the nanyou cultural plaza, like most shenzhen cultural centers was built to promote high culture. however nanyou, like most shenzhen governments doesn’t actually budget all that much money for cultural production, instead requiring that center or plaza administrators capitalize on the space to keep it running. most cultural centers have achieved this by showing movies and renting space for cultural consumption (weiqi clubs, dance lessons, and martial arts instruction, for example).
the success of a cultural center depends on access–in all senses of the word–to the center. many village level cultural centers are in fact quite active because they not only target their cultural production to villagers and migrant workers, who (as rural people) share similar cultural tastes, but also are located within walking distance of most of their patrons. in contrast, street level centers, like nanyou, have to mediate between rural and urban tastes, which don’t really overlap, making it difficult to build a cultural community. consequently, these centers depend upon public transportation and private cars to bring their patrons to them.
the construction of the western corridor bridge has compounded nanyou’s economic difficulties because the street in front of the plaza has been under construction for over two years now. although the nanyou cultural plaza continues to screen movies, the entire space has been rented out to mom and pop vendors, who have transformed the space into a market for the many migrant workers who live nearby.
about five years ago, the area around nanyou was a thriving restaurant district that catered to urban white-collar workers. most of those restaurants (including macdonald’s) have moved out, replaced by small eateries and street level grills. five years ago, there were also villas and upscale residential complexes in this area. these are now being rebuilt, in anticipation of the opening of the western corridor bridge, when nanyou will again and perhaps as suddenly change character, becoming prime real estate for those commuting from western shenzhen to hong kong.
for a sense of how migrant workers occupy shenzhen spaces, please visit nanyou.