CHINA> Regional
Lakeside buildings to be chopped shorter
By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-11 10:01

SHANGHAI -- Several tall buildings around West Lake in Hangzhou will be made shorter to preserve the area's natural beauty and support its application for World Heritage status, the city government said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Wang Shuifa, who will head the redevelopment project, said the east wing of the Shangri-La Hotel, the main tower of the Huabei Hotel, a television tower and several other buildings will all be made shorter, probably by cutting off the top few floors.

The resizing project, which will cost 40 million yuan ($5.8 million), is part of a larger plan to restore the lake's natural and historical features, as it bids to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

The project will be completed by April, it said.

"We have hired foreign firms to draft detailed plans of how to reduce the height of the Shangri-La, whose owners will be compensated," Wang was quoted as saying by China News Service.

While the government has promised that all of the buildings' owners will be fully compensated, details of how much they will get have yet to be published. Calls to Wang's office yesterday went unanswered.

Judy Wang, from the public relations department of Shangri-La China, said she was unaware of the redevelopment project.

"We will keep a close watch on it," she said.

The east wing of the hotel has seven stories, with the presidential suite occupying the top floor.

The suite, which costs up to 30,000 yuan per night, boasts one of the best views of West Lake.

At a conference in July, the Hangzhou government said all buildings over 24 m tall on the east bank of the lake would have to be shortened to clear the skyline.

Wang Chuanyue, a professor of architecture at Peking University, said the environment around the lake is a key part of its beauty, China News Service reported.

"The increasing number of tall buildings are making the lake look smaller," he said.

West Lake is the most popular tourist attraction in Hangzhou, which is known as "Heaven on Earth" for its wealth of natural beauty.

Because of its popularity, over the years, the area has attracted numerous businesses and tourist attractions.

In 1996, an application was made for UNESCO World Heritage status and since then, authorities have been working on a plan to restore the lake's natural beauty that was damaged by urbanization.

The restoration project was officially launched Wednesday, after several rounds of discussion and public hearings, Xinhua said.