CHONGQING — Just behind Guanyinqiao, the popular commercial area in Chongqing's Jiangbei district, is the old residential neighborhood of Taping. Built in the 1980s, it has become a strong example of successful urban renewal efforts.
It emerged as an upmarket residential neighborhood in the last century, but then became a dilapidated area after it was eclipsed by high-rise buildings. Now it is experiencing a revival as a creative and artistic spot.
Besides making standard improvements such as renovating walls and tidying up exposed wires, Jiangbei's department of housing and urban-rural development has introduced small shops into the neighborhood, establishing a mix of nostalgia and creative businesses that appeal to young people.
Fan Congcai, deputy director of the housing department, said the project is multifaceted.
"Since this area is near Guanyinqiao, we don't just want it to be a better living environment for residents," Fan said. "We also want to tap the business potential of the commercial district to infuse more vigor into the area and nurture more young entrepreneurs."
Since 2020, 44 buildings that host around 1,400 households have been renovated. In addition to improvements to infrastructure, the area has been mapped out for artistic and commercial purposes. Even before the program is officially finished, around 30 shops, ranging from coffee houses and innovative restaurants to film camera stores, have selected old apartments as their shopfronts, according to Fan.
Liu Hui, a 32-year-old designer, opened a family coffee shop named Xiandan in May on the second floor of an old building.
"I love exploring coffee shops that have opened in old communities. As a regular visitor to this place in recent years, I've seen many changes, so I chose to open my shop here," Liu said.
The creative renewal gives incentives to new entrepreneurs and brings more business opportunities to the old shops.
Wang Lianri, a 27-year-old barista, opened his coffee shop here in 2020. The key reason for him choosing this location was the area's strong local characteristics. However, before the restoration work began, the street was dirty, messy and crowded, which made it difficult to attract customers.
"I didn't imagine the local government would take such swift and comprehensive action. After the restoration, my business improved, and I can now sell around 70 cups per day," he said. Zhao Yu, a hotpot restaurant owner, feels the same.
"I was born in the Jiangbei area, so I always wanted to open a local hotpot restaurant here. Taping is a big, old living area with a lively living atmosphere. Since the renovation and upgrading, many young people come here to experience the vibe," he said.
Zhao added that his business has been soaring due to the growing number of young customers. This year, he rented two apartments adjacent to his restaurant to make room for more customers.
One 60-year-old resident surnamed Huang has also witnessed the improvements. "Now our living environment has vastly improved, with rain shelters provided, roads broadened, garbage sorted properly and so on. Also, we are glad to see young people opening new businesses here, making this area more energetic," Huang said.