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     第5号 2004.10.21発行

By Stephen M. Harner

”At Least It is a Nice View from the Pudong Side:”
How Unrestricted Development has Blighted Lujiazui

浦東高層ビル物語----陸家嘴地区にようやく曙光が見えた
                     スチーブン・ハーナー (上海からの報告)
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 上海の若者たちは「困惑」の表情で高層ビル群を見上げる。浦東から黄浦江越しに見えるのはむろん浦西地区だ。1930年代のオールド上海から残された建物群がバンドに肩を並べる。十六浦には客船の波止場も見え、淮海中路と南京西路のかなたには、近年建てられた高層ビルも浮かぶ。これらは新しい眺めであり、困惑の原因ではない。
 上海の友人たちは、浦西地区から浦東地区陸家嘴を見て顔を曇らせるのだ。過去2年間、ここにはコンクリートと窓ガラスの壁だけが立ち並び、まるで刑務所のイメージでさえある。閉所恐怖症患者にはとても耐えられない。しかし、この陸家嘴地区にも新しい風が吹き始めた。これは上海高層ビル事情の最新報告である。

“At least it is a nice view from the Pudong side,” say our young Shanghainese friends exhibiting some embarrassment.  They mean that when one is standing on the Pudong
浦东 side of the Huangpu River 黄浦江 looking west across to Puxi 浦西, one still enjoys a fairly pleasant, unobstructed view that ranges across and through the low level 1930s-era stone buildings on the Bund and the low lying Shiliupu 十六埔 passenger boat terminal, to the new skyscrapers along Huaihui middle road 淮海中路 and Nanjing West Roads 南京西路, and beyond.

 


Our friends’ embarrassment arises from the fact that the view in the opposite direction, from the Puxi side to the Lujiazui
陆家嘴 section of Pudong, is now anything but pleasant.  In the past two years, side-by-side building of high rise apartments and office towers virtually on the banks of the river has created a wall of concrete and glass that has permanently defaced the riverbank and created a claustrophobic, blocked out aspect for viewers on the Puxi side.

 

The blocked out and walled up aspect of Lujiazui is so pronounced and unsightly, even casual observers and layman sense it and find it perplexing.  For this ten year resident of Shanghai, it is almost painful to behold.
 

It is impossible to believe that the plans for Lujiazui development commissioned by the government from foreign and domestic experts during the 1990s would have included or permitted such obscenely inappropriate structures.  Is it possible, then, to believe that the supposedly “responsible” officials could not imagine the consequences when they overrode or ignored the experts’ plans and approved the projects?

 

The officials knew what they were doing, or should have done.  The question is why they did what they did.  For anyone who has observed the money-driven relationship of developers and local officials that has powered real estate property growth in Shanghai during the past fifteen years—and was briefly exposed (then suppressed) last year in the case of Zhou Zhengyi 周正毅 --the answer is only too obvious.

 


One of the project scarring the Lujiazui riverfront bears the name of another well-connected developer:  Tomson Group
汤臣集团 (website:  www.tomson-group.com).  I recall attending in 1995 the opening of the Tomson Group’s golf course project in Pudong.  The project was a big financial risk for the group, but had benefited from “support” from the Pudong government.  I recall an official of Pudong remarking that the fortunes of Tomson Group 汤臣集团 and Pudong were intertwined.  “We are all in the same boat” (“同舟共济”) the official said, and surely he meant it.  At the time Tomson Group was already reaping benefits from the various “payback” schemes arranged with the Pudong government in exchange for its large commitments.

 

But the biggest payback of all will certainly be Tomson's huge high rise “Riviera” 富都市届汤臣海景花园 development that occupies an incomparable location in Lujiazui directly opposite the Bund across the river.  The Tomson Group expects to make a fortune on this development, and even as Shanghai’s over-supplied luxury housing market enters a long overdue correction, the Group is unlikely to be disappointed.  Its excellent “guanxi” 关系 with the officials of Pudong have by now virtually removed the risk of doing business.

 


Wonderful for Tomson, but tragic for Lujiazui, Pudong and Shanghai itself.   The Riveria development is clearly too big, too close to the river, and fundamentally wrong:  residential towers in what should be an class A office and financial district.   The towers are so tall, from the vantage point of a boat cruising the river, they seem almost as tall as the 88 story Jinmao
金茂大厦 behind them.  From the river the complex of six towers extending some 150 meters across  blocks the view of anything behind them.  From the Puxi side, the towers loom like gigantic concrete barricades guarding some hidden palace from attack.

 

The Tomson development is one egregious monument to short-sighted greed and self-interest along the Huangpu’s eastern banks.  But it is only one among many.  The earliest perpetrator was the Taiwanese Aurora 振旦 Group whose tasteless metallic yellow-orange building now blots the riverside just next to the Pudong Shangri-la Hotel.  (The hotel was actually constructed in style and relatively low-rise in 1996-97.  It is now adding a highrise annex that will add to the blight.)

 

If a lack of imagination (combined with refusal to accept planning concepts drafted by foreigners) could explain why the Aurora was allowed to be built, it takes no imagination to see how destructive to the Lujiazui skyline has been the result.  This being known at the time, how can anyone—particularly officials of Citibank--possibly justify the decision to build the 44 story Citicorp Center tower next to it?  If any decision could symbolize the growing arrogance and disregard of host country environment that Citibank has come to display around the region and the world during the past ten years, this is it.  The contrast with HSBC, which purchased and acquired naming rights to the properly-scaled and subtly respectful Shenmao building 森茂大厦 completed in 1997-98 on a location set well back from the riverfront, is stark.

 


The latest additions to the mess in Lujianzui are two 40 story highrise apartment developments—Skyline Mansions
盛达金磐 and Pengli 鹏利海景公寓— that now encroach upon the financial district from the south and seem to extend virtually to the foot of the Jinmao 金茂大厦.  Again, these absurdly overlarge and overtall developments that extend for hundreds of meters and crowd up to the riverfront block views from the river and Puxi.   The Pengli project comprises five towers of 37 and 31 stories.  The Skyline project is taller.  Again, it is clear that these residential complexes are wrong for the location and for the environment.   Now occupants of offices on the first 40 stories or so of the Jinmao Building, Pudong’s signature Grade A, international class location, will have the pleasure of viewing laundry hung from the balconies of these residential flats, instead of river views.  So why have these gargantuan, misplaced eyesores been allowed?  Only the principals—current and former officials and developers—would know the answer.  And of course they are not talking.

 

Moving south along Lujiazui, we encounter one tasteful and relatively well-designed residential developments, Yanlord Garden 仁恒滨江园, which at least is set back from the riverfront and offers low rise flats in front, so as to create an aspect of depth when viewed from the river.  On the riverbank in front, are six low rise office buildings.  These buildings are models of what should have been required—in terms of height restriction--along the entire riverfront.  There is a story of how developers, after buying the land from the Port Authority 港务局 had planned to construct 40 story office towers.  The residents of Yanlord protested to the city government. Whether it was these protests, or some more subtle pressure or inducement to the city, but the developers were finally required to drastically lower the height of their project.  One can only wish the same result had been achieved in other projects along the river.

 

Just south of Yanlord, a huge section of land is occupied by the three phases of the Chrysanthemum Garden 菊园, developed by Capitol Land (formerly DBS Land) from Singapore.  This development displays the absence of concern (or foresight) of Pudong officials residential population density and disparity between the approved residential and commercial growth and supporting transportation infrastructure.  The disparity can be seen all over Shanghai—indeed it is becoming emblematic for the city—but there was a chance to head off the traffic and services bottlenecks in the redevelopment of Pudong (actually, since all of Shanghai has been a virtual Greenfield for redevelopment, the opportunity for well-planned improvement has been historic).  The chance was squandered.   What began in phase one as a very high density, low-end residential mini-city in beehive architectural style, moved slightly upscale and slightly more commodious as the development moved toward the river (the new phases are named 君临天下 and 汇豪天下).

 

Two developments just south of 菊园 are evidence that—like in many other “gold rushes”—as the momentum of land deal-making grew in the 1990s, all sense of proportion and aesthetics seem at one point to have been lost in Pudong.  One is a complex—still under construction--of five massive 40 story apartment towers that seem poised over the very edge of the riverfront just north of where the location of the Fuxing Road tunnel.   The other is the seven massive fan-like, crescent-shaped edifices ranging in height from 49 to 55 stories, and containing thousand of units, of the Shimao Riverview development 世茂滨江花园.

 

世茂滨江花园 is a development covering 275,000 square meters, with a total construction area of 800,000 square meters.  It is one of the largest, if not the largest, residential real estate development in Shanghai, at least in the “luxury” range.  The company behind the development is Shimao Group 世茂集团, Shanghai’s largest property developer.  The man behind the Shimao Development Mr. Xu Rongmao, 徐荣茂 Shanghai’s richest man.

 

The Shimao development is truly in the grand “Shanghai style” 海派 over the top, excessive, appearances over substance tradition.  There have been construction and quality problems with the development, and in a weakening market sales may slow.  But construction of the over-sized, skyline blotting towers has proceeded inexorably forward.  On a clear day, as one crosses the Nanpu Bridge from Puxi and looks left (north) the mountain-like structures appear like out-sized play buildings on a monopoly board.  From the Puxi riverside, the line-up of the six buildings that are finished or under construction, appears like a screen intended to hide something of interest behind them.

 

And indeed, in a sense the massive edifices that now blot and crowd Pudong’s Lujiazui area are hiding something. They are hiding a system that enables developers and officials to collude in secret and without review for short-term personal gain, at the expense of the residents of the city.
For a while, as the city was still developing, this seemed to matter little.
 Now, however, as the detrimental effects are increasingly clear, as is their irreversibility, even Shanghai’s proud local residents cannot be other that dismayed and saddened by what has come to pass.



The author is president of S.M. Harner and Company, a financial services consultancy, and a ten year resident of Shanghai.




     


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第04号 2004.09.21

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第01号 2004.05.15 Shanghai’s New “Open” Government: www.shanghai.gov.cn