Facing change

Updated: 2013-09-11 00:37

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Facing change

Ma Lingpeng and his wife Meng Zhaohui say they don't want to leave the hutong, where Ma's extended family has lived for more than 200 years.

In May, the Xicheng district government announced plans to renovate the Shichahai area. Work on the project, which stretches from Drum and Bell Towers to the north and Ping'an Avenue, including the Baimixiejie Hutong area to the south, will start in September and October.

Plans include an underground square that connects with the Shichahai station of Beijing subway line 8. Two-story buildings along the southern extension of Beijing's central axis will be built in the style of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

According to Sun Jinsong, director of Xicheng District Information Office, the total investment in this project will be 8.3 billion yuan ($1.4 billion), which covers 15.6 hectares and involves more than 1,000 families living in the area. But the number of residents who will have to move out has not been decided yet.

"We will use the same policy as in Yangmeizhuxiejie of Qianmen area, listening to local residents' wishes," says Sun, referring to the restoration of Qianmen, a well-known hutong neighborhood near Tian'anmen Square. In 2008, the once ramshackle and over-populated area is now a wide pedestrian street.

According to Sun, more than 500 families among the total number of 1,700 there were willing to move out and were given compensation for new housing.

"For those who didn't want to leave, the local government paid to improve their living conditions, such as building more public toilets, installing natural gas pipes and renovating old houses," says Sun.