Ghost Street, a landmark nightlife district in the capital for the past decade, has been demolished for redevelopment, but the street's past should rise from the dead in two years. On March 18, crews began wrecking about 30 popular lantern-festooned restaurants. Although Beijing residents knew the demolition would come, they were jolted from their complacency when they realised the core 70 per cent, about 8,000 square metres, was gone. The restaurants lined about 500 metres of Inner Dongzhimen Street, which locals called Ghost Street for the shadows cast by the lanterns - and because the area attracted diners otherwise hesitant to show their faces. 'At night, when it was Ghost Street, people would crawl out of the woodwork. Freaks, whores, drug dealers, artists. You would get all the night crawlers out,' said Ed Lanfranco, an American who has lived in Beijing for 12 years and visited the street weekly. 'It was an urban snowflake. It had a moment, then melted away. I will miss it, of course.' Most restaurants occupied stone courtyard homes with wooden interiors, with waiters and waitresses dressed in traditional Chinese outfits. The city will widen the street to ease traffic. Dongzhimen connects to Second Ring Road and an often jammed maze of streets on the other side. Over the next two years developers will build modern office and apartment buildings in place of the restaurants. Rents may go up, however, so some smaller restaurants may not move back. But most restaurateurs have signed agreements to move back to the ground floors of the new buildings, said Wang Xiaoping of the Dongcheng District Architecture Design Association. A district official said he expected the old neighbourhood's bigger restaurants, plus new teahouses and coffee shops, to occupy the redeveloped area. 'I think they'll give us a discount on the price if we come back. That's for sure,' said Liu Liangui, manager of the Huajia Yiyuan restaurant, the only remaining restaurant in the demolition zone. It would eventually be demolished, too, the manager said. For now, Huajia Yiyuan's greeters still shout to passers-by and motorists to park and eat, which many eagerly do.