Disputed plaza nears completion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 December, 1998, 12:00am

THE building of Beijing's showpiece Oriental Plaza is expected to be completed in February.

One of its 13 buildings is already finished and the rest are said to be 90 per cent complete.

The plaza, put up by a consortium led by Hong Kong businessmen, was scheduled to be ready for operation by October 1 next year - the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

More than 10,000 builders have worked day and night on the project. It met strong objections from historians and conservationists in the capital who said it failed to maintain the traditional character of the area around Chang'an Avenue and Wangfujing Street, a prime location close to Tiananmen Square.

An initial design for the complex was for it to be 70 metres high in a zone where buildings are only allowed to reach 30 metres. The plan was revised to get central authority approval.

In contrast to the Forbidden City and the well-preserved courtyard houses a few blocks to the west, the plaza is a thoroughly modern complex spanning eight blocks.

It includes offices, flats, a shopping centre and a five-star hotel. It will be the first such complex in Beijing to have its own subway station.