Developer: Beijing Yuanjing Mingde Management Consulting Co. Ltd.
Designers: Jiuyuan (Beijing) International Construction Consulting Co. Limited
Location: Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
By Colin Galloway
The Jinsong Urban Renewal Project is a Beijing based initiative by a private-sector group that has forged a new template to rejuvenate China’s many run-down inner-city residential neighbourhoods. The project is situated in Jinsong Community, covering an area of approximately 165,000 square meters in anmotherwise prime location in Chaoyang District, not far from the Beijing CBD.
Although local authorities in cities across China recognise the need to regenerate increasing numbers of similarly dilapidated neighbourhoods, the problem is complicated due to lack of funding and the fact that each area needs a tailored solution depending on its own circumstances.
The strategy adopted in Jinsong, while not especially memorable in terms of its cosmetic appeal, is much more sophisticated than the government approach. Starting with an initial period of painstaking fieldwork to compile a comprehensive database of information about different aspects of the neighbourhood and its inhabitants, the developer also launched an extensive engagement exercise with local residents in order to understand their priorities and concerns.
Leveraging expertise in a variety of disciplines ranging from development, architecture, property management, and real estate investment, the developer then created an overarching and long-term plan based on the specific issues identified by residents, together with an analysis of their own data-gathering initiative.
By persuading the community to allow them to operate as, in effect, a property management company, and with minimal capital outlay, the group then either created or renovated various strategically located neighbourhood facilities—a new bicycle shop here, a remade storefront there, some pocket parks scattered around the area to create a sense of community. They also reintroduced retail tenants and vendors, again injecting vitality as well as creating profitable businesses.
In practical terms, while the amount of work performed may not have been onerous, its careful targeting has meant it has delivered a disproportionate impact. An influx of former residents has now returned to the community, together with a significant number of newly-arrived younger residents.
The result is a subtle but very real improvement in the overall living environment. As one jury member said: “The bigger question, relative to the amount of money that was invested, is what were the impacts achieved for a large number of around 10,000 or more residents. The changes were actually quite small things, but they make it feel that this is neighbourhood—its not so much about design, but about creating a home.”
A key part of the success of the project is that developers acted in cooperation with the local government. According to one locally-base jury member: “They understood how to approach the problem and do what the government couldn’t, behaving almost like a government agency. In doing that, they also enjoyed some policy concessions, because without them, some of the things they achieved would not have been possible.” The group was able, from example, to take over an abandoned garage and turn it into bakery—something that would normally be impossible due to strict local planning regulations.
In the end, the game plan for the developers is for this to be a long-term initiative, exploiting the fact that Jinsong’s city-centre location means the land has great inherent value. By rejuvenating it today, the intent is that over a five-to-ten-year period, values will have risen, and that younger and better-heeled white-collar workers will have gradually moved in. Basically, the area will have been transformed from an old and dilapidated community to a younger, more lively, mixed-use, neighbourhood abutting the CBD.
Give its low cost, high replicability, and associated social benefits, together with the high number of similar slowly-decaying residential neighbourhoods found around China, the model sets an appealing precedent for future inner-city regeneration efforts across the country.