City of Dreams

The Economist gives an update on the supposed eco-city Dongtan, being built on an island outside Shanghai. After the downfall of corrupt former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu, one of the main backers of the project, construction has largely stalled:

A noticeable loser is Dongtan. Arup’s original plan had 50,000 residents moving in by 2010, when Shanghai hosts the World Expo. That has now been quietly dropped. Arup’s Roger Wood says SIIC has opted to put construction on hold, pending further permits. He denies, however, that the project has been cancelled. On a recent visit to the site, your correspondent found an SIIC business centre and a shuttered hotel, neither of which appear in the master plan. Local residents say the hotel, outside the site proper, was a private villa owned by Mr Chen, who presumably enjoyed his excursions to Chongming.

A new bridge and tunnel spanning the estuary is already completed and will open to traffic later this year. That should boost land prices on Chongming, and may give SIIC a nudge to develop—or sell—the Dongtan site. It also raises the question, however, of what constitutes an eco-city. Arup had envisaged a compact, mostly car-free community. Residents would live and work in green research centres and other such industries, buy local produce and use renewable energy. The new road link, however, puts Shanghai within commuting distance.

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