Bund to be 'as charming as the Champs-Elysees'
Will Clem in Shanghai
The Bund may be a mess now but in six months' time it will be 'as charming as the Champs-Elysees in Paris' according to Shanghai officials.
The city's tourist attraction has been undergoing a massive renovation for nearly 2 1/2 years, but planners announced on Wednesday that work was entering its final stages.
The 4 billion yuan (HK$4.5 billion) project involves digging a 3.3-kilometre double-deck tunnel to divert most vehicle traffic underground.
The tunnel will allow the street to be narrowed from 11 lanes to six, providing extra space for pedestrian zones and a 40 per cent enlargement of the riverside promenade.
'The Bund promenade is the most important public space for the city's residents,' said Zhou Wei, Communist Party chief of Huangpu district. 'This renovation will maximise the use of public space to create an elegant and comfortable promenade for residents and tourists alike, to make the Bund as charming as the Champs-Elysees and other internationally famous boulevards.'
Major construction would be finished by the end of the year - on schedule - officials pledged. However the new-look riverside park will not open until March, almost three months later than expected.
The project is the first major revamp of the zone in decades, part of a mammoth drive to reinvent the city's public image ahead of the World Expo, which begins on May 1.
Today, though, the Bund is far from charming or tourist-friendly.
Works extend down the entire length of the road, leaving the street congested and large sections of the pavement difficult for pedestrians to cross.
Yesterday afternoon's heavy rain turned the street into a river of mud as it washed black silt from construction sites.
Views of the river are obscured by hoardings emblazoned with Shanghai Expo 2010 logos and artists' impressions of the project - some of them battered and torn from age - as the whole embankment promenade has been cordoned off while construction goes on.
'It's been going on for a long time. We just try to avoid this area if at all possible,' said one taxi driver. 'But I hope there will not be much longer to wait.'
Tourists also expressed disappointment at the current state of the city's most famous street.
'It is a bit of a let-down because I was really looking forward to the view,' said Kelly Marsh, visiting from England. 'It's not quite as glamorous as I expected.'
Other visitors, however, were more forgiving.
One Guangdong tourist was visiting with his wife and daughter.
'It is a mess now, but it's still under construction. Every building site in the world looks a mess,' he said. 'The works were much needed, and I'm sure it will be a big improvement once it is finished.'