Pedestrians and free trolley buses are expected to lay exclusive claim to the new-look Qianmen area before the end of the year, when the extensive renovation work being done on the historic neighborhood should be complete.
The area's main street will be paved with green and white marble, replacing the narrow cement lane that currently serves as its central thoroughfare. When the work is finished, the area, south of Tian'anmen Square, is expected to evoke the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Dozens of traditional shops, such as Quanjude, famous for its Beijing roast duck, and Yueshengzhai, which has been selling pickled beef and mutton for more than 230 years, are expected to return to the area.
Officials said the street will be for pedestrians only and serve as a showcase of Chinese culture.
Qianmen Street is expected to be lined with 300 shops, representing some 80,000 sq m of commercial space along a 845-m-long strip.
At least 20 percent of the commercial area will be devoted to traditional shops, Niu Qingshan, head of Chongwen District, said.
Tian Geng, a representative of Beijing Emperor's Avenue Real Estate Development Co, which is in charge of the renovation project, said at a recent forum in Beijing that more than 1,000 traditional shops had applied to do business on Qianmen Street. The company and the public will decide on which shops pass muster.
Some international brands have also expressed interest in the area. "They can compete with the local ones for spaces not reserved for traditional shops," Niu said.
Qianmen has been a commercial center in Beijing for nearly seven centuries, boasting a wide range of shops selling everything from traditional medicines to fine silks.
The 300-million-yuan ($40 million) redevelopment project is part of the city's efforts to refurbish its old areas ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.
The redevelopment is being carried out according to photographs taken of Qianmen in the 1920s and 1930s, Wang Shiren, an architect, said.
"Qianmen Street, which was built during the Ming Dynasty, was destroyed by the allied forces of the eight foreign powers in 1900. What old Beijing residents are familiar with is the rebuilt version dating to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)," Wang said.
Another architect, Wang Shijie, said: "After the redevelopment, Qianmen Street, with its combination of Eastern and Western cultural styles, will become a hot spot for visitors from home and abroad."
(China Daily 10/05/2007 page1)