar areas in almost every city in China. People usually called such places "villages in the city", but "the situation here was quite different", Hayes said.

At the time, it was packed with dozens of two and three-story dwellings, but "there were just brick walls and dusty floors", he said.

"I was pretty sure this was the right place I wanted to move the bar to," he said. "Personally, I don't like modern streets, compared with the old ones."

Rundown downtown Hefei regenerated with shops and bars

The preference is one shared by many expats, Caban included. Chatting with the customers and enjoying the music at Shipyard, she said she felt at home, because "more than half of the people here are foreigners and most of us know each other well".

A few months after Hayes moved in, 50 more shop owners followed, occupying all of the buildings. Since the area had such a bad image before, no one had high expectations. "To a certain extent, we were surprised to see the result," Zhu said.

Hayes said: "Since the development pace of cities in European and other Western countries is more gradual, such villages in the city are often better preserved," he said. "I think this is how a real city should be."

Economic data provided by Xu's colleagues tell a positive financial tale about the renovated village.

"The street has attracted more than 900,000 visitors since the end of 2013. The stores see a combined daily operation revenue of around 150,000 yuan ($23,115) and have more than 600 employees in total," Xu said.

Most rental contracts are for 10-year terms, "a considerable time, which is beneficial for the company's stable and continuous development", he said. "Hopefully, the village will be there for a long time."

 Rundown downtown Hefei regenerated with shops and bars

Barkeeper Jeremy Hayes prepares a drink for customers at his bar, Shipyard, on Shuguang Road, Hefei. Provided to China Daily

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