TO many foreigners, Shanghai conjures up images of the Huangpu district, with its glamorous department stores and the Bund illuminated at night. But other districts in the city are making determined efforts to catch up in terms of commercial and real estate development - and of course in foreign investment. Among them is Hongkou, a 23-square-kilometre district in northeastern Shanghai with a population of 840,000. There are more than 100 foreign investors in Hongkou, which aspires to be one of the city's most prosperous commercial and trading centres. Last September, along with others from Shanghai, the district came to Hong Kong seeking investment. The city is attempting to exploit its tourist potential - a wealth of cultural heritage - to become Shanghai's leading tourist spot. Ambitious joint-venture projects in the pipeline include a theme park, translated as ''Windmill Metropolis'', which takes after the Disney theme parks in the United States. This is a joint venture with foreign investors. The district is also building a joint-venture aquarium and water sports centre similar to Hong Kong's Ocean Park, aiming to boost foreign spending in the city. It will also develop memorial spots - commemorating famed Chinese poets and writers - into larger parks to attract tourists. A Jewish memorial hall will also be renovated in the district, known as the American Settlement prior to the communist takeover. That gives a taste of the authorities' determination to drive the district's economy ahead. But its priorities are commerce and real estate development. ''Hongkou is a prosperous commercial district. Commerce is the main economic force of the district,'' said Hongkou District Planning and Economy Committee director Liang Chengtao. The authorities sought to build it into a foreign-trading district with the highest trading volume in Shanghai, he said. The busiest commercial street in Hongkou is the 3.7 km Sichuan Road North with a history of about 100 years which has a daily throughput of 900,000 people. ''The road has more than 400 shops, compared with a total of 1,700 in the entire Hongkou district. By 2000, the commercial areas skirting it will have expanded to 200,000 square metres from the present 60,000 sq m,'' said Mr Liang. The shops along the road had a turnover of about two billion yuan (about HK$1.49 billion) last year. The district also wants to build a ''Chinese food city'' along four roads including Sichuan Road North. Development in commerce cannot be divorced from that in real estate. While property prices in Shanghai have been generally rising fast in recent years, Mr Liang said prices in Hongkou had been steady. The district has attracted Hong Kong property players such as Kerry Group. In August, an office, commercial and residential project developed by Shanghai Kerry Real Estate Development Co celebrated its ground breaking. The developer is a joint venture between Shanghai Hongkou District Real Estate Development Co and a Kerry Group member - Kerry Shanghai (Hongkou). The project is estimated to cost around US$40 million, creating a gross floor area of 44,600 sq m. It consists of two parts: Shanghai Trade Square and International Apartments. Shanghai Trade Square is a 20-storey, Grade A office tower with a modern semi-cylindrical curtain wall design, marble lobby and flexible office layouts. It will also have shops and entertainment areas. International Apartments has two blocks of 21-storey residential buildings. The whole project is expected to be completed by the end of next year. In a decade or so, high-quality property developments could be popping up all over the district, which is now somewhat shabby compared with Huangpu. Mr Liang said Hongkou's hotel industry was also booming. Along just one road in Hongkou, he said, there were more than 108 hotels and guesthouses, of which five were joint ventures with Hong Kong or Taiwanese investors. The district has an advantage in drawing in foreign money as more than 20,000 of its residents have some family members living abroad. There are also expatriates including Japanese, Koreans and Indians. ''This helps channel more foreign money in, driving the district's economy ahead,'' said Mr Liang. Hongkou is also looking to develop in areas such as finance and securities. Mr Liang said it aimed to strike a balance in its industrial development. The district's manufacturing output totalled 1.1 billion yuan in the first 11 months of last year.