shanghai_300Establishing a long-term vision, conserving the city’s cultural heritage, optimizing land use, and integrating economic development are among some of the recommendations in an Urban Land Institute (ULI) report on the future urban regeneration of Shanghai.

Titled Ten Principles for Urban Regeneration: Making Shanghai a Better City (PDF), the report combines the results of a two-day workshop in Shanghai on urban regeneration with 60 industry leaders drawn from a variety of disciplines, the findings of two further seminars in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and additional research from ULI members. The report outlines ten principles for the future development of Shanghai, illustrated with case studies of projects from cities around the world such as London, Copenhagen, Singapore, and Osaka.

“Shanghai is one of the most rapidly developing and exciting cities in Asia, and over the past 20 years it has already firmly established itself as a major world financial center,” commented John Fitzgerald, chief executive of ULI Asia Pacific. “We are delighted to share some of the successes of Shanghai’s urban development with the rest of the world. At the same time, the city can also learn from best practices in planning, design, and development from around the world and tailor these to meet the specific requirements of Shanghai. Additionally, these principles serve as an excellent guide for improving the livability of cities around the world.”

The report outlines the following ten principles for Shanghai’s urban regeneration:

  1. Establish a long-term vision. The report calls for decision makers to take a long-term strategic view of the city and its ongoing regeneration. Underused development sites should not be viewed and developed in isolation; rather, they should be considered as part of a much wider master plan for the area, which will deliver value and benefits to the city and its residents over the longer term. The vision for the city should not just reflect physical development, but also consider economic, social, and environmental impacts and should also integrate land, transportation, and economic development initiatives.
  2. Design for people. Plans for the city should be people-focused, with streets designed to a human scale. People should be prioritized over cars in master plans, and transport infrastructure should be integrated into development to increase connectivity. The city should be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and interactivity should be encouraged through cultural amenities and public spaces. The report highlights the case study of the Life Hub @ Daning project in Shanghai as an exemplar of how prioritizing people in development plans can result in the creation of thriving and desirable neighborhoods.
  3. Conserve cultural heritage. In developing the city to the highest international standards, the unique cultural identity and character of Shanghai should not be lost. For example, historically, many locals lived in shikumen buildings—a uniquely Shanghainese version of a rowhouse that blended Western and Chinese influences and combined into lilong, or alley communities. The sense of communal living that this housing brought about should be re-created in urban regeneration projects. The report highlighted the achievement of the Xintiandi development in the city, which transformed old shikumen buildings into a thriving restaurant and retail center.
  4. Create integrated networks. The report calls for greater connectivity in the city enabled by the creation of integrated networks in terms of transportation, parks, commerce, and other functions. Shanghai’s ever-growing metro network should be linked to other modes of transportation including rail, bus, car, bicycle, and pedestrian access. The report encourages thinking such as that espoused in the 2013 Shanghai Transportation Development White Paper, which calls for the development of an integrated transport system.
  5. Optimize land use. The report emphasizes that the highest and best use of a site is not necessarily one that produces the highest gross floor area or the greatest financial return, but is one that is appropriate for its place, able to respond to changing needs, and is built for the long term. Land use should be intensified especially around subway stations and important transportation nodes—not just to create density, but also to create vibrancy, viability, flexibility, diversity, complexity, and quality. The report highlights the need to make sites financially viable and attractive to developers in order to encourage regeneration and for zoning laws to be flexible to allow for changes of use for sites. The city’s current residential building codes should be revisited as the rules drawn up for its historic three-story housing are no longer suitable for new 30-story apartment blocks.
  6. Vitalize public space. Public space of all sizes in the city should be encouraged. However, the emphasis should be on making the space accessible, available, and engaging to everyone. Use of open spaces should be encouraged by installing areas for exercise, civic events, or cultural performances. The report highlights the opportunity to create public spaces around many of the new metro stations—an opportunity that so far has been largely overlooked.
  7. Foster collaboration. A wide array of skilled people are needed to deliver successful urban regeneration, and collaboration between these individuals is key to success. City leaders should play an active role in encouraging this collaboration, and the needs and views of the end user should be considered throughout the development process.
  8. Build healthy and sustainable communities. In developing sites, on-site natural resources should be protected and preserved and construction should be minimally invasive. Environmentally friendly materials should be used for construction, and buildings should be designed and built to be energy efficient. Developments should be designed with the health of residents in mind, with pedestrian and bicycle access prioritized over car use. Sustainability initiatives need to think beyond the building site. They should encourage pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities by prioritizing public transit, small blocks, dense road networks, and mixed-use developments.
  9. Integrate economic development. In regenerating an area of the city, an opportunity exists to change its use or purpose to bring higher productivity, greater vibrancy, and more jobs. Industries can be clustered to bring economic growth and provide an area with a new identity. In Shanghai, the West Bund (Xuhui Binjiang) uses media and culture industries as the centerpiece of its economic development, resulting in a unique look and feel to the area. The report discusses how universities can play a critical role in urban regeneration and showcases the Knowledge & Innovation Community (KIC) in Yangpu District, located next to many of the city’s universities, that has fostered many knowledge-based startups and attracted many leading high-tech companies to the district.
  10. Promote diversity—and make it beautiful! Shanghai should embrace functional, demographic, and aesthetic diversity. Functional diversity can be promoted through incorporating a mixture of uses into developments that increase the amount of time an area remains active each day. Demographic diversity helps ensure that people do not become priced out of areas, but in Shanghai current legislation will need to be revised to include incentives for building affordable housing in urban areas. Aesthetic diversity provides visual interest and can be encouraged by using multiple architects and large-scale regeneration projects. Lastly, the report encourages emphasis on high-quality design, execution, materials, and management.

Ten Principles for Urban Regeneration: Making Shanghai a Better City is now available for download at