HUANGPU District is renovating a century-old building near the Bund which was originally built for foreign businesses and later converted into a housing block.
The building at 210 Jiujiang Road was built in 1911 by a British developer.
It once housed a US stockbroking firm. Its timber flooring has been replaced, the bathrooms and kitchens redecorated with anti-slip tiles and the tangle of electrical wires and water pipes overhauled.
And an elevator will be installed because most of the residents are elderly.
It is the first building in a trial operation by the Huangpu government to renovate historic residential buildings initially designed as office buildings in the Bund area. Huangpu has 71 such buildings, mostly on the Bund, with more than 5,000 people living inside.
If the project succeeds, other buildings will follow, said Yang Xilin, a director with the district’s house renovation management center.
The distinctive buildings were built between 1910 and the 1920s near the Bund to be home to foreign companies, banks and local government bodies. The first batch of residents moved into the buildings in the 1950s after the companies left.
The government launched an initial renovation in the 1980s to build extra floors to fill a shortage of accommodation.
The former offices were divided into more than 200 single-room apartments, each about 15 square meters. Many residents set up a loft in the room as bedroom to make the most of the limited space.
Residents still have to share bathrooms, kitchens and water sinks because of its original design.
Ninety-year-old Zhu Zhudi is among the first batch of residents and has been living in the building for more than six decades.
She spends five minutes walking down from her third-floor apartment just to get to the local wet market.
“This renovation has largely improved my living conditions, despite the fact that there are still many places that need to be improved,” Zhu told Shanghai Daily.
Zhu said the residents liked the renovations by the government.
The cost is more than 4 million yuan (US$578,000).
It is rather challenging to meet all kinds of demands of the residents, said Lu Bo, a general manager with the Huangpu Property, who takes charge of some of the renovation work.
Lu said the company has held numerous rounds of meetings with residents’ representatives and set up a temporary office in the building to listen to their concerns.
One problem is that the gas company refuses to install pipelines in the shared kitchen because the structure of the property.
It says the building does not meet safety standards.
The renovations will be completed around July when the elevator will also come into operation, Lu said.
In the next step, the sub-district officials will launch a campaign to ask the residents to remove the illegal structures in the public areas to further improve the living environment.
“Apart from the remaining problems, the living conditions have never been so good since I moved here three decades ago,” said another long-term resident, surnamed Zeng, who is 60.