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Changsha community rejuvenated by ambitious restoration project

By CHEN HONG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-21 14:04
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What would life be like living in a community with bungalows built 60 to 100 years ago?

Crowded and dilapidated houses, rough and narrow lanes, tangled electrical wires zigzagging overhead like a web, and piles of garbage spread here and there.

"That was true four or five years ago, but now everything has changed," said Fu Shuyuan, 65, cheerfully.

Fu has been living in the Xiyuan Beili community of Changsha, capital city of Central China's Hunan province, since she was born.

In 2015, the community, which can be traced back about 1,000 years, was put on the urban renewal list of the Kaifu district government of Changsha.

Instead of simply tearing down the old rundown buildings, the local government adopted a more sophisticated and time-and-money consuming plan to retain the original flavor of the ancient community, said Cheng Rong, Party secretary of the Xiyuan community.

It invited literary and historical experts to review and comb through the history of the community before launching the renewal, in a bid to better protect the relics, recover some significant historical sites and recreate the traditional style, she said.

The local government also held meetings with the representatives of the community to hear their concerns, gather their suggestions, and solve any problems before and during the renewal, she noted.

One of the major projects is to restore an ancient pedestrian pathway inside the community with a kind of granite that was commonly used in the ancient roads.

Large pieces of stone, with a width of 70 cm each, were laid at each side of the path to provide convenience for the elderly, while the fragments of original stone were fixed in the middle to record the changing of time.

While repairing and strengthening the old houses, re-arranging the wires and pipes, installing the street lamps and adding fitness facilities in public spaces, the local government also subsidized the households to be able to redecorate their homes.

A total of 230 households benefited from the renewal program, said Cheng.

The subsidies ranged from 200 to 400 yuan ($31.3 to 62.5) per square meter, accounting for nearly half of the total decoration costs, she added.

Fu is one of the beneficiaries.

"Our community is now clean, tidy, convenient and beautiful, with plants and flowers everywhere, and our homes are old but cozy," said Fu.

Elderly people gather at the daycare center of the community, dancing and doing exercises in the morning and playing mahjong, reading books and chatting in the afternoon.

"We used to long to move out, but now people from neighboring communities envy us for being able to live in such a comfortable and harmonious place," Fu said.

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