Suburban playground for rich

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 September, 2005, 12:00am

Mainland developers are turning one of Shanghai's last undeveloped suburbs into a playground for the rich of China, like the Hamptons for the wealthy of New York.

Sheshan, 35km southwest of central Shanghai, used to be famous for its tranquility, its rolling hills and China's oldest Catholic cathedral, built in the middle of the 19th century on a site dominating the town.

Now the Shimao Group is competing with a rival domestic developer for the title of China's most expensive villa estate.

Jiachengzhaoye Real Estate Company has invested 2 billion yuan in a project named Purple Garden, with prices ranging from 14 million yuan to 130 million yuan.

Sheshan has much going for it as a resort, including the only hills in the Shanghai region, water in the form of natural rivers and man-made lakes, low-rise buildings, a forest park, the cathedral and a resident population of only 50,000.

The district government of Songjiang has designated Sheshan as a tourist area and invested heavily in improving its environment, including building a lake on an area of 53 hectares.

The biggest drawback of Sheshan is transport.

Only one major expressway connects it to the city centre, which is crowded with cars and trucks especially during rush hours, when the journey to the city centre can take up to two hours.

Sheshan is on the west side of the Huangpu river, while Pudong airport is on the east, on the coast, which could mean a ride of up to three hours.

A light rail system between Sheshan and Xujiahui is due to open at the end of next year, but well-heeled villa owners are unlikely to want to use public transport.