Revitalizing Historic Zhongshan Avenue in Wuhan
Founded 110 years ago in 1906, Wuhan Zhongshan Road embodies the history of the old Hankou. Currently, Zhongshan Avenue has to carry massive south-north passing traffic. Vehicles and pedestrians share the same road, resulting in chaotic traffic. It is troubled by poor commerce, lack of culture, and poor environment. As the avenue was closed for constructing Stations Wushenglu, Hanzhengjie, Liuduqiao, and Jianghanlu of Metro Line 6 between August 2014 and December 2016, the public space was reformed as part of the revival of the old Hankou City.
(1) Adopting people-first solution by prioritizing bus and non-motorized traffic, minimizing cars, and creating a safe street. The rights of way were redesigned, in which the pedestrian traffic and public transportation were prioritized. Motorway was reduced while the bus lanes remained intact. Walking space increased its share, and new bicycle lane were built. Disconnected sidewalks were reconnected to present a continuous space for walking.
(2) Promoting green travel featuring “public transportation + walking”. As Metro Line 6 was completed, a complicate network of both track and bus transportation has taken shape. Metro and bus stations are easily accessible within a radius of 500 m, making low-carbon travel possible. The avenue included dedicated bus lanes 1.5 km long between Qianjin No.1 Road and Huangshi Road. As private cars are not allowed on, a safe walking experience was created in the center of the historic blocks.
(3) Providing to all public space that is safe, inclusive, and convenient. 1,100 trees were planted and 3,000 m2 of soft paving replaced existing hard surface, which help ease the heat island effect locally. Zhongshan Avenue was transformed into a boulevard of three sections, with five major leisure plazas, 13 small amusement parks for existing streets and communities, and ~10,000 m2 of public space. Tourists, seniors, and citizens with their children can rest, exercise, and exchange here, and public activities like street art performances and special exhibitions can take place here.
(4) Caring for original residents and low-income groups by creating more jobs and an inclusive and fair environment. Both new and original residents are encouraged to open shops along the street, along with a variety of other employment opportunities. Most of communities within the project were renovated, and below 20% of them were rebuilt. Efforts were placed on improving the environment and facilities for traditional communities in a hope to retain original residents.
(5) Enabling sustainable renewal and shared autonomy of existing communities, and facilitating the organic integration of local culture and products with urban leisure tourism. Renovation of historic buildings and neighboring small space created a variety of communication spaces and employment platforms, which helps to form a space of shared community service. Municipal infrastructure and old buildings were updated to house businesses including culture, time-honored brands and leisure tourism. Commerce boomed here, and 17 time-honored brands opened 20 stores on Zhongshan Avenue, which is now a hub of time-honored brands in Wuhan.
(1) Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau: providing technical guidance and approving the plans.
(2) Wuhan Land Use and Urban Spatial Planning Research Center, Wuhan Planning and Design Institute, and Ben Wood Studio Shanghai: preparing detailed plans.
(3) The People's Government of Jiang'an and Jianghan Districts, Wuhan Real Estate Group: raising funds and undertaking transformation works.
(4) The International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP): evaluating the project progress, an Urban Planning Advisory Team (UPAT) was sent in March 2017 for field visit and evaluation.
Revitalizing the historic Zhongshan Avenue was part of Wuhan government’s efforts to improve people’s livelihood. In September 2014, Wuhan government established Zhongshan Avenue Renovation Office, directing Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau, and the district governments of Jiang'an, Jianghan, and Qiaokou to advance the project in two steps: preparation and execution.
(1) Making macro/meso/micro-level plans.
Plans were made on the macro level (comprehensive plan), meso level (subject plan), micro level (detailed plan). Meso-level plans were prepared by referencing macro-level plans, and macro-level plans by referencing meso-level plans, to ensure that the original goals can be achieved level by level.
The macro-level plan, Comprehensive Plan for Revitalizing Zhongshan Avenue, clarifies the goals and principals of the renovation, and it was reviewed by Wuhan Municipal Party Committee and People’s Government and approved by Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau.
Meso-level plans cover aspects including building restoration and remediation, road traffic, landscaping, public art, and sign system. These plans were reviewed by is coordinated by Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau, Wuhan Housing Security and House Management Bureau, Wuhan Culture Bureau, Wuhan Municipal Bureau of Gardening and Forestry, and other competent authorities.
Micro-level plans include detailed repairing and constructing plans for key nodes and repair plans for each building, and they were approved by Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau.
(2) Building a comprehensive support system by engaging both experts and the public and coordinating among stakeholders.
A total of 11 experts specialized in protecting historic buildings locally were selected to guide the renovation of 34 historic buildings right from plan preparation to field construction and to acceptance.
We worked with district governments to spread the plans and solicit residents’ advice via community roadshow and online public platform, making sure that all neighboring residents can know and participate in the project.
A design alliance was founded to gather together experts in commercial planning, construction, gardening, transportation, and municipal services, who have been engaged in the project from planning to construction.
The project was a huge success with respect to planning, sustainable development, and social-economic development both at home and abroad.
(1) Wining worldwide acclaim and ISOCARP Awards For Excellence 2016. “This project is honored for its inclusionary public participation and focus on the street as the umbilical cord within the network of the public realm, striving to improve public transport, protect the history and culture of place, and encourage community involvement,” wrote the jury in the notice for the awards.
An UPAT of ISOCARP Vice President Martin Dubbeling, UN-HABITAT official Frank D'hondt and other experts visited Wuhan during March 26-31, 2017. They evaluated the project progress and attended a seminar with WLSP, on which they proposed to spread the success story of the project. On the 53rd ISOCARP World Annual Congress held in Portland 23-27 October, 2017, the UPAT shared their findings and understanding of the project, which attracted enormous attention and ignited heated discussion.
The project was covered by many authoritative media in China, and experts from more than 10 cities such as Guangzhou and Tianjin have come to learn its success story.
(2) Making an outstanding contribution to the sustainable development of cities and the creation of public space. A convenient green travel network has taken shape, offering options such as subway, bus, bicycle, and walking; Wuhan’s first bus street was built; 1,100 trees were planted to transform Zhongshan Avenue into a boulevard; five major leisure plazas, 13 small amusement parks for existing streets and communities, and ~10,000 m2 of public space were built or renovated, and 3,000 m2 of soft paving replaced existing hard surface, which help ease the heat island effect locally. Tourists, seniors, and citizens with their children can rest, exercise, and exchange here, and public activities like street art performances and special exhibitions can take place here.
(3) Receiving rave comments. Local governments, citizens, shop operators, and relevant stakeholders along the line highly recognized the project's contribution in optimizing communities, improving street environment, enhancing inclusiveness and fairness within the communities, and powering economic recovery.
The project’s success is largely attributed to: first, the government’s overall arrangement; second, reasonable planning; and third, sufficient funding. The People's Government of Wuhan, as the coordinator of the project, has played an important role in overall project control, balancing and coordinating stakeholders, and coordinating major issues. Wuhan Natural Resources and Planning Bureau, as competent authority, has ensured forward-looking, reasonable plans were prepared. The People's Government of Jiang'an, Jianghan and Jianghan Districts raised sufficient fund to smoothly execute the project.
The renovation project started with subway construction, then ground landscaping, and last building repair, and countless stakeholders were involved in all stages of the project. Limited time was the biggest constraint in executing the project.
The project is a great example in terms of sustainable development, and its success can be replicated:
(1) People-oriented sustainable development. The focus was placed on people’s demand for street space, and low-carbon travel of “bus + walking” was proposed to create green and safe streets.
(2) Dedication to creating comfortable urban public space. “Public space” was prioritized in the project, and Zhongshan Avenue became the first to combine public life and street space in one.
(3) Protection of history and culture, as well as local residents. Below 20% of buildings were rebuilt, with efforts placed on improving the environment and facilities for traditional communities in a hope to retain original residents; the original appearance of the street and original residents was retained; renovation of historic buildings and neighboring small space helps to form a space of shared community service; both new and original residents are encouraged to open shops along the street, along with a variety of other employment opportunities.
(4) Extensive public participation. Activities were held to solicit residents’ advice, making sure that all neighboring residents can know and participate in the project.
Two years after its commencement, the project has yielded incalculable value in stimulating commercial vitality, inheriting and protecting urban culture, optimizing urban public space and improving living environment.
Wuhan, a historic city with national fame, boasts various historical and cultural resources such as old streets, historic buildings, and protected buildings. The project is a great example for renovating old streets in Wuhan and other cities, and its success can be replicated. It explores a new spatial carrier for the revival of urban economy, and well instructs the renovation of old towns. Wuhan is planning to spread Zhongshan Avenue’s success to other historic streets and power the revival of Hankou old town and even the entire city.
The revival of Zhongshan Avenue has won rave comments from the international planning community, and the project’s success was spread via ISOCARP to cities around the globe. In Wuhan and China, the transformation has revitalized the economy by facilitating the tourism, improved the living quality of local residents, and made a great example for the revival of old towns. The project's success sources from:
(1) Committed to people-oriented sustainable development by focusing on public transportation and slow travel, minimizing cars, and providing safe and affordable transportation options for all.
(2) Committed to providing open and shared urban public space for all.
(3) Protecting the legal rights and interests of original residents and low-income groups by creating more jobs and an inclusive and fair environment.