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Renovation renews more than roads in Chongqing

XINHUA | Updated: 2024-05-20 07:49
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CHONGQING — One community in Southwest China leading the local urban renewal revolution is Houbao in Chongqing municipality's Nan'an district. Home to more than 2,000 senior citizens, the community is not only transforming old residential areas, but also the daily lives of residents.

Since 2021, in addition to renovating buildings, streets and other infrastructure, Houbao has welcomed 12 new retailers, from cafes to hotpot restaurants, and has invited 60 volunteers involved in disciplines such as design and media to organize activities like exhibitions, dances and poetry recitals.

In a repurposed building that now serves as the community's "living room", a postcard of Yang Daren, 78, and her friend Huang Lihui, 74, dancing at a retro-style party is on display.

"I loved that party. These creative young people really are a breath of fresh air," says Yang.

Before renewal, the road was uneven, and residents were a little bit afraid to go out for a stroll, she says. Now, the road is flat, there are streetlights and the community has lots of facilities and activities on offer.

Yang sees many young people every day, which she says makes the neighborhood feel dynamic and provides opportunities to learn new things, like trying coffee or attending poetry readings.

Peng Yin, 34, who is in charge of running the community, is the catalyst behind all this change. "I wanted to create a new pattern of life here in Houbao, which is fun, friendly and relaxing instead of dull, hectic and exhausting. I think that's why so many people are attracted to it."

A 40-year-old cycling enthusiast nicknamed Leilei is among the newcomers, who have decided to open a shop in the community. She worked in real estate for over 10 years but decided to pursue her real love, cycling, in 2022. Her first bold move was funding a cycling club in Chongqing, a mountainous city where bikes are rarely seen.

"I was concerned the club might fail since Chongqing has lots of slopes and hills. However, people showed a surprising interest and my club now has over 4,000 members," says Leilei.

She also introduced the city to the renowned English bike brand Brompton. While many big shopping malls are vying to sell the brand, Leilei chose to sell from this isolated community last November. "Shopping malls eye the commercial value; however, Houbao emphasizes the person. They want to bring together a group of people with enthusiasm, love and passion for life. I am touched by this," she adds.

Liu Zhipeng, a 42-year-old involved in catering, has had a similar experience. After a decade of working in insurance, the Houbao native quit in 2018 and opened a restaurant in the community in 2020, as part of his effort to live a slower life and rekindle memories of childhood.

"I got to know Peng and some of the other people during a series of community activities and I felt that our outlooks matched. So when they invited me to join them and open another hotpot restaurant, I had no hesitation," says Liu.

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