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…a village by any other name…

Huaxin Village is not a village. Located at the intersection of Huaqiang and Hongli Roads, Huaxin was one of the earliest residential areas built in Shenzhen. It boasted 30 lowrise apartment buildings, a business office, and an office for neighborhood offices. In total, the neighborhood had 1007 homes. Walking west, the neigborhood abutted Fuhua Village and then opened into the northern section of Shenzhen’s Central Park.

To walk this area is to get a sense of the excitement and utopian discourse that permeated early Shenzhen. Huaxin literally means “China New (华新)”, Fuhua means “Prosperous China (福华)”, and Huaqiang means “China Strong (华强)”. Moreover, in the 1980s, the area north of Hongli Road was considered suburban with respect to the Dongmen and Luohu areas near the train station. Consequently, planning in this area primarily included factories and residential neighborhoods, such as Huaxin.

The layout of Huaxin  illustrates early understandings of public space and semi-public spaces. In addition to a public garden, the residential area also had a soccer field and areas for sitting and chatting. Moreover, along walkways, designers had included planters. When Huaxin housed the young SEZ’s managerial class, the ornamentals filled the planters. Over the past decade, the value of the housing stock has declined, even as property values have increased dramatically leading to a typical “urban village” phenomena: the owners have moved out and rented their homes to working families. In turn, these farmer-migrants have converted the planters to urban vegetable gardens, while first floor homes have been repurposed as shops.

Despite the value of the land, it’s not easy to raze rennovate these old, centrally located neighborhoods because the housing belongs to old Shenzheners, who — again like local villagers — are in negotiation with developers and the city to transfer the property rights. Again, compensation buy-outs are figured by square meter of housing. As early as April 15, 2009 — almost four years ago — there was news that Huaxin would be razed and the area upgraded. By 2011, DZT had published a feasibility study of how to upgrade the area inline with its position next to Shenzhen’s large electronics market, Huaqiangbei.

Of note du jour, in order to make these plans profitable, the new plans cannot include the same amount of space for urban gardening and semi-public gathering. Impressions of yesterdays walk from China Strong through China New past Prosperous China and into the northern section of Central Park, from where skyline views suggest the contours of thirty years of architectural and urban planning.

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