FOR 350 years, Shenyang's prime piece of real estate was the Imperial Palace, a miniature 'Forbidden City' built by the northern Manchu conquerors. But these days, the palace grounds are less forbidden than just plain forgotten, and Liaoning's provincial capital risks trampling upon its history in the rush towards modernisation. High-rises, blue-glass department stores and four and five-star hotels have become Shenyang's new citadels of power and glory, dwarfing the dilapidated Imperial Palace. Shenyang Municipal Planning Bureau director Li Desen said the city is only now beginning to come to terms with its past. Even a quick glance shows that will not be easy. Towering over the Imperial Palace is the eight-story, 2.15 million square-foot Shenyang East Asia Commercial Plaza, which is expected to open next June. 'The building wasn't that big when we approved it back around 1991. The developers broke the rules and built it too high. 'They only thought about profits, not about preservation,' he said. 'In the future, the architecture of the palace and the buildings surrounding it must complement each other.' Another headache for Shenyang's planners is the city's development into a heavy industrial base under Mao Zedong. Mr Li said the city was directing new industrial enterprises to one of the two economic development zones, or to the suburbs. But moving old, polluting enterprises to the outskirts could take 15 years. At the same time, many examples of Shenyang's historic architecture, including structures built by the Russians at the turn of the century and the Japanese during their occupation in the 1930s, may not enjoy government protection. Shenyang's priorities are attracting foreign investment and building new housing. Shenyang has approved 86 foreign-invested property projects, which have absorbed investment totalling US$350 million. They include commercial, office and residential developments, and over 10 hotels of three stars or more. The city's first four-star hotel - Gloria Plaza Hotel - which is a part of the Top Glory group in Hong Kong, opened a few months ago. Shenyang's other priority is housing projects, both standard and subsidised. They involve razing and re-building old sections of the city. Planning Commission director Hong Jiansheng said Shenyang built 150.64 million sq ft of housing in the past five years at a cost of 17.1 billion yuan (HK$15.89 billion), and would build at least as much over the next five years. Residents have an average of 69.61 sq ft of living space each, or about 10.76 sq ft less per person than the provincial urban average and 16.46 sq ft below the national target of 86 sq ft per person. NW China Homeowner Development, a part of Hong Kong-listed New World Development, is building about 30.12 million sq ft of low-cost housing in the city. Mr Li said that the city would continue to approve about 4.3 million to 5.38 million sq ft of mass housing projects each year, for which it donates land free of charge. A total of 72 million sq ft of residential housing of all types is under construction, with 21.52 million sq ft approved this year. In addition, the authorities have approved 2.9 million sq ft of residential housing construction for teachers and plans to build another 5.38 million sq ft by the end of the century. Shenyang has put a cap on luxury residential developments because there is little demand, but it is focusing on developing the Hunnan district as a middle-class neighbourhood by 2000, with better quality apartments and more green areas.