Hoteliers in the Bund area of Shanghai, which is currently undergoing traffic reconfiguration, are bullish about increased business once construction works are completed early 2010. The project has a non-negotiable deadline – before the 2010 World Expo Shanghai China opens on May 1.
The high-profile event, which runs until October 31, 2010 provides Shanghai a plum opportunity to show off its economic and cultural achievements.
“Things have improved since some months ago,” recalled Gottfried Bogensperger, Hyatt on the Bund general manager. “In the early stages, our social functions suffered somewhat from the traffic congestion, but our regular corporate clientele kept coming. If it was any consolation, the whole of Shanghai was undergoing construction.”
Since 2008, infrastructure such as flyovers, roadways and an historic bridge have been ripped up to follow the city's masterplan transforming the Bund into a unique pedestrian attraction. The main thoroughfare is being split into two levels, with four lanes on each level. This means that much of the traffic passing the Bund in the future will be diverted underground.
Moreover, the Bund's original features of parklands and marginal lawns will be restored, and a grand promenade will emerge as well. Shanghai Daily quoted government officials saying the result would be “as charming and friendly to tourists as the Avenue des Champs Elysee in Paris”.
Fifty two historic buildings of various architectural styles are also undergoing refurbishment and experiencing a new lease on life with new tenants in the form of multinational firms, luxury brands and gourmet restaurants.
The recently launched Peninsula Shanghai, said general manager Paul Tchen, was fortunate to arrive “during the final phase when the Bund is being put back together again”. Part of the 1.5km stretch – officially recognised as the Bund, which starts from Yannan Road in the south to the Waibaidu Bridge spanning Suzhou Creek in the north – the hotel claims to be the first building to have come up in many years. Next door is the former British Consulate, now being spruced up into a chic state guesthouse with sprawling gardens, while surrounding developments are prepping other heritage edifices to house trendy retail and dining outlets.
“Respecting the history of the place has been the guiding philosophy of the projects here,” said Tchen. Erected on the site of an old Friendship Store, the 235-room property has blended art deco aesthetics and contemporary know-how to emerge a worthy member of the Peninsula portfolio and latest landmark along the Bund row.
Meanwhile, Hyatt on the Bund in the north Bund also expects to reap from the area's ongoing renaissance. Once decrepit warehouses, wharves and apartment blocks are being converted into Grade A office space and the new Shanghai International Cruise Center is honing its act to welcome major international cruise lines.
Said Gotfried Bogensperger, Hyatt on the Bund's general manager: “In a few months' time, you can be sure the action (in the city) will move to where we are.”
Margie T Logarta