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Beijing looks below ground to grow

2011-01-12 14:40

Beijing looks below ground to grow

Workers carry an artist's impression of Tongzhou New City. [Photo / China Daily]

With the surface becoming too crowded, relief lies underground

Beijing is set to tap into its underground space on a large scale this year with the central districts of Chaoyang, Xicheng and Dongcheng as well as Tongzhou all putting forward ambitious plans.

Xicheng district hopes to develop six projects that include significant underground components.

Among them, a large underground garage will be built under the Yuetan Gymnasium on Yuetan South Street.

Of the planned 6 million square meters of new space being developed on Financial Street, some 1 million sq m will be below ground.

And Xidan North Street has similar plans.

Even the West Second Ring Road will be expanding down instead of out. It will have a new fast lane beneath the surface that will connect some of the most important commercial zones in Xicheng district.

Chaoyang plans to develop projects that put as many as five floors below ground. Blueprints call for 600,000 sq m of underground space with an investment of 6 billion yuan.

One project includes a one-way ring road underground and 6,000 subterranean public parking spaces.

Dongcheng hopes to complete a 100,000-sq-m parking lot under Qianmen Street that will offer space for 3,500 cars.

And the first underground parking lot beneath a hutong area is slated to be built this year in Jingshan. It will have two below-ground floors and house more than 300 parking spaces. That project will cost 300 million yuan.

The blueprints were revealed during the district-level people's congress sessions earlier this week. Many of these plans have large parking lots and supporters hope they will help solve the city's parking shortage.

The biggest underground area so far is slated for Tongzhou district, close to the capital's Central Business District. That project will have 2.1 million sq m of underground space beneath the 16-sq-km redevelopment of Tongzhou that will be called Tongzhou New City.

The underground developments will be four floors thick.

Tongzhou plans to build three underground tunnels, and Jingmen Bridge, which was originally planned to span the Tongzhou Grand Canal, will now be built beneath the watercourse, said Zhang Yong, deputy chief of the district.

Yang Baolin, president of Homedale Architects, which is affiliated with the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design, said the development of underground space is crucial for a city like Beijing.

"The vehicles will be hidden so the space above ground can be left for the people," Yang said.

"In this way, people will have the comfort of wandering around and the cultural and historical sites at ground level can be protected."

Yang said more big cities in China will develop their underground space as land becomes scarce and their populations of people and cars grow even larger.

However, some people have expressed concerns about safety.

Su Yunlong, head of the engineering planning and design department at the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, said such things as fire protection are a worry.

"An underground project will need more complicated fire-fighting equipment so fires can be accessed safely," Su said.

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