Director Hong Urban Village Field Visits to Guangdong

In collaboration with the World Bank and Open Learning Campus, the STL Lab is producing a MOOC on innovative land development methods and urban regeneration.  In May 2016, the World Bank and the STL Lab conducted field visits to Guangdong, China to examine a creative approach called “land re-utilization” (or commonly referred to as land readjustment around the world). The objectives were to: (1) update existing course materials by visiting redevelopment projects using land readjustment approaches and (2) explore the possibility of selecting a redevelopment project in China to turn it into a multi-media case study for the online course. 




Cities visited


A field visit was conducted on May 23 and 24 to investigate the application of land readjustment to upgrade urban villages in Guangzhou.  Three types of urban villages were examined:  (1) completed redevelopment project; (2) redevelopment in progress; and (3) future planned redevelopment. 

The first project visited was Lei De Village.  It was a collective-led project managed by the members of the village collective.  The city government subsidized the project by waiving the land conversion fee and providing financial backing, if necessary.  The collective utilized the revenue generated from auctioning part of its land for commercial uses to pay for the redevelopment costs. Villagers who participated in the project were resettled within the same neighborhood and given extra apartment units to rent out to outsiders to generate income to maintain their livelihood. In addition, the village also reserved a piece of land to build a hotel complex that will also generate income for the collective members in the near future. 

Lie De Village in Guangzhou (a completed project). Photo by Mansha Chen.

The second project was Xian Village.  The city is in the midst of negotiating land transfers with urban villagers to conduct a comprehensive redevelopment.  About one-third of the villagers are unwilling to participate in the renewal initiative at the moment. Persuading the remaining villagers to participate in the redevelopment initiative remains a major challenge. 

Xian Village in Guangzhou (a project under redevelopment). Photo by Mansha Chen.

The third urban village visited was Shi Pai Village.  This neighborhood is currently not subjected to any redevelopment plan.  The living condition in this neighborhood is fair with most basic services available to residents, as well as social amenities such as schools, community spaces, markets, etc.  Local residents seemed to be well organized.  The only major concern for this urban village was how crowded the built environment is.  As such, there is inadequate open space separating residential buildings.

Shi Pai in Guangzhou (planning for redevelopment). Photo by Mansha Chen.


On May 25, the team spent a day in Zhuhai, visiting a redeveloped urban village called Shan Chang Village.  This project was initiated by a developer who owned a large piece of land next to the urban village.  With the support from the city government, the developer first built the resettlement homes for the urban villagers and then assembled their land for commercial and residential development.  Selected historical structures were preserved, and a new primary school was built to serve the neighborhood.  However, there were observable differences in the building quality between resettlement units and those that were sold to outsiders at market value. 


The last stop of the Guangdong trip was Shenzhen, with visits of two earliest redeveloped urban villages, Yu Min Village and Yu Nong Village.  A recently completed redevelopment project, Da Chong Village, and a soon-to-be-redeveloped neighborhood called Hu Bei Village, were visited as well.

While Yu Min Village was a collective-led initiative, Yu Nong Village was organized by the city.  The prime reason for targeting these two urban villages for redevelopment was because they both located next to the border crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  The city government wanted to give visitors from Hong Kong a good first impression of Shenzhen when entering the city. A state-owned company led the development of the other two villages, Da Chong and Hu Bei Village.

Yumin Village (an early redevelopment project).  Photo by Mansha Chen.


Hu Bei in Shenzhen (soon to be redeveloped).  Photo by Mansha Chen.

The last urban village visited was Huang Gang Village, which has been undergoing gradual redevelopment managed by its own collective members.  This redevelopment approach is a combination of land readjustment and incremental upgrading.  The main redevelopment effort includes redevelopment of one residential area along the main road into high-rise office buildings and construction of roads and public space in the remaining part of the village where many existing buildings are still kept intact. This alleviated the most common problem of urban villages, which is high-rise buildings are too close to each other. 

Huang Gang Village in Shenzhen (incremental redevelopment).  Photo by Mansha Chen.


Outcomes and next steps

We learned from visiting these urban villages that there is no one-size-fits-all method of redeveloping these city neighborhoods in China.  Although they locate within the same province, each case is unique.  For cases that could implement the redevelopment initiative without controversies, the key is the ability of involved stakeholders to identify overlaying interests and coordinate well each party’s strengths and responsibilities for the projects.  These visits provided updated information for the Chinese examples presented in the land readjustment online course.  These materials will be incorporated into the course modules.