WANG Shifu: "Challenges and Opportunities for China's Urban Renewal"

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On Wednesday, March 30, Professor Shifu WANG, Fulbright Scholar at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Professor and Chair of the Urban Planning Department at South China University of Technology, gave an informational lecture entitled “Challenges and Opportunities for China’s Urban Renewal.” He reviewed the development of urban renewal practices and management strategies in Southern China, especially in Guangdong Province, which has been the testing ground for the Chinese Open and Reform Policy. Professor Wang then described several cases to give his insights on urban renewal revolution within the context of real estate development and Open and Reform Policy implementation in China.

He summarized the revolution of urban renewal in Guangdong in five key phases.  These phases were described as: the introduction of the real estate market by Hong Kong developers as the Open and Reform Policy was established in the early 1980s; the massive movement of destructive demolition and rebuilding in 1990s; the policy of excluding any developers in the Old City Center in 1999; the period of 2000-2010 which emphasized in-site balance, local community, and historical conservation issues; and the most current (2010-2015) “Three Old Movement,” which encourages and protects the property and redevelopment rights of original residents. Additionally, Professor Wang reviewed the establishment of Chinese first Urban Renewal Authority in Guangzhou City, and stated that it was a promising milestone that will strengthen the implementation phase of urban renewal projects at an institutional level. He noted that urban renewal is a special mode of real estate development and urbanization, and that the difficulties facing urban renewal lie in the dynamic and complex relationship between the local government, developer, and homeowners.

Being an active planner and architect in South China, he took Donghu New Village, Liwang Plaza, Middle Jiefang Road, Liede Village, Enning Road, and South Huaxi as case studies. As the chief designer of Enning Road and South Huaxi, he was intensively exposed to the negotiation process between villagers, developers and government.  In conclusion, Professor Wang pointed out that local governments are shifting towards openness, transparency, and protecting property rights and ownership – a contrast to previous development strategies.  There are still challenges, including the establishment of decision-making processes, profit reconfiguration processes, and the ongoing debates of identifying and implementing a paradigm of redevelopment.

Professor Wang asserted that urban renewal would be one of the key indigenous incentives in “New Normal.” Compared to conventional methods of rapid urbanization of the past decades, urban renewal can contribute to environmental improvement, social development, and enhance the quality of urban life. It will become a key player to stimulate consistent economic growth for China.